CEDAR HILL, Texas - Nearly 200 Cedar Hill students left the classroom to have a hands-on learning experience at STEM Fest at JoLynn Maddox Teaching and Learning Center on Thursday.
Students got to participate in activities like coding a drone, building a bridge and making a balloon-powered car.
"It felt like I was a scientist, like somebody that makes things," said sixth grader Kingston Preston. "I think it is something I might want to do because it's fun, and it's enjoyable."
STEM Fest is an effort in large part thanks to United Way Metropolitan Dallas and several corporate partners, including Texas Instruments and the Perot Museum.
"These kids are getting exposed to hands on experiments using technology, they are programming drones with calculators, they are using facial recognition to understand machine learning and building bridges," said Jennifer Sampson, president and CEO of United Way Metropolitan Dallas.
A major factor considered is how events like this help when it comes to efforts to mitigate the learning gap that resulted from the pandemic.
Research shows that students in Texas will need four to five years to fully recover from that learning loss.
"Coding and robotics I really felt a connection to it and I just hope the kids see a connection to that as well," said Ford Blount, a high school senior and STEM advocate who volunteered at the event. "The kids, it’s so fun to see them light up as they get coding and stuff like that and make drones flip around in the sky."
United Way leaders say programs like this are especially important in low-income areas, where students of color don't have the type of enriched learning to help students catch up.
"You realize everything is a step-by-step process and anybody can do that process if they put their mind to it," Blount said.