By Sarah Thompson, Education and Volunteer Manager
During the days of March 9th-11th myself, Nesa, and our two JWOC scholarship student Science teachers Rit and Thoeu went to Phnom Penh to represent JWOC in the 3rd annual Cambodian Science and Engineering Festival (CSEF)! This year was quite different to previous years as it was held in the National Stadium so the crowds were larger and there were many performing acts to keep the exhibitors and the visitors entertained. There were over 23,000 attendees at the stadium including schools, other NGOs, and families with young kids. Our goal when attending the CSEF was to share the gift of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to Cambodian youth while giving our staff and students the chance to gain new ideas and perspectives from other organizations in attendance. For the three full days, we showed 4 experiments and had our microscopes and Samsung tablets full of interactive Science apps on display.
On the opening day, we displayed the ‘Oobleck’ – a much loved experiment from last year. Oobleck is a messy fluid-like substance that can be a solid or liquid depending on the amount of pressure applied to it. Adults and children are always amazed by it and call it ‘magic’ even though it’s a simple mixture of borax, water, cornstarch, and food color. Another popular experiment was ‘Galaxy Slime’ a gooey, glittery, multicolored substance that the younger students loved to make with us at the booth. We also show-cased flowers and cabbage in colored water to show how the capillaries absorb the liquid and change colors according to the food coloring. The second and third day we showed our ‘Magic Milk’ experiment where we used a Q-tip and dropped small amounts of soap into a plate of milk dyed by food coloring. The soap would cause the colors to separate like magic which was really surface tension at work because milk has fat in it and reacts to the soap. The students really enjoyed these short experiments as they were able to do them themselves and get their hands dirty!
After they watched or helped create the experiments, the visiting crowds enjoyed looking at plant and animal cells through our microscopes and using our tablets to play with our apps. We got many questions and smiles from our experiments and Rit, Thoeu and Nesa did wonderful jobs explaining the concepts in both Khmer and English. In order to see all that CSEF had to offer, we took turns walking around the event, networking with other organizations, and taking pictures. Rit was even asked to help out at the British Embassy’s booth where he performed a home-made well experiment using balloons and a water bottle, it was a success judging from the large crowds around the booth. As this was Rit’s first visit to the CSEF representing JWOC he was delighted to experience it and shared some of his thoughts: “This is the first year I went to join the event and I am so happy to have worked as a team with everyone. I learned a lot from the event and enjoyed telling visitors about our experiments. I remembered experiments other booths displayed so I can show them to my students in my science class and I hope they will enjoy it and learn from them.”
The trip to CSEF solidified our commitment to STEM at JWOC and gave us inspiration for our own Science classes as well as for a local Science fair we hope to hold later in the year. It was amazing to see Cambodian youth get excited about Science and technology and learn through hands-on activities.  Using simple ingredients for our experiments, we hoped to inspire and push kids to take a more active role in Science learning at school and at home. JWOC is proud to have shared our Science capabilities and experiments with thousands of children and adults who visited our booth and we are excited for what next year’s CSEF has to bring!
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