Her fingers released the aluminum boat into the sea, carrying a cargo of copper passengers. The boat toddled from side-to-side. The student’s eyes widened in anxiety, will it float? Pennies on deck slid from the stern to the bow—she gently loaded the port with another coin—SPLASH! The aluminum ship went under.
Since an hour before the event was set to start, families lined in front of the registration table, eager to try their hands at booths similar to “Aluminum Foil Boats.” On Saturday, August 26, 2017, the 2nd annual STEAM in the Park, hosted by Math for Service, offered a range of science, math, arts, and other fun activities for students to partake in—all without cost to the Orange County community. This event marked Math for Service’s official Back-to-School kickoff and first fundraiser of the year. The volunteers from local high schools were composed from eight umbrella organizations: OC Math Circle, OC Science, OC Coder, OC Scholar, All Girls Math, OC Engineer, OC Launch, and OC Arts. They awaited from behind their tables in Bill Barber Community Park for when the clock struck 2:00PM and the rush of elementary schoolers would meet them.
Although it appeared like a simple shipbuilding exercise, “Aluminum Foil Boats” assessed the physics of buoyancy: how many pennies could the boat carry without sinking? Students designing the build had to consider shape, size, and distribution of the coins.
Jessica Lui, a 9th grade volunteer, enjoys science and seeing young children share a similar experience. “I like how there are different ways to arrive at the same, universal answer,” she said.
Every activity at STEAM in the Park, although amusing, also tested the children on their knowledge of basic principles in a variety of subjects. Just across the park, volunteers of OC Math Circle Linghao Kong, a 12th grader, and Eric Lee, an 8th grader, hosted “Origami,” a seemingly simple task of paper-folding with an underlying math principle of complex geometry. The aim of the activity was for students to create a paper structure, such as a crane; however, Linghao and Eric had students unfold their creation once they finished to recall which shapes the creases left belonged to corresponding part of the crane, leaving many students puzzled.
Over 500 participants, including students, families, and volunteers, and more than 30 events were scattered about the park on this day. Whether it be making a toothpaste for elephants or exploring minecraft, many can’t wait to return next year for another round of exciting hands-on activities, games, and experiments in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM).