Surrounded by a bustling, chatty group of other kids, 5-year-old Landon Young sat focused on shaping lumps of Play-Doh into round orange balls in a room at Emerson’s Ferguson headquarters campus Friday morning.
Then, he turned on the light — a small LED bulb linked to a battery by the electrically conductive Play-Doh.
The science experiment was one of several that took place at Emerson’s We Love STEM Day, where about 300 children of Emerson employees visited the campus and did various activities and experiments intended to spark their interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math .
Activities included building magnetically levitating LEGO trains, vacuum-powered wind cars, and zip lines to transport a table tennis ball.
“The whole point is, ‘science is fun,’ because kids tend to get stuck thinking science and math are hard,” said Kathy Button Bell, Emerson’s chief marketing officer. “We hope those kids go, ‘I want to do this someday.’”
Bell said that encouraging children to develop an interest in STEM areas was important in two ways: priming them for a possible career, and ensuring a future marketplace with enough engineers to go around, especially as engineers age out of the workforce. She said there was also a focus on getting girls interested in STEM fields notorious for their predominantly male workforce.
“Everyone says we support our employees, but at the same time, we’re supporting our customers. Our customers need engineers for tomorrow,” Bell said.
It might be working — fiddling with the Play-Doh at the same activity, 6-year-old Bryce Haas and 5-year-old Grant Knittel built electric circuits and imagined their potential career paths: police officer and scientist, respectively.
The event came as part of Emerson’s “We Love STEM” campaign, which in 2015 was launched in partnership with science video blogger Hank Green to empower future engineers.