WILLMAR -- The organizers of a youth science retreat held Saturday in Willmar had hoped the event would draw about 150 kids eager to learn about science and see that studying science, technology, engineering and math in school could lead to exciting science-based careers.
Instead about 500 students showed up, along with about 200 adults.
"It's more than what we expected," said Joanna Schrupp, project assistant at the MinnWest Technology Campus, where the event was held. "We're very pleased."
Based on the reactions of students who zipped from one activity to the next, the feeling was mutual.
"Oh, wow. You should look at this. You can see everything on it," said one boy to his buddy as the pair looked at beetles through powerful microscopes.
The comments were a little more colorful at the Epitopix booth and their "Poop: It's life changing" lesson. Chocolate pudding, and not real poop, was used in the hands-on experiments the students could do.
Students in the jam-packed auditorium gasped and laughed as two chemists and an engineer, known as the 3M visiting wizards, used humor and real-life science in demonstrations that rivaled a magic show.
"We're not trying to make everybody scientists, but knowing a little science is still good for everybody," said Chuck the engineer. "You're going to see things that are absolutely incredible," he said.
Lessons on air pressure were made understandable by blowing up a red balloon in a glass globe, a lesson on how airplanes fly was conducted by using toilette paper and a leaf-blower and a parlor trick was used to show how water can disappear by using an invention that made disposable diapers popular.
"We're here to entertain and educate you," said Chuck.
There were long lines as students waited for their turn to operate a remote-controlled robot designed and built by the New London-Spicer robotics team and equally long lines to make slime, gloop and flubber with Ridgewater College. A bald eagle, red-tailed hawk and kestrel brought by the University of Minnesota Raptor Center had a constant audience.
The i3@MTC event, which stood for inspire, investigate and innovate at the MinnWest Technology Campus, featured about 20 different learning locations put on by private industries, schools and organizations.
"This is science in the real world," said Laura Molenaar, a fifth-grade teacher at New London-Spicer Middle School who escorted a bus load of students to the event. They were "so excited they could hardly stand it."
Molenaar said there's value for students to explore science outside of the classroom and see the possibilities for their own careers.
Sponsors say the youth science retreat will be held again in the future.