8th Annual WHJESP STEAM Fair Returns to Burchfield Penney Art Center
The Eighth Annual Willie Hutch Jones Educational and Sports Program (WHJESP) STEAM Fair made a triumphant return on March 25, 2023, after three years of being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The highly anticipated event took place at its original venue, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and welcomed students from third to twelfth grades.
Under the theme “All Things STEAM,” participants were encouraged to tackle real-world problems by devising innovative solutions. Whether they chose to explore science, technology, engineering, math, or delve into the intriguing intersection of art and science, the possibilities were boundless. This year’s addition of art-based theories added a captivating new dimension to the fair, inspiring students to think creatively and push the boundaries of their projects.
Recognizing the importance of guidance and support, the WHJESP organizers went above and beyond by assigning STEAM-minded college students as mentors to assist with after-school project development. This mentorship program aimed to provide valuable guidance to students, helping them refine their ideas, conceptualize their projects, and receive the necessary support. The initiative also aimed to offer additional support to teachers, recognizing their crucial role in fostering STEAM education.
Leroi Johnson, WHJESP Board Chair and acclaimed artist, delivered a captivating keynote address at the fair. Renowned for his artistic accomplishments, musical talent, and legal expertise, Johnson brought a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to the event. Johnson was currently showcasing a portion of his life’s work, marking him as the first African American artist to have an exhibition at the gallery. Johnson emphasized the profound connection between art and education, motivating students to explore their passions and nurture their creative potential.
Due to an overwhelming number of participants, the awards ceremony was divided into two sections to accommodate all the participants, their parents, and guests. This allowed everyone to enjoy an engaging program and an exhilarating award ceremony. The winners of the awards were presented with extraordinary prizes, including the opportunity for an all-expense-paid trip to either the WHJESP STEAM Expedition in Detroit or the Imagine Fair at the esteemed Rochester Institute of Technology.
Alongside the awards ceremony, the WHJESP hosts an Essay Contest for high school students during the STEAM Fair season. The students were given the prompt to write an essay on “Who is Their STEAM Role Model and Why.” The winners of this essay contest were also awarded the Detroit STEAM Expedition as a reward. These incentives aimed to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the students and further ignite their passion for STEAM education.
The event was open to the public, which allowed a diverse audience to witness the brilliance and creativity of the young participants. From the exceptional essays to the inspiring projects and the electrifying atmosphere, the fair provided a remarkable showcase of the immense talent and potential within Western New York’s student community.