Youngstown gets silly for science

OH WOW! event excites children about STEM

YOUNGSTOWN — Morgan Tovtin’s father said his daughter hopes one day to visit the moon, but for now, she’s having plenty of enjoyment on Earth.

“I like talking about the moon,” Morgan, 12, of Austintown, said. “I hope to be a scientist.”

Morgan had plenty of opportunities to feel more grounded in science, because she was among those who took part in a series of indoor and outdoor activities that made up Sunday’s annual Silly Science Sunday in and near OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, 11 W. Federal St., downtown.

Morgan, who experimented with operating a small robotic and computerized tank made largely from aluminum parts, said she developed an interest in science in fifth grade. Morgan’s 9-year-old sister, Abby, listed math as her favorite subject.

“I take things apart and fix them. They want to know how I do it,” said the girls’ father, Justin Tovtin, who is an electronics technician.

Disassembling DVD players, parts of phones and other devices, then making needed repairs often piques his daughters’ interest, and may encourage them to make something on their own, he added.

A variety of robotics experiments was a mainstay at the event, including those conducted by members of Girard High School’s Robocats team, which brought three computerized vehicles, one of which was built in 2019.

“We use it to compete with other teams,” senior Jazmin Jones said, adding that one of the three has the capabilities to shoot Frisbees from the front.

Fellow senior and Robocats member Raymond Plant said that even though the club competes with other schools, the emphasis is on maintaining high professionalism and, when necessary, helping their competitors.

“There’s no such thing as an enemy on teams,” Plant said, adding that another team provided a part when one of the Robocats’ vehicle’s broke down.

John Donges and Jared Bryarly, both Youngstown State University mechanical engineering majors, had on hand a sophisticated computerized off-road vehicle they helped design, weld and build.

“We took last year’s design and said, ‘How can we make it better?'” Donges said, noting the vehicle had gear-driven and four-wheel drive capacities.

“It was hours of work and like a full-time job,” Bryarly added.

Among those intrigued with the final product was Parker Stoffick, 8, of Poland, who came to the event with his grandmother, Marilyn Casal.

“It felt gooky,” Ariadna Jimenez, 7, of Liberty, said when asked to describe the feeling of running barefoot across oobleck, a mixture of water and cornstarch.

“I like to learn in class about liquids,” said Ariadna, an E.J. Blott Elementary School second-grader who came to Silly Science Sunday with her mother, Caroline Pizarro.

Brooklyn Croyle, a YSU freshman and event volunteer, said oobleck takes on the characteristic of a solid if force is applied to it; if not, it feels like a liquid.

To some, crossing a vat containing the material was akin to walking on water, Croyle said, a forensics-science major who hopes to become a crime-scene investigator and eventually an FBI agent.

Other outdoor offerings included a pop-up library, courtesy of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County; demonstrations from the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center’s robotics team; experiments in which plastic bottles under intense pressure were catapulted about 40 feet in the air; and showings of numerous animal tracks.

Many of those inside OH WOW! learned how simple and complex circuits work, and enjoyed seeing how balls and pieces of fabric behaved and reacted while traveling at high speed through a maze of elaborate tubes.

Others saw how the inner, middle and outer ears function, and experienced what a high-wind tunnel feels like. Also on hand was information about the history of vaccines that have successfully been used against diphtheria, measles, polio, pneumonia, as well as the importance of consistent hand washing to fight germs.


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