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2021 STEM Day at the State Fair

September 20, 2021

2021 STEM Day at the State Fair

Article by Hanna Herzog, Kimley-Horn (sponsor of APWA-MN Chapter)

This was my first time at the Minnesota State Fair and my first time at an APWA event, so I had a lot of fun interacting with the community while learning and sharing information about APWA and explaining what we do. 

The Minnesota chapter of APWA had a booth at STEM Day, where kids participated in hands-on activities and demonstrations. We taught kids about stormwater pollution using the Enviroscape, a hands-on watershed model. With this tool, we demonstrated how stormwater runoff carries pollutants from our communities through the watershed to our ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans and how best management practices help prevent this pollution from occurring. I had the kids think of their own neighborhood or city and the types of pollution they see there. The fun part was then visualizing that pollution on our Enviroscape, where kids put sprinkles as trash, Kool-Aid powder as road salt, and other bright visuals to represent fertilizers, erosion, and car oil. I loved watching the kids be so engaged with the process, and their eyes would light up when I handed them a jar of sprinkles to pour over the watershed. We talked about how best management practices like retention ponds and rain gardens helped to prevent the pollutants from reaching our water bodies, using sponges to act as this infrastructure. The best part came next, where we had them make a rainstorm in their watershed using spray bottles, and the exhibit popped with colors as the water carried the pollutants through the rivers and streams into the ocean. Kids of all ages (and their parents) were able to better understand stormwater through this visual process, and they left with a mission to spot infiltration ponds and rain gardens. 

My favorite part of this experience was being able to talk to people of every age about what we do as engineers, and it was fascinating to listen to them share their existing knowledge about public works as a whole.

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