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Science & math = fun at State Fair’s STEM on a Stick

Few associations are as ingrained in Minnesotans’ collective unconscious as the notion that the State Fair is a kid’s last hurrah. Because who wants to think about school, what with the first day perhaps mere hours away?

It is, then, poetically subversive that for the second year running, the first day of the fair will feature STEM on a Stick, which threatens to drum up a little joy about the coming school year.

STEM, in case you spent your summer catching fly balls instead of reading the education-sector press, is an acronym for science, technology, math and engineering — four areas of study that are crucial to the health of Minnesota’s economy and very much on the minds of K-12 educators.

From robotics to the stars
If you’re thinking of the old-fashioned explanatory poster boards that are the spines of many fair exhibits, you need to keep reading, because STEM on a Stick is about fun. Visitors can meet the Eagan High School First Robotics Team’s candy-dispensing robot, catch free planetarium shows under the ramp by the grandstand or watch TPT’s Emmy-winning SciGirls make “squishy circuits.”

Altogether 25 organizations will participate, which promises nearly twice as much fun as last year. STEMsters setting up tents at the Carousel Park include the 3M Visiting Wizards, the Bakken Museum, the Works (a hands-on kid fun factory located in Edina that’s positively packed with STEM disguised as entertainment), the KidWind Project, Microsoft, the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, Imation and a host of higher-ed types.

Oh yeah, and the fine folks from STEMCentral, aka St. Catherine University, will be there helping to coordinate the fun and talking about the $450,000 foundations associated with 3M, Medtronic and Boston Scientific just ponied up to support the school’s unique National Center for STEM Elementary Education.

All day at Carousel Park
Just how are they going to wrap all of that learning around a stick? Is that physics, or engineering? You’re going to have to show up to find out, Thursday, Aug. 25, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Carousel Park on the fairgrounds.

Baking, a State Fair competitive sport, is science. Estimating the number of cookies in those plastic tubs? That’s math.

The new State Fair app? That’s technology. Those machines that make the Tom Thumb doughnuts? OK, those probably were invented by Rube Goldberg — but still.

Demonstrations will take place on a stage in the park throughout the day. And in the wholly unlikely event you get bored, at least you’ll wander the Fair’s familiar grounds seeing through new, STEM-empowered eyes.

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