I was amazed: I didn’t need a ticket, and I attended a great event! The curtain went up at Chippewa Falls Senior High School (“Chi Hi”) and opened the STEAM production. It was alive with activity as hundreds of students circled the campus, taking the time to visit with a large array of Chippewa Valley businesses and educational institutions. This was STEAM Night, and it was about learning, it was about the opportunities of our area, and it was about “showing off” some STEAM Careers.

So, what is STEAM, you ask? Originating from the STEM educational movement started in the early 2000s, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Its aim is to round out the US educational curriculum to include hands-on activities that help our young future workers develop practical skills that are needed in a rapidly changing economy.

Over 35 CEDC supporters and stakeholders participated in this year’s STEAM night. From Processed Metal Innovators (PMI) and Riverside Machine and Engineering in the FabLab (Fabrication Lab) to Citizens State Bank and Cook Chiropractic Center in the cafeteria, the campus was the perfect stage. Adding to the story of STEAM that night, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout developed an entire line of tables highlighting the advantages that areas of study like Physics, Chemistry, and Geography bring to the workplace.

One of the most popular acts of Chi Hi’s STEAM Night was the FabLab. Students poured onto the set, dazzled by Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) and ITW-Deltar Fasteners, and furthered their exploration to companies such as Advanced Laser and Catalytic Combustion. Over 1000 students and parents transformed into stagehands, creating vinyl stickers, wood projects with a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router, and laser engraved photo frames.

Another corner of the school served as the stage for Law Enforcement and Emergency Services career storytelling. A Virtual Reality (VR) firefighting simulation and a realistic practice dummy with working lungs helped educate students interested in these careers. Representatives from the Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC), the City of Chippewa Falls, and the Stanley Correctional Institution continued to perform notable demonstrations, utilizing heavy firefighting gear and protection equipment.

Presenting from the Slime and Oobleck classroom, students mixed glue, detergent, dyes, and glitters to make their own customized combination of art and physics. The Oobleck came into play to perform its non-Newtonian properties… “a solid with force applied, a liquid without!” The hidden treasure of the STEAM production was 3D Imaging of the human body, where, by the touch of the screen, students were able to identify and single out body parts and conditions. They ran virtual tests on a database of cadavers while local businesses applauded and motivated their participation.

CEDC was honored to be asked to play a small part in Chi Hi’s STEAM Night. CEDC Board members were in-house, helping. Nicole Hager (Stanley Correctional Institution) and Shirley Gutsch (PMI) worked hard to ensure that students and parents the mission of STEAM and how it is important to our local businesses.

As the curtain closed on the seventh year of the Chi Hi STEAM Night Production, I would like to all the volunteers, businesses, and parents for their participation. A standing ovation goes out to the Chi Hi teachers for organizing this great event and teaching the future workforce about Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math!