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Charleston STEM festival connects MUSC scientists with kids

Experiments and games shine a light on research

People at STEM Festival
MUSC research experts Amy Chamberlain, in the green cap, and Stephanie Oppenheimer tell kids how to put together a simple experiment at the Charleston STEM Festival.
Helen Adams | | February 5, 2018

If you take a Diet Coke and a regular Coke and put them in water, which will sink and which will float?

“The Coke,” guessed an 8-year-old boy before testing his theory in an experiment at the Charleston STEM Festival. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

The boy was right. Why?

“The sugar in the Coke makes it denser,” said Stephanie Oppenheimer, who’s with the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute, or SCTR, at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Lisa Nunn

Behavioral science research expert Lisa Nunn plays a STEM game with two boys.
She was one of many MUSC experts and students at the Brittlebank Park festival in Charleston to show children that STEM can be fun. The STEM Festival was outside on a chilly Saturday, but that didn’t keep families from flocking to the event. It featured more than 80 exhibitors, live performances, music and food.

Final attendance figures aren’t in yet, but SCTR marketing and recruitment manager Tara Pittman estimated that as many as 10,000 people may have attended. She said it’s a way to make kids aware of careers in research at an early age.

Child in STEM frame 

A boy tries on lab gear.


“We love getting to highlight an important area of the medical career realm that often gets overlooked,” Pittman said. “We also think the STEM Festival provides us with an amazing opportunity to get people of every age excited about volunteering in research studies, thereby contributing to science and the health of our community in a critical and meaningful way.”

SCTR was a sponsor of the festival.

Other MUSC experts on hand for the event included respiratory therapists, who showed families the different ways they can help people suffering from breathing problems. There were also MUSC students who helped kids conduct experiments.

The first Charleston STEM Festival was in 2014. It came about after The Citadel, working with the Lowcountry STEM Collaborative, asked for and received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to launch the event.

'Factory for future scientists' makes summer internships fun (MUSC News, Aug. 9, 2017) 

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