STEM Fest inspires the future

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2019

LAPLACE — Students from kindergarten through 12th grade can explore robotics, rockets, drones and other unique educational experiences at STEM Fest, to be held from 9 a.m. to noon August 17.

Located at the St. John the Baptist Parish Community Center, 2900 U.S. 51 in LaPlace, STEM Fest is a fun, family friendly and free event aimed to inspire students to pursue rapidly growing science, technology, engineering and math careers.

Artis Williams, director of St. John United Way, knows from his background in engineering that problem-solving skills gained through STEM exposure are essential to almost any applied science career.

He said STEM Fest is a collaboration between St. John United Way, St. John the Baptist Parish and STEM NOLA.

According to Williams, STEM Fest is a larger-scale take on STEM summer camps previously held in St. John Parish. The upcoming event will pave the way for 10 “STEM Saturdays” to be held annually for local students.
The program is expected to grow over the next year with help from local industry partners and community fundraising.

“Things that make up STEM are things that all kids could benefit from,” Williams said. “Right now, we just have the one STEM school, but this will give K-12 students an opportunity to be exposed to STEM, and I think it encourages them to pursue STEM careers.”

Hands-on STEM Fest activities explore circuits, chemistry, hydrodynamics, alternative energy, boats, construction, solar and wind power, structures, cars, motors, food science and math games.

STEM professionals will be on-site to talk to students and give advice.

“We’re trying to mirror the industries that we have here in St. John the Baptist Parish,” Williams said. “Parents are going to be overwhelmed with what’s available and excited to see how their kids react to all of the technology. We’re excited to partner with the parish and STEM NOLA to put this event on for the community.”

New Orleans native Dr. Calvin Mackie founded STEM NOLA to expose, inspire and engage members in the surrounding communities about the opportunities in the STEM field. STEM Saturdays have been implemented in New Orleans to provide community-based learning where students and parents can learn together.

St. John Parish has partnered with STEM NOLA since 2016.

STEM NOLA representatives visited Fifth Ward Elementary eight times from February to May 2019, according to master teacher Anya Van Dyke. Third and fourth grade girls and their mothers learned the science behind beauty projects by making facial masks, scrubs, lip balm, perfume, aromatherapy, bath bombs and more.

STEM Nola instructor Kelsey Tomlinson, right, works with, from left, Tiernie Brock, Briona Jackson and Mariyah Brown at Fifth Ward Elementary in Reserve, reinforcing student education tools needed for success.

Students also looked at models of the human heart and designed their own motorized cars.

To register for the Aug. 17 STEM Fest, visit There is no cost for registration.

The website also offers volunteer sign-up and online donations, as STEM programming is an expensive but critically important endeavor.