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Last Thursday, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College (RCCC) hosted their eighth annual STEM open house at their research campus in Kannapolis. The event was part of the North Carolina Science Festival, celebrated across the state throughout April (find an event near you here). Featuring three floors of activities representing programs from criminal justice technology to dental assisting to welding, the STEM open house provided a massive center of activities for all ages. 

“I just keep smiling. I love the energy of this event, I really do, ” said Carol Scherczinger, RCCC dean of science, biotechnology, math and information technologies.

View video of some of the activities on my Twitter, here, and check out a recap of the event in the photo story below.

“People get this idea in their minds — oh, it’s science, it’s math, it’s hard. It may be challenging and you may have to work, but there are so many applications they’re not aware of. And it’s darn fun, it really is,” said Carol Scherczinger, RCCC dean of science, biotechnology, math and information technologies. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

“What we were seeing in research was that opinions about STEM career fields were formed earlier and earlier, so our traditional recruiting would have targeted only high school student populations. We really wanted to have some kind of event that brought in the community and people of all ages,” said Paula Dibley, executive director of marketing and enrollment management at RCCC. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

“He really likes stuff like this, and he likes to watch it on TV — things like the machines and all that stuff — and I haven’t seen anywhere where they accepted kids his age,” said Natasha Loor of her son who just turned 4. “He says he wants to build things, so we’ll see.” Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

RCCC instructors showed visitors what happens when you place bananas, strawberries, and even flowers into liquid nitrogen. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

Community members could partake in hands-on STEM activities both indoors and outdoors. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

The STEM open house included three whole floors of activities, including this one where attendees extracted DNA from berries. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

“We are showing the public the certain tools that we use … tools of the trade [and] what we do when we get called out. Inside the building, we’re showing them the equipment that each operator carries, whether it be a vest, helmet,” said Kannapolis Police Officer Chris Howard. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC
Lori Safrit, RCCC welding instructor, shows the virtual reality welder to the Makary family. “It’s kind of something that you don’t normally see females do, and I try to be a role model for other females. Women make very good welders. They’re very detail-oriented and very patient, and most of my female welders, they out-weld the guys,” Safrit said.

Outdoors, visitors could also tour RCCC’s automotive and light diesel programs. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC

“What I love is, if you’re here at the end of the night, you’ll hear people already talking about what they want to do next year. Everyone — faculty, staff — are so invested in it,” said Dean Scherczinger. Yasmin Bendaas/EducationNC
Yasmin Bendaas

Yasmin Bendaas is a Science writer.  A North Carolina native, she received her master’s degree in Science & Medical Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Park Fellow. She received her Bachelor of Arts in anthropology in 2013 from Wake Forest University, where she double-minored in journalism and Middle East and South Asia studies. As an undergraduate student, Bendaas gained insight into public health when she interned at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, a statewide grantmaker focused on rural health, including access to primary care, diabetes, community-centered prevention, and mental health and substance abuse. 

As a journalist, Bendaas has been funded twice by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for fieldwork in Algeria — first to cover a disappearing indigenous tattoo tradition, and again to look at how climate change affects rural sheepherding practices.