STEM Fest comes to South County High School


Students help conduct experiments at the 2022 STEM Fest at Walt Whitman Middle School. (Credit: STEAMOLOGY)

Five years ago, Akul Dixit, now a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, came up with the idea for a fun and educational event for elementary and middle school students in underserved communities. The event, focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), would enable students to engage in hands-on activities with the help of student volunteers from high schools like T.J.

Dixit launched “STEM Fest” under the aegis of his mother Shikha’s STEAMOLOGY nonprofit organization — formerly known as Magic of Mothers — which aims to bring science, technology, engineering, arts integration and math (STEAM) education to more students. In 2018, Dixit’s first STEM Fest event was held at Groveton's Bucknell Elementary School, a Title I elementary school within Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). The following year, having outgrown its venue, the event was held at Walt Whitman Middle School. STEM Fest returned to Walt Whitman in 2022 after two years of pandemic absence but in 2023 needed to graduate to a larger forum.

STEM Fest 2023 will be held at South County High School in Lorton on Saturday, Oct. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free event already has over 510 students signed up from around Fairfax County according to Dixit, and more are expected to register on-site to participate in activities like robotics, coding and experiments.

For the first time this year, Amtrak will be one of the event sponsors — providing financial and volunteer support, as well as information on scholarships and engagement opportunities. Amtrak is supporting STEM Fest as part of its new “Amtrak Gives Back” initiative. Other sponsors include Enterprise e-Support Inc. and realtor Gurdeep Mangat.

Dixit expressed his appreciation to FCPS School Board member Karen Corbett Sanders for her support over the years in making the event happen in Mount Vernon District.

“STEM Fest is an excellent opportunity for our students to work with other students and industry leaders and experience STEM firsthand,” said Corbett Sanders. “I am so proud of the work Shikha and her son have done to build this opportunity in South County.”

In August 2022, STEAMOLOGY became an FCPS Ignite Partner, enabling students from Walt Whitman, South County Middle and High Schools, T.J. and Weyanoke Elementary to have access to STEAMOLOGY offerings like after-school STEAM workshops.

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