Schools in Maine benefited from free weekend program

OHTM’s STEM Fest 2024: Anything students could get their hands on

Tue, 04/30/2024 - 6:00pm

    OWLS HEAD—Owls Head Transportation Museum held its second annual STEM Fest 2024 on April 26  and 27— this time expanding over a full weekend, to great success.

    To counter the adverse effects that the pandemic had on student achievement in Maine and to give teens and tweens an immersive hands-on experience with interactive displays in science, technology, engineering, and math, the museum transformed into multiple STEM stations throughout the building.

    From operating a rolling robot that spits out Frisbees to participating in a physics display that made one’s hair stand up, students met with professionals in fields ranging from engineering to virtual reality technology, aircraft design, and medicine.

    The sheer level of enthusiasm last year proved to Kat Woodworth, Director of Development, and Megan Galinksy, Education Director, that giving kids free access to tools, DIY projects, and hands-on experiments is the key to getting them re-engaged again in school and inspiring them to be entrepreneurs and interested in careers in the trades.

    “Post-COVID-19, we were looking at a lot of data that showed teachers were having a difficult time getting kids to stay engaged and working in groups,” said Woodworth, “At this FEST, we saw kids light up around anything they could get their hands on.”

    Friday was designated as a special school field trip day and closed to the public. The museum secured enough sponsorship funding to invite schools from within an hour’s radius of Owls Head to visit all of the STEM stations in the museum for free, prompting some 340 students to partake in the field trip. On Saturday the museum was open to the public and Gaslinsky said many of these same students came back with their families to show them their favorite exhibits and activities from the previous day.

    “They were amazed by the collection we had and with the people who brought the activities here,” said Galinsky. “We had kids leaving really thinking about what paths they wanted to choose in their lives from this.”

    “Our program grew 700% from last year as a result of the outreach we did to more rural areas as well as the sponsorship dollars we secured to pay for their transport to get here.

    -Kat Woodworth

    There was an activity for everyone from arts in STEM such as leather crafting and embossing to working with engines, automobile computer equipment, and experiments in viscosity, among many others.

    With aviation and automobiles as their central theme, OHTM included plenty of activities in stations positioned around the museum that would tie back into these themes as a career.  For example, Woodward said that the flight simulation activities were a huge hit with the kids.

    “So when you’re talking about how planes fly and how they pull and drag, we have that activity stationed right next to the aircraft, so they can look up and make that immediate visual connection,” she said. “And in the Electricity Room, students got to see under the hood of an electric car and how that all works, along with rides on a Model T as counterpoint.”

    Three undergraduate students from the University of Maine’s College of Engineering and Physics Program worked with David Sturm, of the Physics and Astronomy Department to use an electrostatic generator to conduct static electricity. Once students touched the metal ball of the generator, their hair stood up on end.

    “Today we’re just giving different physics experiments to show how physics can be cool and how it relates to daily life, said UMaine student Tom Murphy.

    The Girl Scout Troop 191 from Rockland had a table demonstrating how to make a cardboard stethoscope to anyone who wanted to stop by. The girls nominated Hope, one of their troop members, to explain their process. “As this is part of our engineering journey as Girls Scouts, we thought why not do something at the STEM FEST?” she said. “We wanted something easy we could build and because I’m in EMT training, we chose to build homemade stethoscopes.”

    View our gallery with more information and visit OHTM to see more of its upcoming events.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at