New Engineers Blossom on STEM Day
By Hanna Quinn ’16 ChE
In January 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $1 million grant to Villanova University to study urban stormwater management in Philadelphia. Post-doc Kim DiGiovanni, PhD, and Civil Engineering Associate Professor Bridget Wadzuk, PhD, members of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP), hosted a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Day as a part of this grant. On Friday, July 31, 35 children ages 5 to 12 came to Villanova’s campus for a day filled with activities related to water resources and civil engineering.
The STEM Day participants were from the Roosevelt Park Playground location of the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation REACH Summer Camp program. REACH includes Villanova in its mission to promote an appreciation for the environment and outdoors through wellness services. In addition to STEM Day, Villanova runs monthly STEM activities with the REACH after-school program.
STEM Day campers participated in four engineering activities, including supercritical surfing, sand castle soils fun, a rain garden scavenger hunt, and a pollution demo. Dr. DiGiovanni says, “These demos were chosen to allow students to participate in activities around some core topics in civil, environmental and water resources engineering, which are in line with the mission of VUSP.” The students learned about different soils, infrastructure, pollutants, and ecological issues. Some activities modeled urban watersheds and showed the students the damaging effects of pollutants, inspiring them to keep their own urban homes clean. The students had the opportunity to explore stormwater issues, win prizes for most successful engineering projects, and even take home the book, Growing UP in the City: A Book About Green Roofs.
STEM Day was widely popular amongst the participants, Dr. DiGiovanni reports: “One little girl told me that she hopes coming to Villanova will be on the camp calendar again. Another told me that she wants to come to college at Villanova.” The campers had the opportunity to explore Villanova engineering and consider a career in this field, “I can only hope it inspires them, as well, whatever their path may be,” says Dr. DiGiovanni.