Children in Columbia had the opportunity to interact with and ask questions of researchers at MU on Saturday afternoon at the second annual Young Scientists Expo.
The event took place from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at Memorial Student Union in Stotler Lounge. It was organized by The Connector, an MU office dedicated to bringing research from the UM System to the broader community. The event consisted of 32 booths from scientific organizations, governmental offices in Columbia and researchers from MU.
Children of all ages learned about topics like meteorology, physics and animal science through interactive demonstrations. The goal was to show kids that being a scientist doesn’t just mean sitting in a lab all day, said Rachel Bauer, the engagement programs manager with The Connector.
“The university can be a little abstract sometimes,” Bauer said. “But this is a really great example to show what some of our faculty, graduate students and undergraduates here are working on.”
Parents like Kyle Swadley were happy to have somewhere fun to take their kids on a Saturday. Swadley’s son Kasen, 7, particularly enjoyed trying out a virtual reality headset at a booth hosted by the MU Department of Architectural Studies.
“I didn’t know what to do, but it was pretty fun,” Kasen Swadley said.
Attendees also interacted with the many animals present, including the reptiles from Science on Wheels, an outreach program that promotes community events that bring scientists and non-scientists together.
Kevin George, Science on Wheels president, showed off a blue-tongued skink, explaining that the lizard uses its tongue to smell. One of the group’s goals, according to George, is to bring awareness to animals like the skink and to demonstrate how integral they are to their ecosystems.
Bauer is glad that attendees got to learn more about organizations like Science on Wheels and that she could help foster Columbia’s younger members’ interest in science.
“Last year was our very first Young Scientists Expo, and we had a great turnout,” Bauer said. “We had a lot of wonderful feedback from Columbia parents and kids, so we decided to do it again and make it even bigger. It’s just another way that we can kind of show off some of the really awesome things that Mizzou has to offer.”