Missouri S&T’s STEM Center hits the road for solar eclipse

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On May 6, 2024


A group of S&T faculty, staff and students traveled to Jackson Senior High in Jackson, Missouri for the total solar eclipse on April 8. Photo by Roxanne Hanna, Missouri S&T.

While the top of the event’s Wikipedia entry was short on specifics (Location: Earth, it read), Missouri University of Science and Technology’s coordinates put the school at an advantage during the total solar eclipse on April 8. Not willing to miss a rare opportunity to engage young minds with science as it’s happening, in real time, the university’s Kummer Center for STEM Education filled a chartered bus with planetary enthusiasts – at S&T, that’s easier than it sounds – and headed for the southeast corner of the state. The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, education and math.

Jackson, Missouri, the county seat of Cape Girardeau County, is situated in what’s known as the path of totality, which is a strip of land between 108 and 122 miles wide where the moon fully blocked the sun. Jackson Senior High, which is approximately 167 miles from Rolla, has close to 1,600 students, many of whom were excited about the eclipse.

Before the eclipse began, the S&T entourage set up STEM activities on the football field, using a telescope and other equipment transported by the STEM Mobile, a van used for visits to schools and events across the state and region. By the time the eclipse got underway at approximately 2 p.m., seating at the stadium was filled to capacity.

“Science is at the core of everything we do at the STEM Center,” says Courtney Jones, director of the STEM Center at S&T. “This was a rare event and we had an opportunity to be in the path of 100 percent totality.”

The trip was the brainchild of Dr. John Hogan, associate professor of geology and geophysics, who thought the school’s position in the path of totality was too good to pass up. He brought  the “trashcano” activity, in which students and faculty demonstrate a simulated volcanic eruption.

Dr. Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics, led activities using a telescope. Jackson students also learned about critical minerals from geosciences and geological and petroleum engineering faculty who attended the event. Dr. Jeremy Maurer, assistant professor of geological engineering, demonstrated the power of drones. Students in S&T’s mining and explosives engineering department also attended the event, which included activities focused on measuring seismic energy, UV beads, the solar system and comparisons of the size of the sun and the moon.

“This was a great opportunity to engage with a large group of students on something we’re all interested in,” Jones says. “We couldn’t resist going since it was so close, and the students at Jackson Senior High got to see a few of our departments in action.”

About Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu

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On May 6, 2024. Posted in Kummer Center for STEM Education

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One thought on “Missouri S&T’s STEM Center hits the road for solar eclipse”

  • Ron Fluegge says:

    As a sidenote, up until 1970, Jackson had one of the highest numbers of Rolla graduates per capita of any city. The street I grew up on in Jackson was 3 blocks long and had 9 Rolla graduates.

    Jackson High School had a STEM program back in the 1960s that was geared towards Rolla.

    A proud 1966 graduate of JHS and a 1970 graduate of UMR (BS in Nuclear Engineering)