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Children at TechFest.

With some instruction from University graduate student Vlad Makarov (right), Charlie and Erin Omodt learned about wiring electricity at TechFest, cosponsored by the Institute of Technology Alumni Society.

Wired about science

From M, summer 2007

While a snowstorm hit Minnesota one Saturday in late February, nearly 500 people--from preschoolers to retirees--stormed TechFest to play with circuits, hydraulics, and robotics. The Institute of Technology Alumni Society joined with the Society of Women Engineers and The Works (a hands-on science and technology museum in Edina, Minnesota) to present the third annual TechFest. The day included experiments in electrical engineering in which kids learned to build circuits and wire buzzers, motors, and light bulbs. University students also demonstrated their homemade robots. "I think the hands-on aspect is a big reason why it's so successful and also why kids get so much more out of it," says Jim Pichler (B.S. '92, M.S. '03), who sits on the K-12 outreach committee for the IT alumni society and is senior director at Digital River, one of the event's sponsors. "The approach of 'experiment first, reflect later' helps capture the kids' attention because it plays to their motivations and natural inquisitive behavior." The University of Minnesota Alumni Association sponsors 16 college-based alumni societies and three affiliate societies, which provide alumni with an important link to the University and its colleges, faculty, students, and other alumni. Societies might act as an informal advisory board for a college; assist in fund-raising efforts; honor outstanding alumni, faculty, and students; help recruit prospective students; or provide educational and professional programs to alumni and students. Joining an alumni society is free for alumni association members. To learn more, visit the UMAA Web site or call 612-624-2323 or 800-862-5867.