Maureen Munn Joan Griswold Helene Starks Stephanie Malia Fullerton Conan Viernes Thelma Ann Sipe Mike Brown Craig Dwight Randy Knuth Sheldon Levias

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Abstract

For people living in rural communities, opportunities to meet STEM professionals and visit the science centers, museums, zoos, and aquariums usually found in urban areas are often limited because of geographical isolation, socioeconomic disadvantage, and in many cases, language barriers. To address these issues, two University of Washington (UW) education programs, Genome Sciences Education Outreach (GSEO) and UW Gaining Early Access and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEARUP) collaborated to implement three annual Yakima Valley Science and Engineering Festivals in a rural area in central Washington. Working with educators and members of the community, we developed a highly inclusive format for the festivals that integrated hands-on activities and demonstrations presented by STEM professionals from around the Pacific Northwest, a showcase of student STEM projects from local secondary and college students, a VEX Robotics competition, and career and college prep information. The festivals reached a wide audience, including students, teachers, and community members of all ages. In this report we describe our approaches and discuss successes, challenges, and impacts on visitors, with the hope that our experiences will help to inform others who are organizing similar events.

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