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By Siri Doddapaneni

Hutchfest is an annual maker fair in Omaha, Nebraska, where attendees go to shop, eat, and play. Held in the Millwork Commons on September 4th, the turnout at Hutchfest was massive, with blaring music, food trucks, and homemade goods. A recent presence at Hutchfest is Prairie STEM, a non-profit organization based in Omaha that works to bring STEM education and programs to children around Nebraska. JuSTEMagine volunteers went to help out Prairie STEM staff at Prairie STEM’s booth at Hutchfest, and the turnout was massive. Volunteers included SEL Director Siri Doddapaneni, Co-Vice President Francesca Vidal, and Co-Director of Esports Mona Lao.

The Prairie STEM team started out early in the morning by setting up the tents and tables and setting out signs and advertisement boards. The Prairie STEM Mobile Lab was also set up, and it held virtual reality goggles for people to try out as they walked past. Prairie STEM also brought their free STEM kits, some for grades K-2 and some for grades 3-5. These specific kits contained activities such as homemade lava lamps, robotic butterflies, and dinosaur fossil casts.

As the doors opened at 10 am, the turnout was massive. The Prairie STEM staff broke out their robotic dog, an expensive robot that was able to be programmed to act like a dog and run, climb, and play. A crowd formed around the dog, and that attracted more people to the booth. Some volunteers made a sign that said “Free STEM Kits” and that drew a crowd of people. Parents, children, and grandparents lined up by Prairie STEM’s booth to secure a STEM kit for themselves or to give away. Prairie STEM collected the signatures of the people who requested a STEM kit, and it ended up being over a hundred people.

JuSTEMagine was also able to have its own table next to Prairie STEM, where business cards and flyers explaining about JuSTEMagine’s volunteer opportunities were set out. SPARK Positivity was also represented, and volunteers spoke to some high school students and teachers about JuSTEMagine’s mission and board applications as well as connected them to Prairie STEM.

Overall, Hutchfest was very successful and JuSTEMagine garnered a lot of attention and some new volunteers. Prairie STEM also experienced a success and ended up running out of STEM kits at one point. If you are interested in STEM and live in Omaha, please consider visiting Prairie STEM and JuSTEMagine at Hutchfest next year!

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