By Tiffany Whitfield
The third annual Reign in Science Day brought more than 600 students and parents to Old Dominion University. The event was held at the New Chemistry Building on Saturday, October 7. Monarchs stepped up to showcase how engaging science can be on any grade level.
ODU Chemistry Lecturer Emily Hardy and Assistant Professors Kyle Lambert and Trandon Bender worked on planning the event for months, and this year the number of registrants soared and the partnerships in the community grew.
Students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade took part in non-stop fun and science-based activities outside and inside of the New Chemistry building. They were given tours of active research spaces, teaching labs, and attend shows about the solar system and the universe on the state-of-the-art dome in the Michael and Kimthanh Lê Digital Theater and Planetarium.
Also, students and parents learned about chemistry, biology, computer science, oceanography and physics through interactive demonstrations given by faculty and graduate students. The faculty present not only represented ODU but were from Norfolk State University (NSU) and Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU). NSU scientists had an activity highlighting nanotechnology which included hands on activities using nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. VWU scientists helped participants learn about the science behind tie-dye.
Seeing and doing research through STEM-activities on grade appropriate levels opened a new world to the students and parents.
More than 90 volunteers from seven organizations representing five of the departments in the Colleges at ODU kept the activity tables going in the crazy wind.
A local mom, Erin Pierce, who brought her daughter out to the Reign in Science Day had this to say: “Thank you so much! The event was wonderful! My daughter loves science, and this was a great chance for her to ask lots of science questions to people who don’t answer ‘I don’t know. Let’s google it!’. She had a blast! Loved the planetarium. Single mom here who has a limited budget. Thank you for the quality time we were able to spend together doing things she loves! Way to go, ODU Sciences!!!”
The effort and logistics in planning an event of this magnitude has had ripple effects on the students who attended. “This event is all about showing the community that we are invested in them,” said Hardy. We grew this year and included other universities and local employers of people in STEM careers. Being able to showcase the diversity and opportunity in our area for anyone with interest in the sciences is exactly what we want this event to do.”
Lambert was enthused about the growth of the science outreach event over the last three years. “It has been great working with the ODU students, local organizations, and volunteers over the past three years to achieve our vision of growing this community STEM event from 125 participants in 2021 to over 600 this year and we look forward to continuing this success for years to come,” said Lambert. Attendees were from every municipality within the Hampton Roads area including Williamsburg, Yorktown, Hampton, Newport News, Chesapeake, Smithfield, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach. The reach of this unique event “really shows that the local community has an interest in the sciences and there is a need for STEM-focused events in the area.” “Reign in Science Day has really grown to be able to help meet this need while showcasing the outstanding student research we have going on at ODU alongside the opportunities in the sciences at other local universities and community organizations all while helping to inspire the next generation of young scientists,” said Lambert.
From Bender’s perspective this event has grown over time and has catapulted to another level because of volunteers and ODU students’ passion for sharing science. “For the past three years we have carried out a science communication training program for graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Sciences at ODU,” said Bender. “Over a series of four meetings, the students developed their own demos based on the topics they are researching in their own labs.” To make things even more difficult, students were challenged to develop a demo that could be approachable to Reign in Science visitors at every grade level from elementary, to middle to high school. “It is impressive what they are able to come up with, and their table demos are always a big hit at the Reign in Science event,” said Bender. “They are an invaluable group for the success of this event.”
The community partners who helped to make the day memorable to families included the following:
- American Chemical Society of Hampton Roads
- First Landing State Park
- Michael and Kimthanh Lê Planetarium
- Norfolk Naval Shipyard
- Norfolk State University
- ODU College of Sciences
- ODU Chemistry & Biochemistry
- ODU Biology
- ODU Computer Science
- ODU Fellowship of Women in Science
- ODU Ocean & Earth Sciences
- Virginia Space Grant Consortium
- Virginia Wesleyan University
All of the students and parents were able to see up close and personal how ODU does research, and to be able to share it with so many bright and curious minds helped show the importance of STEM to the next generation of scientists from Hampton Roads.