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Abuzz over science: Westwood welcomes bug scientist and drone pilot to fourth annual STEM night

Posted on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm


Staff Writer
John Coffelt

Westwood Middle School’s annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) night will be abuzz with two new exhibitors, an entomologist (a person who studies insects) and a drone pilot in addition to the 13 other presenters at the Family STEM and Stars Night, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, March 17.

“This is free to students and anyone in the community who wants to attend,” said event organizer Deb Wimberley.

“We have some of the favorites returning and some new people.”

Research Assistant Debbie Eskandarnia of the Tennessee State University Entomology Department, at the Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville will set up a come and go display that will feature her unique collection on insects.

Agricultural entomologists work to find the bugs that damage crops.

“Results of this research will lead to a reduction of the spread of deleterious insects, a decrease in the amount of pesticides introduced into the environment, and a broadening of the potential market for Tennessee nursery products,” Eskandarnia said.

The entomology program at the center has of late focused on the Japanese Beetlefield.

According to TSU center’s “primary research emphasis has been the development of imported fire ant and Japanese beetle nursery quarantine treatments to meet certification requirements for shipping nursery stock.”

The program is works on pest management and trap development for wood-boring insects like flatheaded borers and the granulated (Asian) ambrosia beetle and working to determine the best controls for these pests.

“Results of this research will lead to a reduction of the spread of deleterious insects, a decrease in the amount of pesticides introduced into the environment, and a broadening of the potential market for Tennessee nursery products,” according to the center’s website.

Those near Westwood Middle School Friday night might hear a different buzzing coming from the field behind the school. Drone enthusiast Werner Nowak will demonstrate some of his personal drones.

Wimberley explained that while many see drones as toys, the devices are complicated robotic equipment and are a cutting edge of science that is being implemented in various industries and fields.

“From the military to companies like Amazon, people are utilizing the technology in many different ways,” she said.

Nowak is the Director of Product Development for Micron Corporation in Winchester. He has been flying model aircraft for many years as a hobby and has consulted with UTSI on UAVs.

Nowak plans to discuss specific type of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), commonly known as a drone.

“The talk will cover some of the history of what makes the multi-rotor helicopter the most common drone type, and it will explore how these machines are able to fly and maneuver with high precision,” Werner said.

“Topics will include learning to fly and what to buy when beginning the hobby or when considering becoming a professional drone pilot. The talk will discuss FAA requirements for both hobbyists and professionals. Finally, there will be flight demonstrations that illustrate flight training maneuvers. By special access granted by UTSI (University of Tennessee Space Institute), one of the demonstration aircraft will be a DJI S1000 Professional Octocopter.

This is a multi-rotor UAV features eight 15-inch propellers to be able to lift as much as 24 lbs. total weight into the air. Sharing its role in research done at UTSI will be a highlight of his talk.

Returning this year will be STEM night favorites like the Manchester Police Department with a forensic demonstration and is scheduled to bring the department’s MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle, which Westwood Read 180 teacher Jim Dobson will be giving tours of. Dobson operated the MRAP during his deployments to the Middle East. The police department acquired the vehicle as surplus from the government.

The Hands-on Science Center with present Fun with Liquid Nitrogen and show what strange reactions can occur when common objects are super chilled.

Educational magician Jimbo Hooten returns to explore the science of human perception and the University of Tennessee Space Institute will demonstrate hands-on rocket propulsion with straw rockets.

Nissan will teach about stored and kinetic energy with its mousetrap cars.

A special addition to this year’s STEM night is Solar Wave, a solar power company that is working with the school on it solar tree charging station that the school received a grant from Bonnaroo works program to build.

Wimberley said that in addition to free sandwiches from Wendy’s, guest will have the opportunity to win one of several door prizes.

“We have a travel telescope, toys, games, LEGO sets, a small drown. We have over 20 door prizes.

“Everything is free. I try to put giveaways with a lot of exhibits,” Wimberley said.

The average attendance of Family STEM and Stars Night is about 500 people.

Wimberley encouraged fifth graders and homeschool students to attend the event.

Family STEM and Stars Night is organized into revolving 30 minute presentations and come and go displays located thought the school. Free hamburgers or chicken sandwiches, chips and drinks at 5 p.m. in the cafeteria.

Westwood Middle School is located at 505 Taylor St.