A thick stream of bubbles shot through the liquid-filled cylinder, as gauges flashed ever-changing numbers.
Curious boys and girls peered at the figures displayed on the different screens. They jotted down what they read on a piece of paper and moved on.
Normally, the process training unit at Endress+Hauser’s Greenwood facility is used to train people to use equipment measuring flow, level, pressure and analysis.
But on Thursday, it was the playground for area middle school students to help them learn more about careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.
Story continues below gallery
Endress+Hauser hosted its annual Community Career+Education Forum, drawing close to 1,000 students, parents and educators to discover more about STEM.
Participants got to play with robots and generate electricity simply by pedaling a bicycle. They met with representatives from local businesses that use science every day and learned about college and technical education opportunities.
For many young people attending the forum, there were more opportunities in the sciences than they’d ever thought.
“It’s really cool. I usually don’t hear a lot about local Indiana science. I hear about it in other places, but this is right here,” said Annalia Sanchez, an eighth-grader at Center Grove Middle School Central.
The Community Career+Education Forum was created to give seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders, as well as their parents, a glimpse at the diverse types of careers currently available in advanced manufacturing. The hope is also to keep the brightest and most talented students here in Johnson County.
Endress+Hauser partnered with Central Nine Career Center and Aspire Johnson County to create the career forum in 2014. Originally, it was envisioned as a way to open up the newly built Endress+Hauser customer center to the community.
But it grew into a way to not only open their building to people, but to help foster interest in science and technology in the county, said Brandyn Ferguson, vice president of human resources for Endress+Hauser.
“Every time I see a student come through our glass doors, that’s one more family that is getting ready to have a lot more information than they did,” he said. “They’re going to be armed with this information, and they’re going to feel empowered.”
A major part of the forum was connecting students with local manufacturers and businesses that employ STEM principles in their daily operations. Area companies set up booths at the event, providing information and demonstrations of what they do.
Cummins displayed parts of its engine components and spoke with students about how its technology is reducing emissions. A Caterpillar engine encased in plexiglass rotated in real time, letting people see how it worked while representatives from Caterpillar Reman talked with kids and parents.
Duke Energy set up a generator attached to a bicycle. Students could hop on and make an electrical current as they pedaled. A board with a fan and light bulbs showed how much electricity is needed to power different devices.
Stratton Smith, a freshman at Greenwood Community High School, had just hopped off the bicycle and was circling around to another booth. As a member of his school’s Green Machine robotics team, he likes to tinker with and build things. That made the forum a good place to learn how that interest might translate into college and career opportunities.
“They always have so many cool activities here,” Smith said. “Duke Energy had this thing to help you learn more about conservation of energy. There are other things that talk about saving the planet or the different things that companies use to keep America running.”
The forum also gave high school STEM enthusiasts a chance to inspire younger students. An entire wing of the forum was dedicated to area robotics programs.
The Wired Warriors, Whiteland Community High School’s team, passed out buttons, candy and beads while explaining what their club is about.
“Being part of a robotics team, it’s more than just a robotics competition. It’s a chance to bring STEM and technology and education to young people and the rest of the community,” said Preston Rahim, a senior and co-captain of the team. “The competition is fun, but the ultimate goal is to spread STEM around. We want to get people interested in robotics and excited about it.”
Annalia and her father, Curtis Sanchez, were spending time at the process training unit, hunting for different measurements and recordings in a contest Endress+Hauser had designed.
She learned about the forum from her science teacher at Center Grove Middle School Central, and with an interest in chemistry and biology, wanted to see what it was about.
“Science is my favorite class, and it sounded pretty cool,” she said.
Nearby, Taqi Alalawneh was finishing recording numbers himself for the activity. The Perry Meridian High School freshman hopes to go to Purdue University to study engineering, so taking part in the different science-related activities and meeting with representatives from area businesses was eye-opening.
“I like to discover things, and I like to do things with robotics, so this is good for me,” he said.