Hunter Fabian takes a hands-on approach at the STEM summit. One of the booths allowed students to make their own toolbox.
Hunter Fabian takes a hands-on approach at the STEM summit. One of the booths allowed students to make their own toolbox.
They reached the STEM of the summit and learned Legos, ice cream, rocket science and Jolly Ranchers.

All in a day's schooling.

"We went to the ice cream booth, where you can make your own ice cream, and we also went to the Jolly Rancher booth where they tell you to put a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and see how long it takes to dissolve, and ours took 13 minutes," said Kingsland seventh grader Grace Himle, standing in the University Center Rochester (UCR) field house, referring to the Kemps booth and one of numerous Mayo Clinic booths set up at the fifth annual Rochester Chamber of Commerce STEM Summit, a convention of businesses showcasing how science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are used each and every day to make the world go round.

Kingsland ag instructor Kristal Brogan and tech ed instructor Andrew Brouwer brought 40 of Kingsland's 43 seventh graders to the summit, attended by approximately 2,300 students from the Rochester area and surrounding school districts, to study the tenets of STEM education presented by the businesses - this year including agricultural-based businesses because of the increased prevalence of technology and engineering involved in agricultural careers.

Crenlo, Inc. offered the students a Lego assembly challenge in which they had to build a toy truck from parts randomly into a bowl.

Mayo Clinic's respiratory care department brought a vest that respiratory therapist Peter Black put on volunteer students who were then shaken by the vest's mechanisms to loosen "secretions in cystic fibrosis patients who have trouble with it."

Sarah Lindholm of the University of Minnesota inquired of students which tree slice represented an older tree - the bigger one, or the smaller one - and explained that even though the bigger one was in fact larger, that was the younger tree due to its health.

The Northern Valley Animal Clinic presented a profile x-ray of a Brittany spaniel with six smaller spines belonging to puppies visible in its belly.

The Rochester Community and Technical College horticulture department strapped students into harnesses and let them attempt to climb ropes as they would in an urban forestry job.

Also, Limb Lab, a prosthetic limb company, featured a young man who had lost his left leg to a high school football injury but who proved to students he raced on the UCR field house track that a racing prosthetic has just the right physics to provide him with the speed he enjoyed on the football field.

Himle stated that she liked the Mestad's formal clothing store booth the most. "We got to measure the mannequin and tell what size it would be."

Classmate Reid Kruegel particularly enjoyed "looking at the 'crime scenes'" brought for investigation by the Rochester Police Department. "I'm particularly interested in the crime scene things, and I learned stuff about technology. I want to do something maybe with the Army when I grow up."

Greg Hubka's favorite booth was "the one where they were shooting cannons." "I liked the booth where we got to create our own ice cream, and the SEMA Equipment booth where they asked us farm trivia."

Waylon Kimball hopes to become a construction worker someday, so he perused all the construction companies' booths while he was there. "I like farming and plowing and stuff," he pointed out, having been lucky enough to virtually test drive a backhoe with Ellingson Companies and the Local 49 Engineering Union.

The STEM principles presented at the summit posed just a few illustrations of career opportunities now available to students, enriching the seventh graders' understanding of what STEM education really is as they also explore it through Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum at school in Kingsland, one of Minnesota's top PLTW certified schools.