The Homestead on STEA²M Power at the Fairplex

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It was an exhausting, but fun non-stop morning today at the Fairplex in Pomona as the Homestead had a booth at the STEA²M Fair, an event for families with children ages 5-18 and K-12 students cosponsored by Fairplex with Cal Poly Pomona, the Discovery Cube, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

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The event, which was for schools today and continues for families tomorrow, seeks to “connect and inspire the youth of today in the areas of science, technology, art, agriculture and mathematics.”   Among the exhibitors were the University of California Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles; the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner and Weights and Measures Department; Mt. San Antonio College; the Dairy Council of California; and others.

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Our booth, provided by invitation of the 48th District Agricultural Association for whom I’ve been a judge on California mission projects at the Association’s Agricultural Fair in May each year, was located in the “Big Red Barn” a large open-sided, roofed structure where a lot of dirt was kicked up by excited kids (meaning showers are in store for all of us) as they headed from booth to booth, and from the time groups started arriving not long after 9 a.m. until about Noon, we were constantly on the go.

The Homestead’s space, located in front of a Old West Mercantile facade, featured museum information and three interactive activities, including stereoscopic photographs and stereopticons; cattle brand drawings; and thaumatrope making, this last being a very popular 19th century activity, in which a disk with images on both sides is taped and glued to a stick and then quickly rotated with the palms to create an illusion of the blending of the images in motion due to the concept of the “persistence of vision.”

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These simple activities gave students and their accompanying teachers, aids, and parents a little glimpse into basic technologies that, in a much different era, kept kids and, in some cases, adults, occupied for hours.  The kids today didn’t have as much time, because they had a lot to see and do, but there was continuous activity as hundreds of them came by to do one or more of the activities. In making a point to ask where schools were from, we found they came from South-Central Los Angeles, Inglewood, Monterey Park, Van Nuys, Corona, San Bernardino, Fontana and lots of other locations in greater Los Angeles.

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In fact, it was so busy that, by Noon, we ran out of materials for the cattle brand and thaumatrope activities, and could only share the stereoviews as we began packing up to leave for the day.  The Homestead has two events on-site tomorrow, so we’re not able to return, but if the event is held again next year, we can try to have more materials available and be ready to handle the hordes!

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