At the front of the Central Park Library on Saturday, Jan. 30, children were launching handmade rockets. Indoors, near the teen reading area, other children were guiding robots across a race track. These were just a couple of the many activities of the STEM Innovation Bowl, sponsored by Kaiser Permanente. An estimated 8,000 people attended this simulated Disneyland for techies of all ages and skill levels.
“The STEM Innovation Bowl celebrates science, technology, engineering and math and it’s part of the countdown to the kick off for the Super Bowl,” says Laura Lee, event organizer and Web and digital media manager for the City of Santa Clara’s IT Department. “It’s great when corporations can partner with us and we can have these events to introduce young people and the community to innovative technology. If companies want to partner with us to introduce new technologies to the community, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Interactive company exhibits included virtual reality demonstrations from LiveLike and Leap Motion. Suitable Technologies allowed attendees to maneuver Beam telepresence equipment. Nvidia, a Santa Clara company, hosted video game playing featuring the company’s Shield Tablet, Shield Controller and the new Shield Android TV.
Osmo and Allied Telesis were among the companies offering STEM presentations. During one presentation, Isabelle Steiner from Pley, another Santa Clara company, told the audience about Pley’s program allowing customers to rent toys that foster STEM skills.
Extremely popular at the STEM Innovation Bowl were special appearances by remote-control operated R2-D2s and an exhibit of R2-D2 themed robots made by the R2 Builders Club.
“We specialize in building R2-D2s for fun,” says Brian Munger, imperial astromech builder. “You collect parts from builders and you put together your own R2-D2 and then add remote control components to make it move. Our remote control components include a radio transmitter, a receiver, batteries and motors.”
Innovation stations allowed children and parents to work together on tasks, including building a skyscraper from wooden planks, assembling a circuit board and constructing basic shapes into 3D structures.
Ezequiel Galon, 5, learned how circuits worked while tweaking an R2-D2 image with a circuit pen, a battery, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) so that the picture lit up.
“I colored some lines on R2-D2; these lines connect the battery and lights together,” Galon says. “When I squeeze the battery, the lights turn on.”
At the mosaic art station, Shane Crawford worked with his son on a Perler bead project, which required counting and pattern work.
“I get to spend time with my kids and bond with them here,” Crawford says. “We’re exploring things today that might interest my kids in the future. Coming here can help reinforce the science and math they’re learning.”