Great Things about Space, STEM Resources

NASA Name the Mars Rover Challenge contest is currently underway

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with NASA, nor was I asked to promote this contest. This blog post was written based on my own understanding from reading the contest website rules and instructions.

In case you missed it, NASA is doing a ‘Name the Mars 2020 Rover’ challenge contest for kids in grades K through 12th grades. The child must also be a student within the United States to enter (this includes public, private and home school students). Students will select a rover name and write a short (150 words or less) essay to explain their reason for selecting the name they chose.

According to the contest website, this rover will “seek signs of past microbial life, collect surface samples… and test technologies to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future human missions.”

What’s at stake for the winner? The grand prize winner will win a trip for 4 to watch the launch of the rover into space! How amazing is that? The runner up and the next top 3 in each age group (grades K-4, 5-8 and 9-12) will win various STEM prize packages.

Even if your kids aren’t old enough to enter or do not wish to enter, there are TONS of great resources on their website for kids (and adults) to learn more about the Rover, its capabilities and Mars.

Check out the following websites for more information on contest rules, how to enter and learning resources:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/participate/name-the-rover/

https://www.futureengineers.org/nametherover

Animals, Art Crafting, Holiday, Lake MetroParks, Nature, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Lake Metroparks STEM Programs for Children and Families

For those that live in Northeast Ohio, Lake County Ohio’s park system known as the Lake Metroparks has extensive STEM programs for children and families. They also have specific programs geared towards home school parents and children.

Our family has greatly enjoyed the convenient, educational and fun programs that the Lake Metroparks system provides – specifically, the young child story times / explorations through the parks as well as numerous programs that are provided by the FarmPark and Penitentiary Glen Reservation. We have learned a great deal about farming and agriculture as well as the natural habitats and animals / insects that live in Northeast Ohio.

During the story times, children listen to stories associated with a nature theme, make a craft, play games and (weather permitting) take a hike outside along the paths in the park with a guide. The last one we participated in was all about frogs and it was held at Penitentiary Glen Reservation. The educator that ran the program was absolutely wonderful with the children. She taught them about the lifecycle of a frog, they made crafts, sang ‘5 little speckled frogs’, went on a nature hike outside, went on a scavenger hunt to find their own (fake) frogs, and many other activities.

Some of our favorite family friendly activities at the Farmpark have been Working Dog Weekend, Sheep Sheering Weekend, Horse Fest, Halloween Hayrides and Christmas Country Lights. At Country Lights, children are able to build a wooden toy with an elf from Santa’s Workshop. It’s a truly magical experience but also gives young children the opportunity to use real tools, listen to instructions and take pride in creating a wonderful toy for themselves.

For more information on their available educational programs for teachers and schools, click here. For more information on their upcoming family friendly events, click here. For more information on upcoming programming and registration, view the latest Parks Plus! magazine here.

Have you participated in any of these programs? Which is your favorite? If not, what park systems or parks have you enjoyed the most that provide STEM educations?

Museums, STEM Resources, STEM toys, TV Shows

Strong Museum of Play in Rochester New York

“…can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

After 30 plus years, I can FINALLY answer that question. The address is 1 Manhattan Square Dr, Rochester, NY 14607 which is the home of the Strong Museum of Play.

What a fun place! I am SO glad that we chose to make the stop on the way home to Cleveland from the Finger Lakes in New York! This place was fun for the kids and us as adults! The message from this place was clear… PLAYING is LEARNING. This is a beautiful message for all parents and children. If it’s fun, we learn more.

The highlight of this trip for the kids was taking a stroll down Sesame Street. Sesame Street is one of my all time favorite young child educational programs. Both of my children have learned so much from watching it – numbers, letters, emotional / social growth and also how fun it is to explore and learn. All important early attributes for confidence and success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects.

Another area that was really fun was Wegman’s grocery store. Each child gets to push a cart or carry a basket through a replica of Wegman’s grocery store and select a limited number of items for check out. They actually check out at the register (look at the receipt below!), then return the items to their respective locations.

The History Place was a fun place to explore. Kids can have pretend tea parties with teddy bears (make food in the old style kitchens), play in a historical looking school house and check out the type of transportation that students used to get to school ‘back in the day’.

Reading Adventureland is a giant play ground where you can step inside common childhood stories like Bernstein Bears, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Billy Goats Gruff, many princess fairy tales, wizard stories, Dr. Suess stories, pirate stories, etc. The kids could explore the Bernstein Bears home town, create their own wizards wand and crown, become a giant and play in a pirates sandpit to name just a few. Books are scattered through out for reading if your child opts to read some of the stories. This area was also easily a favorite!

This museum is HUGE! If you plan to go, be sure to block off at least one whole day to be able to check out everything. We did not get the opportunity to see everything during our trip but we saw plenty to make us want to get in a return trip someday! Ohio (CLE especially – since we live so close…), check this place out!!!!

STEM Careers, STEM Resources

Meet Dr. Sunita Mathew, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To honor it, I was very fortunate to a interview Dr. Sunita Mathew who is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

A Psychiatrist is a specialized physician within the medical field that diagnoses, prevents and treats mental illnesses. Dr. Mathew specializes in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which generally focuses on children, adolescents and their families.

In our interview, Dr. Mathew provided some interesting insight into her career, career path and her thoughts on the stigmas that still exist surrounding mental health. See our interview below:

Q: How would you describe your medical specialty to a child?

A: I’m a “thinking” type of doctor. I help people who have problems with their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. 

Q: What field(s) of psychiatry do you specialize in? How would you briefly describe it to a child?  What kinds of conditions do you treat?

A: I specialize in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I help kids who have difficulty controlling their emotions or behaviors. I commonly treat depression, anxiety, impulse control disorders, attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder and learning disorders.

Q: How would you describe a ‘mental illness’ ?

A: Mental illness can be an expression of a common emotion that becomes extreme or significant enough to impact or disrupt one’s quality of life. 

Q: How would you describe the differences between a psychologist and psychiatrist to a child? 

A: A psychologist is a trained professional that can diagnose various emotional and behavioral disorders and treat with specific targeted therapy. A psychiatrist is a trained medical doctor that can diagnose and treat mental illnesses with the option of prescribing medication interventions. The two fields often work together for the best outcomes. 

Q: How and why did you choose psychiatry as your chosen field?  Do you have a specific memory or event that happened in your life that helped you choose your career path? 

A: I started developing an interest in Psychology and how the human mind works in college. In medical school, I had my first exposure to Psychiatry with my required clinical rotations. I just happened by chance to be placed on a rotation that had a lot of exposure to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry along with Adult Psychiatry.  In addition to working with the pediatric population, I enjoyed working with the nurses and psychiatrists that chose to dedicate their careers to work with children.  Once I was exposed to this specialty, I tried to keep an open mind as I rotated in other specialties but I always came back to Child and Adolescent Psychiatry as my first choice. 

Q: Growing up, what were your favorite subject(s)? 

A: Math, Psychology, Sociology,  and Anthropology.

Q: What did you study in college and how / why did you choose it/them?  What made you decide to pursue medical school?

A: In college, I was pretty sure I wanted to go to medical school, so I took all the core pre-med course requirements like Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I majored in Psychology and Sociology because I found the subjects very interesting. Both Psychology and Psychiatry were careers that I had considered in college. I decided to pursue medical school because I felt that there were some disorders that could benefit from medication interventions and I wanted to have that option when treating. 

Q: Do you feel that your studies in college are helpful to you in your career now?  How or why? 

A: Yes. I feel that my varied studies gave me a unique perspective. My science background helps me approach a case with analytical and critical thinking and my background in psychology and sociology has given me perspective on human behavior. 

Q: When and how did you become interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)? 

A: Around middle school is when I started getting interested in doing science experiments and lab reports. In high school, I really enjoyed competing in science fairs. 

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the most important attributes or characteristics that a psychiatrist must have to be successful? 

A: Being non-judgmental, open-minded, empathetic, patient, attentive, and good listening skills are all good attributes to have as a psychiatrist. Sometimes a lot can be said non verbally. 

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your career? 

A: When I see treatment significantly improve my patients’ lives. 

Q: What has been the most challenging part of your career?

A: Hearing some of the bad stuff children have gone through. I have met some children who have gone through some unimaginable circumstances in such a short period of their life. That’s hard to process and take home with you.

Q: What is one of your most fun, exciting or even embarrassing memories in your career? 

A: When the kids make me laugh! Sometimes finding humor in a stressful situation can make all the difference.

Q: What would your advice be to parents and educators to help their children build confidence and interest in the STEM?  

A: Don’t limit your kids if they have an interest, even if you think they might not be able to grasp it.  Give them the tools to grasp it. 

Q: What do you wish others knew about your profession that is commonly misunderstood?

A: I feel there is a great deal of people still out there that don’t know the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist or therapist. We all have important roles in mental health, but they are different. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked Dr. Mathews some more specific questions regarding her opinions on some topics still surrounding mental health:

Q: What is the biggest stigma around mental health, that you wish would go away in society and what would be your response to it?  How can we get rid of this stigma? 

A: I feel that a big stigma that prevents people from getting help is the fear of being judged or treated differently.  I think when more and more people, particularly in the public eye, share their stories about mental illness it normalizes it and lessens the stigma. 

Q: How would you suggest parents explain “Mental Health” to their children? 

A: I usually tell my patients that there is mental health and physical health. Sometimes you need to treat your mental health just like you would if you had high blood pressure or diabetes or a broken leg. There is no shame in mental illness, it is not your fault or anything you did. 

Q: If someone reading this blog thinks that they, a friend or family member may be struggling with a mental illness, what should / can they do?  What should their first step be? 

A: Talking it over with their primary care physician can be a good first step. Also, calling their insurance’s behavior/mental health line might be helpful in navigating the system and figuring out where to start. If it’s an emergency where safety is an imminent concern then calling 911 or getting them to the nearest ER is where you need to go. 

Image credit: www.nami.org

Q: If you had to ‘prescribe’ one thing to society to help all of us with our mental health or thoughts around mental health, what would it be? 

A: Everybody is going through something at some point in their life, being kind and non-judgmental can go a long way in their recovery. 

Thank you so much to Dr. Mathew for your time and allowing me to interview you for my blog.

Thank you to one of my avid supporters and readers of my blog (you know who you are!) for helping me get in contact with Dr. Mathew. She is truly impressive.

I hope that you enjoyed this STEM career interview. If you have a specific profession in mind that you would like to learn more about! You can leave me a note here, on my social media pages or email me at momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com.

As with some of the other images in this post, the featured image at the top is credited to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Engineer, Great Lakes Science Center, Museums, STEM Careers, STEM Resources

The Vroom Exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio is Tire-iffic!!!

The Great Lakes Science Center did it again – they created another outstanding, fun and educational exhibit for kids and adults alike to explain how automobiles are designed, manufactured and serviced. VROOM! A Car Adventure is excellent!

The entrance to Vroom! At the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio.

Our Favorites:

As we entered the ginormous space, my kids first ran towards the tall multi-track called Physics Playground. Children (and adults – yes, of course I had to try it out too) can race cars down several tracks with loops, turns and jumps! It’s very exciting and fast paced fun and entertainment like I’ve never seen before.

The Physics Playground

The second place my kids explored and LOVED was the Automotive Care Center where they could work on ‘Mom and Dad’s Car’. My daughter was wearing a long dress, but that didn’t stop her from diving in to work on the tires, muffler or re-fill the fluids. My youngest explored the fun tire holes surrounding this exhibit.

Other fun areas included Tots Garage and the Aerodynamics wall. There are two areas for designing and racing your own vehicle – one designed for toddlers called Tots Garage and another area with wooden pieces and tires for bigger kids and adults. At the aerodynamics wall, my children could visually see how air flows around various shaped objects. My oldest found it interesting that vehicle designers evaluate the aerodynamics of vehicles for fuel efficiency (so they don’t need as much gas).

You can also test your skills and speed against an arm robot, named Lenny, which is a duplicate used in the automotive factories. My children laughed so hard at the celebratory dance after each time the robot won!

The area that I personally enjoyed the most was The Future of Car Tech section. This area had an example of airless tires and the LiDar sensor that is used to help self-driving cars navigate.

LiDar Sensor Technology screen inside the new exhibit.

My Thoughts:

This exhibit helps visualize many aspects of car design and servicing. We easily spent 3 hours exploring this space and we could have spent even more time. It is designed for all ages of children and adults. There is so much more to this exhibit that I didn’t add to this post.

We left the exhibit with plenty of knowledge on vehicle design, technology and functionality. I wished that there would have been more on vehicle manufacturing. There’s scores of science and engineering at vehicle manufacturing and assembly plants – i.e. the science behind paint color and appearance alone is a whole science in itself. However, this exhibit did not disappoint us at all and we will recommend it to everyone that we know!

The most impressive part for me about this exhibit was that it was built in house by the Great Lakes Science Center – it is truly one of a kind. We loved it.

Vroom over to the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland Ohio and go check it out for yourself!!!

momgineeringthefuture@gmail.com