New STEM club promotes science in community

New STEM club promotes science in community
Florentia Hadjigeorgiou (left) and Kim Gray (right) clean supplies together. Photo by Vanessa Vaudrey.

A professor and two students recently created ExploSTEM, a new student organization based on promoting diversity and engaging kids in science.

Sally Mallowa, a biology professor, as well as Isha Hooda and Vanessa Vaudrey, the co-presidents of ExlpoSTEM, worked together at a science, technology, engineering and math camp for children last year and decided they wanted to further pursue the effort and create ExploSTEM.

“Isha had a very good idea about a STEM club on campus, and Dr. Mallowa wanted to do something with grant money she received,” Vaudrey said. “It kind of just came together in a perfect storm.”

According to Vaudrey, the goal of the organization evolved naturally.

“Our focus is promoting diversity in STEM and also educating children about STEM, which often go hand in hand,” Vaudrey said. “We create outreach events about sciences, how people can get involved with them and how cool they are. We also teach and educate children about how college is accessible to them no matter what and that science is actually really interesting and they should consider it.”

Most recently, ExploSTEM participated in science fair night on Nov. 2 at Harrisburg Adventure Elementary School. Multiple Augustana clubs, classes and community partners joined to teach kids about science, including topics on blood typing, senses, physics equipment and butterfly chromatography.

“We had so much help from the clubs here at Augie.” Vaudrey said. “People showed up just to help out for free. It was very cool. I like that it’s kind of a community binding project.”

Vaudrey said around 100 kids and their families attended the event. Children at the event were given a bingo sheet to fill out, and when they completed the sheet, they were given a science-related reward.

“It’s a great opportunity for these kids to learn more about STEM and also find what they want to do in the future,” Hooda said. “These events really help students dig into a certain topic and figure out if that’s really for them or not.”

The club’s next event will be at Brookings Public Library with a health-sciences related topic in February.

Hooda said the club is looking for members from all majors to help.

“This club gives Augustana students the opportunity to connect and network within the community as well interact with children regarding STEM,” Hooda said. “It’s not just allowing students to connect with other students, but when you are planning these events, you also get the opportunity to connect with other companies within the community.”

According to Vaudrey, the club also provides useful experiences for its members and not just the children it reaches out to.

“It offers a lot of opportunities for people,” Vaudrey said. “It’s volunteer hours. It teaches you how to deal and interact with children. It teaches you how to present STEM topics in a very digestible way, and it also teaches you stuff like organization and event planning. It’s also important just because it feels good in your soul to do something good.”

Students interested in joining ExploSTEM should contact Hooda or Vaudrey.