Families Exploring Science and Technology (grades 6-7)

FEST is an evening program for middle school (grades 6 and 7) students and their parents.   The program is available to boys and girls, with at least 50% female participation.  There is a $10 participation fee, with scholarships available. Further details are described in a WEPAN conference publication.

The goals of FEST are to encourage students and parents to work together on a science/technology project, and to raise awareness of future college and career opportunities in these areas.  Following a pilot in Spring 1998, the program was conducted at all middle schools in the Columbia Public School district in Jan-March of 1999 and 2000.  The  enrollment is limited to 20 student-parent groups.

FEST meets on a chosen day of the week for four consecutive weeks from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.  A fast food dinner is served at 5:30.  Dinner on the first evening was paid by the program, but offered at cost on the other three evenings.

The Project…

The project is to build a working drawbridge, which incorporates concepts of structures, gears, motors and electrical circuits.  FEST officially launched the first session with movie clips from Annie, The Blues Brothers, and The Wizard of Oz, showing working drawbridges, which created great interest. A video on bridges was shown during dinner on the second night. 

During the first three sessions, participants receive lessons on structures, gears, and electricity, and practice some of the skills they need to build their own bridges.  Participants build trusses from balsa wood sticks and test their bridge designs for strength during the structure lesson.  They investigate combinations of various gear sizes for the differences in force, and the resulting speed variations during the gears lesson.  During the electricity lesson participants assemble simple series and parallel circuits connected to motors and LEDs.  They also learn how to wire a double pole-double throw (DPDT) switch which will be used to operate the motion of the drawbridge.  The floor and sides of the drawbridge are built at home between sessions.  The final session is scheduled for final assembly of the drawbridge.  FEST is taught primarily by science and industrial technology teachers. 

The developers…

  • Jim Helmick, Industial Technology teacher, Gentry Middle School
  • Mike Bielski, Science Teacher, Gentry Middle School
  • Rebecca Litherland, Science Coordinator, Columbia Public Schools
  • Steve Chott, Industrial Technology Coordinator, Columbia Public Schools
  • Meera Chandrasekhar, Professor of Physics, University of Missouri

Evaluation Instruments used for FEST