BRINGING MARS AND THE CURIOSITY ROVER TO RURAL COMMUNITIES IN NORTHWEST KANSAS (Invited Presentation)
Our series consisted of an hour long program presented in nine different communities in eight counties in rural Kansas. The largest town had a population of ~5,500 and the smallest town was ~200. The series was a collaboration with the local libraries and summer schools. Each program was free and open to the public. We advertised online and local newspapers picked up the story.
In most locations, we broke the audience into two groups, based on age. One group would listen to a child-friendly lecture on the Mars rover, Curiosity, which included both English and Spanish written descriptions. We also had a full scale Curiosity Rover made out of PVC pipe and silver fabric, to display how large the real rover is. The other group would do age appropriate activities (paper helicopter experiments for older groups and straw rockets for younger groups) on a Giant Mars Map. After 20 minutes the groups would switch. Once each group saw both presenters, the last 20 minutes was used for outdoor rocket launches. The children were able to launch air pump rockets, while I would prepare a baking soda and lemon juice rocket. In addition to the presentations, we also gave out free postcards, posters, and stickers.
The outreach series brought in almost 500 participants, from three states, 16 different counties, and 24 communities. The smallest audience was 16 and the largest was 113, with an average of ~53. The audience saw presenters who grew up in rural Kansas and who have succeeded in STEM careers. Our outreach series made a real impact on Northwest Kansas by giving the public opportunities to learn about the Curiosity Rover in their own communities and providing opportunities that are not readily available.