David Brendel, a city guy at heart, never imagined the Ohio State Fair would be such a valuable stop on his educational journey. Growing up in Dayton, fairs were an unconventional experience for this OSU student.
Seven years ago, Brendel was introduced to the statewide tradition of the Ohio State Fair. During high school, Brendel became involved with Discovery Lab Global, a non-profit that creates a learning experience for students in middle school through college with an interest in learning more about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. Each year, participants in DLG’s Summer at Discovery’s Edge program are given the opportunity to showcase their projects at the Ohio State Fair. Projects range from telepresence robotics, to simulations and even aerospace vehicles.
“Presenting at the Fair is definitely not what I would typically be exposed to,” said Brendel. “But what’s really interesting about it is there’s such a diverse crowd at the Fair that you’re able to get so many different reactions.”
For many students, the opportunity to present their projects is two-fold. The experience provides Summer at Discovery’s Edge participants with a chance to show off their hard work and also encourage audience members to explore all of the options STEM has to offer.
“I have learned that some young people are borderline desperate to have the opportunity to engage in the science and technology community, but have no clue where to start,” said Brendel. “I have even seen cases where the young person feels they are not good enough or smart enough to become engaged. If I can find that one person and inspire them, then I have done my job.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in STEM occupations grew by 10.5 percent over a six year period. This was more than twice the growth experienced in non-STEM occupations. STEM job growth is projected to increase by another 28.2 percent by 2024.
“Having our students present their projects at the Fair gives the young kids that visit the Fair with their parents a chance to see how STEM can help make this world a better place and maybe even help them visualize pursuing a STEM career for themselves thus giving our students a chance to pass it forward,” said Dr. Rob Williams, the director of Discovery Lab Global.
Although most people come to the Fair for the agriculture, rides and fair food, Discovery Lab Global aims to break that mold. With their involvement in the Fair, they hope to show people that the Fair isn’t just for farmers and kids just like STEM isn’t just for the Einsteins of the world.
“At the Fair, it may be the first time that some of these people even see this stuff like this. It’s really hard to find other venues that we can connect with people at that level,” said Brendel.
To participate in the STEM fun, visit Discovery Lab Global at the Ohio State Fair. They will be located in the Teen Ed booth in the Lausche Youth Center to showcase, interact and inspire a new generation of innovators.