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Thousands to enjoy STEM activities at Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair always has plenty of rides and games to try out, chickens and cows to check out and deep-fried food for pigging out, but it also has much, much more. Countless informational exhibits are on display throughout the fairgrounds at the Ohio Expo Center in Columbus.

The latest in technology, from robotics to drone racing, can be discovered at the fair’s Technology and Engineering Showcase, sponsored by the Ohio Technology and Engineering Educators Association (OTEEA). The showcase takes place during the fair’s entire run, July 24-Aug. 4, in the Youth Center of the Lausche Building.

To find out more about what the showcase has to offer, we contacted Dick Dieffenderfer, showcase director and OSLN’s 2019 Ohio STEM Innovator Award winner:

Q: Tell us about the showcase: When was it first conceived and why, and what, in general, is on display.

A: The development of the OTEEA Technology and Engineering Showcase began in 2008 with the transition away from a decades-old industrial arts-student projects exhibits format.

Today’s showcase provides youth, their parents, educators and other Ohio State Fair visitors a variety of unique opportunities to engage in hands-on technology activities and demonstrations and to view exhibits of elementary, middle and high school students’ technical design problem-solving projects.

Technological literacy experiences are also promoted by showcasing a variety of technical societies, companies and organizations sponsoring competitions and events through in-school, after-school and home-school activities for students in grades K-12.

Business, industry, labor and university engineering education program representatives contribute by providing information and daily activities linked to real-world technology applications and careers.

The OTEEA also seeks to provide Ohio educators with ideas and materials to take back to their classrooms, as well as ideas for parents to take back to their children’s schools and school districts. Additionally, we find that showcase resources and experiences provide support to parents’ home-schooling efforts.

Q: What have been some favorite exhibits?

A: During the 2018 fair, the Youth Center official door count showed that more than 86,500 youth, their parents, educators and other fairgoers took advantage of opportunities to engage in hands-on activities and demonstrations and view exhibits presented in the Youth Center and the showcase.

Attendance was also bolstered by a new addition to showcase programming, the Ohio State Fair Drone Racing Cup and educational drone racing demonstrations featured in the Showplace Pavilion.

The layout of showcase exhibits and activity areas and robotics demonstration areas in the southern third of the building provided opportunity for all visitors circulating through the Youth Center to observe and participate in the scheduled activities and open family activity areas.

Q: Do many displays allow for hands-on participation?

A: Over the course of the 12-day fair, in the 9 a.m.-4 p.m. demonstrations time slot, the showcase provides 942 hours of individual hands-on demonstrations and instruction on a great variety of technical content.

Activities by the technology resource persons are supplemented by 14 informational exhibits, an Elementary STEM Materials Resource Room and 12 self-directed hands-on activity areas.

Showcase partners and technology-related groups and teams also provide 2,480 hours of scheduled active instruction and direct information sharing during the fair’s run. The quality of the volunteer-days provides an experience-rich environment during the 132 total hours of the daily 9 a.m.-8 p.m. operating hours for the showcase.

Q: This time, what do you think visitors will find especially interesting?

A: Programming is focused on student exhibits of design projects and problem-based learning activities by elementary, middle and high school students. This provides opportunities for students to show and demonstrate their skills. It also engages youth and adults in learning about a variety of technology competitions and events.

The technology experiences provided by volunteers from technical societies, business, industry and universities are focused on providing youth and the public with a better understanding of new technologies, their application and related technology/STEM careers.

The resource displays of STEM materials and curriculum designed to promote technological literacy offer a chance for parents, teachers and home-schoolers to get information and talk with STEM-theme program providers and industry experts. The Elementary STEM Resources Room provides an opportunity to consult with parents and teachers.

Finally, the hands-on activities provided at multiple family activity learning centers offer self-guided experiences or can challenge youth and adults in developing an understanding of technology.

Q: What in particular might STEM educators find interesting or helpful to their classwork at the showcase?

A: The technology education area invites participation by K-12 technology education teachers and technological literacy organizations in support of the goals of the showcase to:

  • Offer a better understanding of standards-based technology education programs.
  • Expand opportunities for student/school awards recognition.
  • Provide more hands-on experiences for youth and adults.
  • Encourage support of local district technology education programs.
  • Promote technological literacy competitions and events.

Q: What do you think the impact of the showcase has been throughout its existence?

A: Each year more and more visiting families report that their children request participation in the Youth Center activities as an important part of their Ohio State Fair experience. This results in more time engaged in showcase activities and/or revisits to the Youth Center during the day. Educators and home-schooling parents also find the showcase a resource for examples and information about STEM programs and materials they need.

One of the biggest contributions of the showcase is the shared experience by the providers of technology demonstrations, the business-professional persons, technical societies, technology team members and their families who do not have a tradition of visiting or exhibiting at the Ohio State Fair. These technology exhibitors also make an additional contribution by providing quality career education experiences and resources to fairgoers.

A benefit of the showcase’s STEM focus is that it has provided an opportunity at the fair for participation by educational programs, business and industry technology groups to promote STEM careers and opportunities for students in STEM competitions, events and programs to be shared statewide.

Q: How can readers find out more about the showcase?

A: To see some scenes showing the showcase exhibit floor and the variety of activities provided during the 12 days of the fair, click on these YouTube videos of past exhibits: https://youtu.be/w8fTwUekuY8 and https://youtu.be/I8yCyEG1CI4.

The general information book for the 2019 Ohio State Fair is available online at: https://ohiostatefair.com/

Edited by Patricia Bitler, freelance writer and editor.

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