Future NASA astronauts and engineers gather at Angelina College for STEM day

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Angelina County's future NASA stars visited Angelina College on Friday for its second annual STEM day. Nearly 200 students from schools all over East Texas got a chance to dig their claws into several activities like making rockets out of balloons and studying animals inside mason jars.

"STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, so if you are majoring in one of those subjects you are a STEM major," David Rusk, the associate division director of science and math for Angelina College, said.

Each year, the college brings in local individuals who work in the stem field.

"We do have one panelist who is a rocket scientist and he said 'hey, this is what I do with my career,'" Angela Johnson, an anatomy instructor, said.

And the one activity the rocket scientist liked the most?

"Sending rockets to the space station, which is what I do for a living," Jonathan Fisk said.

For the simulation, the kids actually blew up balloons, which are supposed to be a rocket. They then send the balloons up a rope to the top balcony of the school, which is supposed to be the space center. The whole goal of the activity is to teach them about density and strategizing.

"A lot of kids especially by their senior year of high school, they are at a loss of what they want to do or what they want to go into when they get into college so hopefully on STEM day we can persuade them to come into our fields," Karen Stafford, a program coordinator for Texas A&M Forest Service, said.

And the kids seem to like it.

"I thought it was fun," one student said.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool," another student said.

But STEM day isn't just about science and math, it's also about making sure kids understand the economy.

"We need technical expertise because that's where we make products and design products, which brings new money into our economy because if we didn't have those degrees we wouldn't develop new products and it's very important for the growth of our community," Tim Stacy, a manager for Lufkin Industries, said.

And it's also a great way for zoologist's to show the students about animals we might never see.

"We have just about every animal group represented to the invertebrate groups to the arthropods and earthworms and sponges all the way up to stuffed mammals and all kinds of dead, good things that are preserved to kind of interest the students and at the same time maybe grow out a little bit," Taylor Hill, a zoologist and instructor of biology, said.

So in the end, science really does rock.

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