MIDWEST CITY — Jacob Nix grasped the handles on the two halves of a black plastic ball and strained to pull them apart.
“It's like it's super-glued!” the fourth-grader shouted, still trying to separate the two halves of the orb.
After a few moments, Ron Perez-Guerra, a student at Rose State College, turned a valve, and the orb came apart in Jacob's hands.
The force holding the two halves of the ball together, Perez-Guerra explained, was air pressure — the pressure in the room outside the ball was greater than the pressure inside the ball. When Perez-Guerra turned the valve, air rushed into the ball, equalizing the pressure, and the seal was broken.
As Jacob inspected a series of other demonstrations and displays Wednesday at Rose State College's Central Oklahoma Science and Engineering Festival, his mother, Jaime Nix looked on. Her son, she said, has been interested in science and engineering for years. He's interested in building, taking apart and trying to find out how things work.
“We're a Lego family,” she said.
Wayne Jones, dean of Rose State's engineering and science division, said students like Jacob are exactly who the festival is targeting. The event is intended to foster interest in disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and math.
This marks the first year for the event. The festival, held in Rose State's student center, includes displays from student science projects, as well as science, math and robotics demonstrations and an inflatable planetarium.
The event plays into a larger national conversation about attracting students toward disciplines related to science, technology, engineering and math. Both Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Steve McKeever have called for a redoubling of efforts to produce well-trained graduates in those fields.
The festival continues Thursday and Friday. Thursday's programs will be targeted toward middle school and high school students. Friday will include college-aged students.
Having specific days geared toward certain age groups allows the college to tailor its message to those students, Jones said. For elementary students, the festival focused Wednesday on boosting interest in science and math, showing them what other students are doing in the field and giving them an idea of what a career in science and math might look like.
Thursday's events are designed to keep the interest of junior high and high school students who are already interested in the field, he said. Friday's events will show college and technology center students who are already in science- and technology-related disciplines what other colleges are doing.
The festival is a satellite event tied to the USA Science and Engineering Festival, an annual event in Washington, D.C. Although the event experienced some growing pains in its first year, Jones said, the college hopes to make it an annual occurrence — eventually one that extends beyond the student center and fills Rose State's Campus Mall.
“We are definitely committed to continuing this event,” he said. “We think it's a great event to have.”