Inaugural STEAM Fest Breaks Through Classroom Walls

By Lee Rennick

The first ever Tennessee STEAM Festival is set to take science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics into the community from October 12 to October 22. Designed to educate people of all ages and backgrounds about the importance of STEAM in our everyday lives, the event uses hands-on interactions with scientists, engineers, designers and just about every other sort of expert in between to bring the field to life.

One of the most significant reasons for the development of the festival is the growing need for more job seekers and students (both traditional and non-traditional) to become interested in STEAM to fill the gaps in the existing workforce. According to Forbes, Nashville has had a growth of more than 75 percent in tech-related jobs since 2006. Plus, Business Insider reports there are currently $272 billion worth of unfilled jobs across the country. 

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“By connecting curiosity to careers, we aim to fill gaps in the existing workforce and inspire our future workforce to seek careers in STEAM fields in Tennessee’s fast-growing and diversifying economic climate,” said John Hawkins, Director of Education at the Discovery Center at Murfree Springs.

STEAM festivals have been taking place in other parts of the country for a number of years, but Murfreesboro’s Discovery Center led the charge to bring the concept here.

“We were trying to decide what to do in celebration of the Discovery Center’s 30th anniversary celebration when we came across the national science festival movement that started out of the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts,” Hawkins said. “We couldn’t think of a better way to give back to the community that has supported us for the last 30 years than by bringing Tennessee’s first-ever STEAM Festival to the state.”  

Make your plans to attend some of the events across Nashville:

Fastball Physics at Vanderbilt University

Science of Fear at Belcourt Theatre (a midnight screening of Friday the 13th with a pre-show talk by Dr. David Zald)

Creative Zone: Creative Cowboy Hats at Country Music Hall of Fame

Tech Help Day with the Nashville Public Library

World War One and American Art Workshop at Frist Center for the Visual Arts

Other event locations in the Nashville area include Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, Schwan Cosmetics, Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro, Lanes, Trains and Automobiles, Lotz House, Arts Center of Cannon County, Short Mountain Cultures and the Discovery Center at Murfree Springs.

For those elsewhere in the state, events will also take place at The Muse, University of Tennessee, Discovery Park of America, Knoxville Zoo, Blount County Library, Oak Ridge National Labs, Sinking Creek Farm, Knoxville Botanical Gardens and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

 The Discovery Center is teaming up with Batey Farms and MTSU to host Pumpkin Chunkin’ at The Grove at Williamson Place in Murfreesboro. Plus, MTSU is also hosting an event at Arrington Vineyards that combines stargazing and fermentation science. 

STEAM is everywhere in our daily lives, and there’s no time like the present to introduce young minds to the wonders of innovation. Too often popular culture makes STEAM concepts and careers seem out of the grasp of anyone who is not a certified genius or a character on The Big Bang Theory. This is 2017, though, and STEAM is crucial to everything from architecture to zoology.

Visit TennesseeSTEAMFestival.org for more information and ideas about how to get involved.

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