Coors Field hosted a different type of action April 24. Before watching Major League Baseball, the crowd learned about science experiments, meteorology demonstrations – including some from Colorado State University – rocket launches and fireworks at the Colorado Rockies’ 10th annual Weather and Science Day. About 12,000 students from schools all over Colorado and parts of Wyoming, along with their teachers and parents, attended the event designed to interest kids in science, engineering and math.
“Events like these are what sparks excitement and imagination in kids’ minds, and hopefully encourages them to pursue a career in a scientific field when they are older,” said Noah Newman, who coordinated CSU’s involvement in the event.
Newman, who coordinates outreach for the Colorado Climate Center, and several graduate students from the Department of Atmospheric Science explained and demonstrated how they take weather observations using various instruments, including a drone. The drone was popular with the students, who waved to its camera as drone operator Sean Freeman flew it in front of the crowd. The audience viewed the drone’s infrared perspective on the stadium’s giant screen, while Jennie Bukowski described how the department uses drones to study weather and severe storms.
The Monfort Excellence Fund paid for the research drones used by the program, thanks to Professor Susan van den Heever’s selection as a Monfort professor. Brothers Charles and Richard Monfort, from the same family as the namesake fund, also happen to be the primary owners of the Rockies team.
“This event allowed us to reach many more kids than we typically can,” Freeman said. “We see this as part of the mission of the Monfort professorship that Professor van den Heever received a few years ago. It is important to inspire the next generation with the research we are doing today.”
Newman taught the enormous class via jumbotron about the tools the climate center uses to measure wind, rain, temperature and humidity. The CSU delegation then compared weather conditions on the field with two “remote” locations. Newman took measurements on the main stage, Faith Groff and 9News meteorologist Marty Coniglio reported their observations from the “Rock Pile” in the outfield, and Kyle Chudler and 9News meteorologist Cory Reppenhagen relayed their report from the upper deck.
The hour-long event emceed by Steve Spangler included activities led by 9News, Steve Spangler Science, Estes Rockets, the Denver Fire Department, and a world-champion boomerang thrower, who successfully hit a weather balloon held by Rockies’ mascot Dinger. Graduate students Ryan Gonzalez, Rick Schulte and Kristen Tucker also represented CSU during the festivities.
Kids of all ages marveled at the day’s spectacles and likely took away lessons they won’t soon forget. Perhaps some were even inspired to become scientists themselves one day. Bukowski said a crucial aspect of the event was to challenge the stereotype of what a scientist looks like and what they do.
“Those kids now know that being a scientist means you can have fun, explore the world, and do anything from designing and launching rockets or fireworks to measuring thunderstorms,” she said. “Science has something to offer everyone.”