Growing with Expo

We interviewed three of our volunteer Engineering Expo leaders to help us visualize and remember how far Expo has come. Vickie has been a leader with Expo for 20 years, Michelle has been working on the Expo committee for eight years, and Sarah joined the committee at the beginning of our 2018 planning season. We have enjoyed all their hard work and it’s easy to say everyone is excited for the Expo events to come!





Question. What year was your first Engineering Expo? 

Vickie. I attended my first Expo as a parent when my sons were in Cub Scouts, before I became a Wichita SWE member.  Sometime around 1999. 

Michelle. I moved to Wichita after I graduated college in 2011 and participated in my first Expo in February 2012. I had so much fun that I’ve been helping every year since (this will be my 8th Expo)!

Sarah. My first Expo was last year - I had joined the team that winter before. 


Question. How did you get involved with the Engineering Expo?

Vickie. I started working for Expo after I became a SWE member in 2005. I knew how much fun it was from taking Cub Scout dens through the years.

Michelle. I’ve always really liked showing others how cool engineering is. In college, I did this every chance I could get – I organized a badge workshop for girl scouts in elementary school, I visited local middle schools to do hands on engineering activities, and I hosted weekends for high school students to stay in the dorms and visit engineering labs on campus. When I moved to Wichita, I was so excited that the Wichita SWE section already had an awesome hands-on event I could help with to show even more people how awesome engineering can be!

Sarah. A friend of mine heard about the Expo and thought it would be fun to help out with the planning of it all, so I attended a meeting. It was really cool to see everyone get so excited about STEM and teaching young people about it. I was really interested in the volunteers behind the Expo and being able to get other adults excited as well. Planning for the Expo is a crazy fun time; we're full of nervous jitters like getting ready for the first day of school.


 Question. How has it changed over the course that you have been involved?

Vickie.  The first many Expos were held in the ballroom of the Rhatigan Center on the Wichita State campus. All couple hundred people fit comfortably in there, in the one small (compared to today’s space at Century II) room!

Michelle. The first year I helped with expo, we were in a much smaller location and the event was only 3 hours long.  While we still had some of our favorite activities (like slime and bridges), over the last 8 years we’ve really grown and have added many new and exciting booths (like drones, and wind tunnels, and huge catapults, and cars, and construction equipment, and Tesla coils, and… the list just keeps going).

Sarah. Even though this is only my second Expo, I've already noticed how much better prepared we are for the event. I've also seen more sponsors get excited about the Expo and want to help out. There are also new booths we've never had before and we're eager to see the kids get hands on with some new activities. We also now have our own Expo website to help reach more people who haven't been heard of us before.

Question. What were the first Engineering Expos like?

Vickie. Small!  Lots of sitting on the floor with kids. But some activities are repeaters - the kid’s area with the toys, the plastic gears, the robots, slime, are big favorites that return each year.


Question. What are some Crazy-Cool things you have seen or been a part of during the planning, preparing, and execution of Expo?

Vickie. Slime is always one of the most popular booths. Kids can’t get enough of getting their hands in sticky goo (it’s really made from white all-purpose glue). The Tornado!  Inside Century II last year, a weather channel team created a tornado. The airplane that an aircraft association brought. Watching a guitarist show kids how sound was made by showing them the insides of a cut open guitar. And, of course, the Boy Scout trebuchet shooting balls across the room!

Michelle. I really love how infectious the joy of attending expo is. As part of the planning committee, I obviously look forward to this event every year, but it makes me happy to see people in our community with the same excitement. For example, I remember a couple of years ago, I was helping pass out maps at the welcome table as guests were arriving. One student came in with a map he had already printed from our website and had marked the booths he was going to go to first. Talk about being prepared!

Sarah. One of the coolest experiences I've had since being a part of the Expo has been the kid’s faces on the day of the event. I know we get excited when there's a new booth activity and hope the kids will like it as well, but nothing compares to having them actually doing the activity and getting so excited about STEM. 


Question. What is your position with the Engineering Expo this year?

Vickie.  SWE booth leader for the Boy Scouts trebuchet. 

Michelle. I am the booth chair for Expo this year. This means I work with all our awesome booth leaders to bring fun activities to the event. We’ve even brainstormed a couple of fun, new activities to try at this year’s expo!

Sarah. I'm the Volunteer Coordinator, which means I keep track of who is volunteering for the Expo and what job they will have. I also created the Expo website this year; I hope you like it!


 Question. What are some positions you have had in other year’s Expos?

Vickie. I’ve had an important job in the past - I got activity supplies to the Expo site. Make fun of my mini-van all you want, but nothing beats it for getting the big or the fragile or the “can’t get wet” stuff to Expo safe and dry and ready to entertain. I’ve helped at many booths in the past but the best one was the music booth. However, the SWE team those years spent many hours cleaning labels off plastic pill bottles so kids could make maracas by putting dry beans into them. You haven’t lived a full and exciting life until you have crawled all over the floor picking up beans so you don’t break the vacuum cleaner. 

Michelle. I feel like I’ve done a little of everything! I served on the Expo committee for 3 years before we even had specific jobs, and I helped with anything I could. Since we’ve added positions, I’ve been the volunteer coordinator (2 years), committee co-chair (2 years), and the booth coordinator (this year).

Sarah. My main involvement has been volunteering, but I've also helped out with Social Media a bit and always trying to spread the word about the Expo. 


Question. What do you hope to see this year at Expo?

Vickie. The tornado!  Maybe some nice police or firefighters! The seatbelt crash demonstrator is really cool. 

Michelle. As the booth coordinator, I am so excited to see all the booths we’ll have at the event. We have some of our favorites returning again this year, so I already know that those will be a blast. But I’m SUPER STOKED for some of the brand new booths that we’re going to have.

Sarah. I've heard a lot of cool booths will be making their first appearance this year, so I'm hoping to see more diversity with the types of booths and their activities. I'm most excited about the booth where you get to learn how engines work. There's also going to be a booth all about weather. I'm sure there won't be a shortage of fun at this Expo!


Question. What advice do you have for kids/families who will be attending Expo this year?

Vickie. However much time you have planned to spend at Expo, you will wish it was longer! Be prepared to have fun, and don’t tell the kids they are learning something!

Michelle. Come early! We’re packing a lot of awesome hands-on activities into one day. It’s okay to come and go and stop by just a few booths, but to really get the full experience you’ll want to allow plenty of time to see everything. It’s worth it, I promise!

Sarah. Well, first of all, explore and have fun! Be creative and try new things at the Expo. And ask questions! For the parents, try to prepare for a lot of people and a lot of standing, so wear comfy shoes and clothes you won't mind getting a little slime on.