Sept. 13, 2018 - What size magnet can erase a credit card? Are MRIs safe? How do you push a ping pong ball to the bottom of a bowl of water without touching it?

These are the sorts of scientific riddles YouTube physics superstar Dianna Cowern poses on her PBS Digital Studios channel: “Physics Girl,” with the goal of showing that physics is more than just equations in class—it’s all around us.

“A soccer ball will curve because of physics,” Cowern said in an interview with Google Talks. “Even makeup, you can explain iridescence the same way you explain how a butterfly wing works or why thin films on spilled oil looks kind of shiny. You can explain these everyday things with physics.”

Cowern will be the keynote speaker at the third annual STEMtastic! celebration, scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20 from 4:15 to 6:30 p.m. at the Rancho Campana High School Performing Arts Center at 4235 Mar Vista Drive in Camarillo.

The event is sponsored by the Ventura County STEM Network (VC STEM), CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) and Rancho Campana High School.

“STEMtastic! is an annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) excellence,” said Chemistry Professor and Interim Director of Educational Partnerships Phil Hampton, Ph.D., who is also director of VC STEM. “It gives us the opportunity to recognize educational settings that have implemented high quality STEM learning. These settings can be schools, after-school programs, museums — any programs that support kids in and out of the classroom.”

After a mixer/showcase of STEM programs including robots from 4:15 to 5 p.m. STEMtastic! will begin with the presentation of four Golden Gear Awards to educational settings that have created excellent STEM programs. In addition, STEM Champion and STEM Radical awards will be presented to individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to promoting STEM learning in Ventura County.

The four Golden Gear recipients are: Anacapa Middle School in Ventura; the Haydock Academy of Arts and Sciences in Oxnard; Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo; and Newbury Park High School’s Robotics Club in Newbury Park.

Haydock is being recognized for project-based learning, which is learning that is focused on long term projects and to collaboration. Anacapa has a superior robotics program in which students are encouraged to plan, problem solve and experiment their way through a project, which is a model for 21st century science instruction, Hampton said.

“The old science standards really focused on learning facts and concepts, like ‘What are the three states of matter? What are the fundamental particles of an atom?’ It was concept-based learning,” Hampton said. “The new standards are really focused on ‘How does a scientist behave?’ So they learn to develop skill sets to ask questions and think of and test a hypothesis.”

Rancho Campana gets Golden Gear recognition for their focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) with their Academy of Medical Science, Academy of Engineering, and Academy of Arts & Entertainment.

Newbury Park is receiving a Golden Gear in recognition of its Pantherbotics Club, where students learn mechanics, electronics and programming as they construct robots that later compete in area competitions.

The awards ceremony will include a special tribute to Cause Hanna, Ph.D., who was the director of the CSUCI Santa Rosa Island Research Station from 2013 until his death in August of 2017.

“He’s receiving posthumous STEM Champion and STEM Radical Awards for his great work contributing to STEM in Ventura County,” Hampton said. “He’s done so much work both on the CSUCI campus and in the community encouraging environmental education. He worked with Oxnard School District on his B-WET project in which he got middle school students involved with ocean education and visiting the island.”

B-WET stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s California Bay Watershed Education and Training Program. Through funding from B-WET, Hanna was able to launch “Crossing the Channel: An Inquiry Based Expedition” in 2014.

The public is welcome and tickets are free, but guests are asked to register at: http://www.vcstem.org/stemtastic/.

Educators are encouraged to attend a workshop by Dianna Cowern from 3:45 – 4:30 pm also on the Rancho Campana campus.