STEAM Expo 2015


On April 22nd, coinciding with Earth Day, Appalachian State University hosted another STEM Expo as part of the NC Science Festival. This year the “A” for Art was added making it the first STEAM Expo ever to be held at AppState. As in past years, the day was a huge success with an attendance of around 2800 students and their teachers from 29 public schools in Western NC. The event was organized and lead by Tracey Tardiff from the NC Appalachian Collaborative for Higher Education and the STEAM Expo Committee. Dr. Tonya Coffey, who was on Off Campus Scholarly Assignment in Mexico, also helped with the logistics and secured funding for the event. A total of 144 STEAM practitioners including faculty members, staff and graduate students from ASU ran the booths, demos and tours. There were also 100 volunteer undergraduates helping out the day of the event.

New this year was a teacher table with information about K-12 STEAM resources available on campus. A big shout out to RIEEE, which sponsored the table and teacher appreciation bags and to NCACHE and Appalachia Cookie Company for the sweet treats for the educators. 

The convocation center had a total of 32 interactive science, math, art and technology booths for students and their teachers to explore spread over two floors. There were returning booths like the popular Geology tables were students learned about fossils and rocks; and Dr. Mark Zrull’s human brain. There were also many new exhibits like John Cockman’s Physics demos, Dr. Andy Bellemer’s fruit flies and Josh White’s cyanotype making station.

Students got a chance to do everything from Play Connect 4 with a robotic arm in Brad Johnson’s exhibit, to making wind drawings in the Wind Art exhibit with Mark Nystrom, or watch a collaboration between the Physics and Theater & Dance Departments demonstrating DeBroglie wave-partial duality theory. 

Here’s an overview of the exhibits…

Representing the College of Health Sciences:

Student athletes organized by Joe Suiter returned with their Science Jeopardy and Dr. Travis Triplett (HES) with the crowd-gathering, heart pumping vertical jumping and vibrating plate challenges. Celeste Crowe worked up student interest towards health professions, and Dr. Linda Johanson returned with her devoted manikin, which stoically allowed the high school students to try all sorts of medical procedures on it. Allison Pachapa (Nutrition/ Sustainability) set up a veggie selfie booth where students learned about the importance of local and sustainable food sources.

Representing the College of Arts and Sciences:

Dr. Mark Zrull returned with his human brain, which is always a highlight of any event, as well as sheep brain dissections and neurons under the microscope. Chris Dickinson set up an eye tracker demonstration, which allows the audience to follow participant’s eye movement across an image or text. He explained how the system works and what its uses are in psychology.

Among the biologists, Dr. Shea Tuberty and his students demonstrated how stream fish and invertebrates are used to determine water quality. Monique Eckerd wowed students with her reptilian and amphibian friends. Dr. Mark Venable challenged students to discuss evolution and Dr. Maryam Ahmed had them making models of microorganisms and learning about microbiology. Dr. Andrew Bellemer shared his exciting research using Drosophila to study human brain function and pain. There was also a virtual tour of the ASU Biology Dept. Greenhouse and a “sweet” table set up by the Tri Beta Biology National Honors Society (led by Madi Spagnoletti) where students built edible DNA models.

Dr. Mike Hamburger and Wendy Lewis from the Chemistry Department set up engaging kitchen chemistry experiments involving smoke bubbles and color changes.

Other than the aforementioned Physics demos by John Cockman and Brad Johson’s robotic arm, Dr. Brooke Hester and the Physics Club fascinated students with laser graffiti and a laser maze.

The Geology Department with their continuous commitment towards K12 outreach and enthusiastic faculty led by Dr. Andy Heckert, showcased fossils, soils, rocks, minerals and ran an interactive demo about Earthquakes using a shaker board (pictured).

Representing the Arts and Music:

Mark Nystrom had set up, in addition to the wind drawing station, a visual exhibit and calculator of carbon footprints. Visiting teachers and students could calculate their own contribution to global warming and see it measured in balloons, pounds and metric tons. Joshua White (pictured) ran a station for making cyanotypes and a “bug photo booth”.  Jeanne Mercer Ballard from the TED Department set up some interactive demonstrations showing the science behind color and light.

In the interpretive arts and music, the NouN Improv team lead by Shane Jones introduced students to improv comedy and Sarah Grindley's demonstration showed how complex physics concepts can be taught using music, theater and dance. At the Music Therapy booth, lead by Jasmine Tilden from the Hayes School of Music, students learned how music therapy works with different populations.

Other participants included the Bee Aware Science Team, a homeschool group which raises awareness to the decline of honey bees; AsUTour Club, with a variety  of hands-on science activities; Mathematical Sciences with problem-solving activities such as geometry puzzles; Upward Bound lead by Aaron Gersonde with their racetrack and cars to show relationship between speed and acceleration; the Math and Science Education Center’s huge display of the types of events they set up at family science nights; Bettina Roden’s (Office of Sustainability) informative booth demonstrating AppState’s Zero Waste Initiative and the Office of Admissions table with information about AppState and Student Ambassadors.

In addition to visiting the Expo floor, schools got the chance to participate in special break out sessions and facility tours. These included:

  • Tours of the Geology Museum & Rock Garden (with Dr. Andy Heckert)
  • Tours of the Dewel Microscope Facility (with Dr. Guichuan Hou)
  • Solar Gazing from the Rankin Observatory (with David Sitar)
  • Tours of the Turchin and Schaefer Center with Hannah Crowell and Scott Haynes.
  • Tours of the Human Osteology Lab with Dr. Gwen Robbins-Schug
  • Earth Day Fair Demonstrations in the Sanford Mall by ASUSES Solar Club (led by Amy Birner)
  • Jeff Goodman’s Energy, Sound and Light Show
  • Dr. Brooke Hester’s Laser Demo
  • “Interpretation of Science” Dance Show (led by Rebecca Keeter)
  • “Science of Music Therapy” Demonstration by Miranda Grimmer and Ashley Taul
  • Energy Efficient Cooking with Carla Ramsdell

University Resource Conservation Specialist Jen Maxwell helped make it a zero waste event by setting up composting, recycling, and landfill bins in the Durham Park for folks that brought lunches from their school. 

Thank you everyone who participated in this amazing program!

Photo Credits and Story Collaborators: Katelyn Gray and Hailey Barkey

Feature Image: 


Contact (schedules/visits/questions)

Dr. Andrew Heckert
(828) 262-7609

108 Rankin Science South
572 Rivers Street
Boone, NC 28608

Open: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. M-F (during semester)
Closed: Weekends, University holidays, weather closures

Department of Geology

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