October 21, 2021

STEM a draw at Southworth

Dryden library’s winter camp features science, tech activities

Photos by Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Silas Coburn, a kindergartner from Freeville, builds with Legos Monday at Southworth Library in Dryden.

DRYDEN — Although he’s only 5 years old, Silas Coburn knows what he wants to be when he grows up.

“Not a doctor, a scientist.”

He even has the lab coat.

Silas was wearing that lab coat Monday while he assembled Legos and later sent a cup sailing down a zip line at Southworth Library in Dryden.

The stations were part of a winter break camp that Library Director Diane Pamel organized to take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week around science, technology, engineering and math activities.

Today, in a separate program, there will be a nanotechnology presentation by Cornell University experts at the same time.

Coburn, whose father said wanted only science kits — no toys — for his fourth birthday, was one of about 30 kids who rotated through five stations: a Lego building station; a slime station; robotics; origami art; and a STEM challenge zip line task.

The slime station where fifth-grader Ariana Scott-Mendez marveled at her blue slime turned out to be the most popular.

Ariana Scott-Mendez admires the slime she made as part of winter break STEM camp Monday at Southworth Library in Dryden. The library is featuring STEM-based activities this week

Not surprising, Pamel said, but each station was intended to teach the kids something.

“With the coding games, they see how each step causes something to happen, how to think one step at a time,” Pamel said.

Making the slime showed the cause and effect of different combinations of ingredients, she said, the zip line task showed the students how adding or taking away weight from their cup made it go faster or slower.

Seeing science in action brings it into real life, Pamel said — making it relatable and engaging.

Sixth-grader Hannah Jarvis and fifth-grader Weronika Conroy sat at the robotics station, working out out what steps their little Lego man would have to take to make his way from start to finish on a paper maze.

Hannah saw the correlation between that and the computer robotics programing she does in technology class — one must instruct robots very clearly what to do each step of the way, she said.

“Robots understand combinations of zeros and ones,” she said. “I think robots are cool.”

Nic Brenner, who brought sons Charlie, Maxwell and Jack to the lab, said the coding task taught the importance of a sequence of events.

He homeschools his children, and has been thinking about that recently in regard to math.

“They think they can do something but the steps are so necessary to get to the end goal,” he said. “Coding is helpful in appreciating the fact that you need to have the necessary steps in order to get to the finished product.”

At the zip line station, fourth-grader Haylee Vincent learned about the cause and effect of sending a cup with a rubber duck in it down a zip line arranged at different slopes.

With the help of her mother, Natalie Vincent, Haylee saw how the heavier the cup and the steeper the slope, the faster the duck traveled — hurtling along at its top speed that took it 1.3 seconds to travel the distance between the wall of shelves and where it was attached to the floor—before smashing into the floor.

Even that taught a lesson.

“He splattered out,” Haylee said, and decided in real life, a zip line shouldn’t be attached at such an angle that it would send its riders smashing into the earth.