Destination STEM 2019

Destination STEM 2019

The Wolak Research Group was well represented at Destination STEM this year and I think the event was a great success! About 1,100 students from 18 middle and high schools near Auburn, came to the AU Coliseum to explore, interact, and learn about STEM fields.

Our own Molly Caldwell was on hand as part of the table by the COSAM Women in Sciences and Mathematics, where she had some fabulous outreach animals to share in collaboration with Debbie, her mother and Professor Emeritus!

Molly, Debbie, and outreach animals Molly unsuccesfully convinces students to hold a snake
Molly & Debbie with their outreach animals (left) and Molly unsuccesfully convinces students to hold a snake (right).
Jake's video game
Jake explains the finer points of QG video games, to a distracted audience

Our group’s own table hosted a hands-on experience measuring turtle shells to illustrate an example of what evolutionary ecologists do (at least the fun, fieldwork parts!). We combined this activity with a quantitative genetic video game! The game is based on selection acting on between-individual differences in size. Progress through the game results in evolutionary responses to selection! Jake did a tremendous effort coding a breeding value based quantitative genetic individual based model and then spent many a late night turning a boring terminal simulation into a game that has the look and feel of the original Super Mario Bros.

Preview the first two levels of the quantitative genetic video game
First two levels of the game. The entire distribution of sizes in the population is depicted by all of the lighter-colored individuals. Why don't some of them make it to Darwin at the end...

Feedback from the students was positive, so stay tuned as we continue to work on the game; including efforts to make it available through a website!