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STEM is everywhere
BCC hosts 15th annual Jack Kilby Day
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Great Bend High School students Malachi Wasson, Joanna Sanchez and Karina Mata guess which items will take the most time to break down in the Barton County Landfill. A paper towel will decompose in a few days, but a glass bottle may be around for a million years, if not recycled.

Science, technology, engineering and math were in the spotlight Monday as area high school students attended Barton Community College’s annual Jack Kilby STEM Day.

Barton biology instructor Charlotte Cates said nearly 300 students from more than a dozen high schools registered for this free event. It was the 15th year for a day dedicated to STEM and named after Great Bend High School graduate Jack Kilby, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000. Although it was originally called Jack Kilby Science Day, Cates said “STEM Day” was a more accurate name because of the broad range of topics students were invited to explore. 

The day began with a keynote address by speaker Kantis Simmons, an author and leading authority on school success and STEM education. Breakout sessions on a variety of topics took students to several areas of the Barton campus for some hands-on learning. The sessions were taught by Barton instructors and area experts in STEM careers. That included people from the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, the Great Bend Fire Department and State Fire Marshal, the Departments of Geosciences and Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University, DV8 (Drone) Technology, the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo and the Cottonwood Extension District of Kansas State University. Barton’s contributors included the BCC STEM Club and a number of educators in fields that included ceramics, music, biology, chemistry, physics, hazardous materials & emergency management programs, and agriculture.

Students watched Dr. Oleg Ravitskiy, a life sciences instructor at Barton, perform an ultrasound on a dog. He also showed how blood types are determined, with several students volunteering to be tested.

Those who participated in the lesson taught by Mandy Kerns, program specialist at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, got to touch a great plains rat snake (or not), look at blood samples under a microscope, and create an edible model of blood — made of corn syrup, miniature marshmallows, red hot candies, sprinkles and granola bits. Her lesson “Endotherm vs. Ectotherm” showed some differences between warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals.

Donna Krug from the Extension office offered a crash course on recycling titled, “It’s easy to be green.” Students learned that a paper towel tossed into the landfill will break down in a few days, a banana peel in two to five weeks and a newspaper in six weeks. A plastic bag will take 10-20 years to decompose, a tin can 50 years, and a glass bottle will take 1 million years.

“A lot of these things can be recycled,” Krug said. She had the students make doggie chew toys out of old T-shirts cut into long strips and braided together. Students could take their creations home or allow Krug to donate them to the Golden Belt Humane Society.