UD Students Inspire Younger Generation

Mar 24, 2016 | S.Ortman

Brodie Rethamel, a University of Dubuque student, teaches young pilots-in-training how to use a flight 
simulator during Famiy STEM Night at Kennedy Elementary School on Tuesday, March 22. 

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Brodie Rethamel knew his young pilots-in-training wanted to crash the plane. Instead, the University of Dubuque student taught them the importance of flight with a flight simulator.

More than 80 UD students and 20 faculty members hosted Family STEM Night at Kennedy Elementary School on Tuesday, March 22. University students guided students through a variety of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – activities. The interactive stations included a UD flight simulator, handmade mini-boats, soda straw rockets, and a pocket solar system.

“It’s rewarding,” said Rethamel, a flight operations and aviation management double major from New Hampton, Iowa. “The way I see it, if you have a passion, you share it with other people.”

Last year, Kennedy Principal T.J. Potts asked Debra Stork, chair of the teacher education department at UD and a professor of education, if the university, one of the school’s “partners in education,” would host a STEM event. Numerous departments across campus, including aviation, mathematics, computer information systems and teacher education, collaborated to make event a success.

Roughly 400 elementary students and their families attended this year’s event.

For seniors Leah Cavanaugh and Megan Hoffman, elementary education majors, the Family STEM Night was like returning home. Cavanaugh, of Peosta, Iowa, and Hofftman, of Dubuque, are practicum students at Kennedy.

“It’s great that we have elementary schools in Dubuque that UD can be a part of,” Hoffman said.

Cavanaugh helped elementary students engineer boats out of items such as paper, straw, cardboard, and tape. They then tested the boats in water to see if the boats would float.

“They were all so creative,” Cavanaugh said. “They came up with some really interesting designs.”

Hoffman had a line out the classroom door for her station that incorporated SMART Board technology with a game that highlighted addition facts and probability.

“It was a great way to engage your students in subjects that aren’t always popular,” Hoffman said. 

Alyssa Siebe, a senior environmental science major from Dubuque, shared facts about skulls and turtles with elementary students at a station hosted by UD Web of Life. Energized by the students’ excitement to learn last year, Siebe was inspired to change career aspirations and become a naturalist.

“All the kids, they were awesome and they were engaged,” Siebe said.