Kids’ Tech University at Virginia Tech has been helping grade-schoolers experience the joy of scientific discovery since 2009. The 2017 program, slated to serve 450 young people from across the region, is now open for online registration.

Designed for children ages 9 to 12, Kids’ Tech University uses kids’ curiosity about the world around them to introduce fundamental concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Basic questions like, “What will my neighborhood look like when I grow up?” can be an entry point for young people to learn about the predictive powers of big data.

And they’re not alone in the learning process: parents take part in each round of Kids’ Tech activities, studying alongside their children and gathering materials to keep the day’s scientific explorations going when they get back home. With participation open to families across the state, the opportunity to be a “student for a day” at Virginia Tech has attracted a growing number of Hokie alumni.

“Something special happens when a graduate gets to see Tech’s campus ‘for the first time’ through their kid’s eyes,” said Kristy Collins, Kids’ Tech University director and senior project associate for education and outreach at the Biocomplexity Institute. “Many of these grade-schoolers are doing hands-on learning activities in the same halls where their parents attended intro science lectures as freshmen.”

It’s not just proud alums who come to take part in the program.

In true Ut Prosim fashion, Virginia Tech science organizations and local tech firms will host a series of activity fairs to help attendees experience a full range of STEM subjects. Volunteers interested in exhibiting at these events can apply online to reserve a space.

The 2017 program will be rounded out by a set of kid-friendly lectures, delivered by top Virginia Tech faculty. Sallie Keller, director of the Biocomplexity Institute’s Social and Decision Analytics Laboratory, will kick things off with an interactive discussion of how data science can be applied to improve our local communities.

“With the vast amount of information being generated in every area of our daily lives, the statistical sciences are going to be a crucial skill set for the next generation,” said Keller. “It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to pass that along: not just the basic concepts, but the excitement for what they can achieve.”

Next year’s line-up of presenters will also feature faculty from Virginia Tech’s School of Neuroscience, affiliates of the Fralin Life Science Institute, and leaders from the tech firm, Rackspace.

For full details on Kids’ Tech University programming and registration, visit the program’s website and Facebook page.

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