PHOTO GALLERY | UPJ Hosts STEM Learning Night for Local Youth | News

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JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Vincent Rose inspected the Solomon Homes Community Hall in Johnstown on Tuesday night, trying to determine which Communi-TEAMS booth at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown to visit first.

Rose ultimately chose the biology department’s “touch table” which contained fur, feathers and bones for the children to explore.

“It’s my third time,” he said.

Tuesday’s event was the last of three semester events and featured a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) theme.

The first was on March 1 and focused on sports, followed by a health event on March 15.

Each started at 5:30 p.m. and continued until 7:00 p.m. and included a variety of activities.

Rose said the former was life-changing because of the learning opportunities available.

Since then, he has wanted to come back to others.

The neighborhood kid said he loves the activities and learning, which is why he keeps coming back.

“We think these events are really valuable,” said Pitt-Johnstown associate professor Christine Dahlin.

She is the chair of Communi-TEAMS, a diversity and inclusion committee in Pitt-Johnstown, and represented the biology department at the event.

Children were drawn to her and her cockatoo Yoko.

Dahlin taught the guests about parrots and their behavior.

Typically, Communi-TEAMS holds three events per semester in the Community Hall, but the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented this from happening for the past two years.

This spring, the group was able to return to a normal schedule.

On Tuesday, there were charts set up for chemistry, which included information on liquid nitrogen, static electricity and flammables; a geological table with an array of various rocks, including some from the moon; and Department of Education stations had engineering activities, such as building a flood-proof house.

UPJ student Nick Scelsi and Holly Garrett occupied the geology table.

“We just show kids the different types of rock samples and open their eyes to what’s out there,” Scelsi said.

Both said they signed up for the community event because they wanted to make an impact on children.

“It’s such a cool opportunity,” Garrett said.

She added that spreading the word about STEM was “a good message to get across”.

Dahlin said the activities were just as important to Pitt-Johnstown students as they were to Solomon Homes residents.

This is because undergraduates don’t venture to Johnstown often.

Bringing them to one of the city’s neighborhoods breaks cultural barriers, Dahlin said.

Collins Ruffin, 11, said he forgot the Communi-TEAMS event was scheduled for Tuesday, but was grateful Rose reminded him.

Looking around, Ruffin said he was most interested in Yoko and wanted to know about a cup-stacking activity at one of the Education Department tables.

Ruffin said he wasn’t very into STEM but, overall, he was having fun.

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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