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Chromatography, mind-reading machines excite kids about science & tech

Koch hosts kid-centric pop-up science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) event at Wichita Riverfest

June 3, 2019

min read

When school’s out for summer, STEAM education doesn’t have to stop. That’s the lesson volunteers from across Koch Industries, including Flint Hills Resources (FHR) and EFT Analytics, recently shared with kids of all ages by organizing and hosting booths at this year’s STEAM City event at the 2019 Wichita Riverfest celebration.


A fixture at Riverfest since 2016, STEAM City is an annual pop-up science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) event that provides kids access to hands-on activities and introduces them to a range of educational principles beyond a traditional lab or classroom setting.


“These outside events open up a lot of doors for kids of all ages to gain an appreciation and deeper understanding of what STEAM education is,” said Courtney Payne, a marketing specialist with EFT Analytics and first-time STEAM City volunteer. “Events like this help kids discover passions for certain STEAM areas that they might never have found otherwise.”


One activity that Payne and her peers with EFT Analytics led was a machine learning activity called “Machines Can Read Your Mind.” The app-based experiment showcased how machines can predict actions in real time, specifically kids’ drawings using data from previous drawings. It was a demonstration of EFT’s capabilities on much smaller, more relevant scale to children.  


“At EFT Analytics, our software learns from historical data to predict machine processes,” added Payne, “so it was a fun, engaging way to relate what we do to kids. And that’s really what it’s all about – not just educating kids, but getting them curious so they’ll ask questions and discover new passions.”


Another station at the event hosted by Flint Hills Resources introduced kids to the science of chromatography using colored markers and paper towels to create tie-die designs, while volunteers like Stephanie King explained how the same process can be used by scientists to develop and test new medicines, and by forensic investigators to help solve crimes.


“Some kids just had fun coloring,” said King, an analytical chemistry leader with FHR, “but others really liked to see the black ink separate into reds and blues and were engaged in understanding why it works.”


For her colleague and fellow analytical chemistry leader Tony Scott, seeing more than 100 smiling, diverse faces ranging from 3 to 93 years old get excited about science made the event a success – one that he and others hope to build on next year.


“Advancing the visibility of STEAM subjects is important to the future of our country,” said Scott. “And a great way to do that is to give youth a view into some of the applications that might lead to furthering their education in these fields.”


Learn more about how Koch employees support STEAM education.


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