JACKSON TWP.  Students from many area school districts and of all ages attended the STEM Wars event at Stark State held Oct. 26.

Claudia Barr, Stark State's chairperson for the department of physics and chemistry, explained that the idea behind the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) event was to invite the community in to get excited about "what we are passionate about."

After a "flashy" opening with helium, liquid nitrogen and sulfur hexafluoride, the Star Wars themed event took off with students being divided into groups pertaining to their interests.

The STEM students participated in hands-on, interactive experiments with Stark State students and staff giving them a chance to learn about the area they chose to participate in. There were many aspects of the STEM area available from Newtonian substances and robotics to virtual reality and math puzzles. 

More than 165 students attended the event and brought with them more than 200 guests of all ages.

"Our hope is that they will be excited about the STEM fields," Barr said. "We are showing them some of the cool things we can do and talk a bit about careers in the fields but, for the most part, keep them excited and passionate about STEM."

Students targeted for the program were junior high age but students from as young as six years old through grade 12 were involved, as well as a few college students who just wanted to see what they could learn. Some students came in Star Wars-themed costumes.

"We are fortunate to have military personnel come in with their Hazmat gear and help us out," said Barr, referring to the Civil Support Team, a special unit of the Ohio National Guard that consists of 22 service members specifically trained to assist first responders at the local and state level in incidents involving potential Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The Ohio National Guard Civil Support team participated in the STEM event as part of its community outreach. Team members provided a hands-on experience with the science and technology equipment the Ohio National Guard uses to support first responders. The team had trucks, trailers and equipment parked outside for the students to take a look at while on campus.  

Students were actively involved in math puzzles and chemistry, where students were making little worms from seaweed, a salt solution and a natural polymer.

Six-year-old Charles Stephan was working diligently sorting through the contents of a bats stomach to find skulls and bones of things the bat had eaten. He father, Andrew Stephan, dean of arts and sciences, explained that the bat holds this in their stomach much like a cat with a hair ball. They are found in the forest and the "hair ball" is soaked in water. A student like Charles can go through the hair and find what has been eaten. Charles was thrilled of what he had found and happy to explain that he had found two skulls, a jaw bone and continued to work to find other items and compare them to the identification chart.

One classroom was filled with students that were taking on a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) to determine "who dunit." Someone stole the pink panther diamond. Students were working with blood typing to figure it out.

In the cafeteria, students and parents were treated to pizza, cookies, snacks, drinks and were able to watch Star Wars. Students also were eligible to win a laptop and $20 gift cards from Best Buy during the event.