The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s new Engineering Research Center, CURENT (Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks), and the East Tennessee Discovery Center teamed up on Tuesday, February 21, to host a science night at Whittle Springs Middle School. An estimated 230 students and parents were participated in the event.
“This is about getting young students and parents to have conversations about science—it’s about adding family engagement into the equation,” said Andrea Allen, the science instructional coach for Knox County Public Schools.
The sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students were free to wander through the gymnasium and explore the hands-on exhibits. They had the chance to extract DNA from strawberries, play with robots created by UT graduate students, and explore alternative energy with panels and vehicles that use solar energy.
Science Night was created as part of CURENT’s educational mission to inspire young students to learn about math, science, technology, and engineering. This event also focused on encouraging parents to participate in science activities with their children. The collaboration with the Discovery Center provided a large variety of science activities and exhibits, as well.
“Encouraging STEM (science, math, engineering, and technology) education shouldn’t be an individual job; it needs to be a community-wide effort,” said Dr. Chien-fei Chen, co-director of education and diversity in CURENT. “Working with the Discovery Center was a great example of community collaboration to deliver more science-related activities to students at an early age.”
The event was coordinated by Chen and Adam Hardebeck from CURENT, Margaret Maddox, director of East Tennessee Discovery Center, Andrea Allen, and Jill Hobby and Sharon Harder from Whittle Springs Middle School.
CURENT is a collaboration between academia, industry, and national laboratories headquartered on the UT Knoxville campus. The center is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.