The fifth annual STEM Open house showcases the fun side of science


Perla Lara

Ahmad Chahine, biochem club member (left) helping Avid Diaz (right) make a stress ball out of cornstarch water and a balloon at the fifth STEM open house at Cerritos College on Friday Sept. 30. The clubs at the open house wanted to show the fun side to science by playing games, and making things like silly putty, stress balls and ice-cream. Photo credit: Perla Lara

Perla Lara

Mix together one part fun, two parts information, one part hope and five parts science and you get the Fifth annual Science Technology Engineering Mathematica Open house.

STEM clubs and STEM majors gathered to show what the college has in terms of STEM courses but also to show that science can be fun.

According to Community Relations Coordinator Toni Grijalva the open house had about 150 people who registered for the event and several more who participated without registering.

Coordinator for the STEM grant Vangie Moreno-Reichwein said it took about four months to plan everything out.

Moreno-Reichwein said the open house expected about 180 high school and elementary students, boy scout and girl scout troops to attend the open house and see what Cerritos College had to offer.

The Orange County STEM for children representative attended to observe the open house.

During the event opening ceremony, geology major Valeria Jaramillo showed how she combined science and fun. She gave a power point presentation on her internship with Proyecto Dinosaurios.

During her internship, she was able to catalog small fossil specimen and travel to places like the Grand Canyon.

Jaramillo said, “There’s a lot of [internship] opportunities for everyone, definitely some are harder to find but there’s a lot out there if you really look for it.”

As important as finding opportunities is having great letters of recommendation, “From what our mentor told us there were a lot of people that applied [to Proyecto Dinosaurios] and it was a tough eliminating process […] because I was able to get good letters of recommendation from my professors.

“That’s what boiled it down to who got the internship. That’s what the person who choose the students [for the Proyecto Dinosaurios] told us. It wasn’t as much about the grades as long as you had good letters of recommendation from your professors,” Jaramillo said.

She also recommends “getting involved with clubs, seeing your professors, professors aren’t just there to teach you, they have a lot of knowledge, they are connected to other people in their field, they are here to help [students] take advantage of the opportunities that are [available] here.”

The STEM Open House had over eight club booths each with a scientific display or fun scientific activity to share with the public.

The Biochemistry Club had their club table make silly putty and stress balls.

Biochemistry club treasurer Vi Pham said, “For the silly putty we’ve done this experiment before, so we thought it was fun because all of the people enjoyed it.”

This year Biochemistry Club president John Munteanu said, “I feel that a major component that goes into being a STEM major is being really stressed so one way I thought of to give a fun demonstration of how to balance that [stress] was to make a stress ball.

Using cheap ordinary ingredients like cornstarch and water to make this non-Newtonian fluid and make stress balls out of it by putting it inside balloons.”

The fact that the club demonstrations started at 1 p.m. on a hot day made the women in STEM club table, which allowed people to make their own ice-cream, the was most popular table at the open house.

At 1:30 p.m the club had already handed out 10 to 15 ice-cream bags.

Women in STEM Club president Alexandria Macias explained the science behind making your own instant ice-cream, “We’re using ¼ milk and ¼ half and half, then we’re adding the vanilla extract and a few teaspoons of sugar [in a plastic bag]

“then we put that in about a third of a gallon bag of ice with a lot of salt and the salt and the ice create a reaction with an excess of cold, so basically it is pulling out the heat from the ice-cream mixture which makes it a lot colder and it freezes.”

Automotive Technician Avid Diaz said, “I was passing by and saw [the clubs], my wife was intrigued about the ice-cream.”

Engineering major Joshua Ho and physical therapy major Jing Chen also made the women in STEM ice-cream table their first stop.

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science chapter also had a booth showing chemistry reactions in a fun way.

Cerritos College SACNAS chapter advisor Scottie Henderson said SACNAS, “is a national organization, last semester we had students that were able to attend the conference in Los Angeles and they enjoyed it so much they wanted to start a chapter here.

“So first we started as a club and now we are a chapter we became official this summer.”

SACNAS was demonstrating chemical reactions by showing people how to make their own lava lamp.

Henderson explained in a water bottle combine 1/3 water and 2/3 canola oil, and a few drops of water-based food coloring. Water and oil don’t mix so the water based food coloring sinks to the bottom of the bottle only mixing with the water changing its color. The next step is to add pieces of Alka-seltzer tablets into the water bottle which reacts to the water causing it to frizz and form bubbles that rise to the top of the bottle.

Phi Beta Lambda Business club table had the zero to hero calculations: rate your favorite activity

Phi Beta Lambda Business club member Yuliana Estrada explained the activity was creating a marketing map.

By rating something on a scale from one to five in at least four different areas you can see what a products strengths and weaknesses are and compare them against other products.

The club’s superhero example allowed people to rate their choice of superhero and see how it compared to others.

Indoor science demonstrations allowed STEM students to show what they have learned and conduct simple experiments showcasing the techniques they learned in their classes.

The Exhilarating Chemistry presentation was supervised by Chemistry professor Rena Lou

Lou said, “Organic chemistry has so many techniques to learn so [students] are just demonstrating what they have learned and what they have been using […] they are really thrilled to demonstrate this.”

The demonstrations included thin layer chromatography, column chromatography, recrystallization, and steam distillation.