Hundreds gathered to participate in Housatonic Community College’s 5th annual STEAMfest celebration. With a theme of ‘Helping Everyone Reach For The Stars’, the three-day event, led by the STEAMfest Coordinator Dr. David Platt, held both in-person and virtually on November 8, 9, and 11, was a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. With opportunities to interact with NASA professionals, among others, the initiative spurred academic passions in those fields.
Keynote speaker Dr. Heather Graham, discussed her work as a NASA Astrobiologist. Graham, who looks for life in the solar system, and works on the Mars Rover mission, began her educational journey at Santa Monica College, a community college in Santa Monica, California. As a first-generation college student who had an interest in science, professors helped her to attain internships and see that she could afford to continue her education.
“I just don’t have enough ways to say how great the community college world is. I had the liberty and time to explore every science topic I wanted. I took every class offered, and I got individualized attention,” said Graham. “Now, in this unique field where I’m drawing heavily from physics, biology, geology and chemistry, I don’t know if I would be able to do this if I didn’t have this solid science background, because I was able to take all those classes.”
Other presenters included Andy Poniros, NASA Solar System Ambassador, who discussed building Dobsonian telescopes, Matthew Pearce of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who informed students about internship programs at NASA, and Dr. Kevin Green of the Department of Physics at the University of New Haven who discussed the sounds of the solar system. Dr. Seth Redfield, Professor of
Astronomy at Wesleyan University discussed research on the atmospheric properties of the Earth and
planets outside our solar system as well as careers in astronomy, and historian and author Michael J. Bielawa reviewed UFO sightings in Bridgeport.
A series of exciting space-themed activities were also presented. Elliot Severn, Planetarium and Technology Director at the SHU Discovery Science Center provided a space engineering demonstration, the Greater Bridgeport Amateur Radio Club provided a demonstration of ham radio, a video of the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission was shown, as well as a screening of the film, Hidden Figures.
A highlight of STEAMfest this year was star gazing parties. Held over two nights on the HCC courtyard and at Russian Beach in Stratford, students, faculty, and staff were treated to views of Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon. Telescopes courtesy of the Westport Astronomical Society.
“This year’s STEAMfest is about exploration. It is really important that we help students build their career exploration skills, understanding that there is so much more out there in STEAM and STEM as a whole,” said Robin Avant, Dean of Academic Affairs at HCC.
The over 60 associate degree and certificate options in STEAM disciplines at HCC were on display, and a wide array of colleges and universities also exhibited their own programs at a STEAM College Fair. Additionally, information about research experiences for undergraduates was offered.
HCC’s STEAMfest initiative was made possible by Sikorsky- a Lockheed Martin Company and Pitney Bowes. Both firms are long-time supporters of HCC students and are champions of STEAM at Housatonic Community College.