In an effort to inspire kids and get them excited about science and technology, Orange Coast College hosted the school’s 20th annual Science Night, this year renamed STEM Night, on Friday.
Every year OCC officials open campus to the community, inviting children and their families to experience fields of science they may never get the chance to experience elsewhere.
The hope is that kids will leave inspired to join STEM fields and feel excited about the opportunities that await if they choose to continue their education past high school, organizers said.
“It’s a community event geared toward younger children to get them excited about STEM fields. It [is also] a good way to do outreach toward lower income communities that might not otherwise get a chance to get engaged in science or with colleges. Giving those families and those kids an opportunity to see what college has to offer is a really powerful thing for their education and their lives,” Scott Mitchell, Planetarium director and STEM Night coordinator said.
STEM Night is free and this year many departments across campus, including the Horticulture, Consumer Science, Biology and Geology departments, welcomed families in to experience and learn about these fields.
The Robotics department invited kids to battle robots and the Allied Health department allowed kids to experience getting assisted by an EMT.
In the Lewis Center for Applied Science children could touch sharks in the aquarium and in the Makerspace they were able to see how airplane and car parts are made.
Children also got to sit in the dome theatre in the Planetarium, touch exotic plants from horticulture, touch animal bones from biology and look at the stars from a telescope.
The diversity of departments represented at STEM Night ensured there was something for everyone and most of them provided children with an interactive experience to get them engaged and show them what that field is really about.
“I think it’s great to be able to have the community come out and look at the STEM fields they can get into. They [often] don’t get the opportunity to see machines running, cutting parts [and] making parts. They come here and they get to see what we do,” Al Cervantes, an OCC machine technology instructor said.
All night there was a line of kids to get into the aquarium. They were eager to hold sand crabs and touch starfish, but there wasn’t a line in other campus buildings open for sciences, like automated manufacturing.
Matthew M. Casey, a 23-year-old undeclared major in the technology department said it’s harder for kids to relate to those sciences, but that seeing the machines at work could spark an interest.
“I think kids are interested in it but I don’t think they see that this can be car parts or this can be an airplane or in space. I think it takes a special kind of kid,” Casey said.
STEM Night has become an event that families in the community look forward to every year.
The event changes yearly, as new programs and resources are brought to campus, but it will consistently be an opportunity for the community to be inspired and experience something new, organizers said.