How do Santa’s reindeer fly? How does Santa fit down a chimney? How does he blow perfect smoke rings? And how does he keep track of which children are naughty and nice?
About 150 children gathered Saturday morning in the lobby of Sternberg Museum of Natural History had their own answers to those and other questions — mainly “magic,” but the members of Fort Hays State University’s STEM-ED Student Chapter offered them some alternatives in their annual Christmas show.
While FHSU junior Kate Westerhaus read a storybook of the classic poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore, her fellow students interrupted with the important questions about the story and demonstrated possible answers with STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.
The show takes a couple of months of planning, including which story to read and what demonstrations to perform, said Emalee Taylor, president of the FHSU STEM-ED Student Chapter. Then there’s about four weeks of gathering the materials and practicing.
“We don’t want to crush the sprit of Christmas with them, but we want to give them a good show and get them interested in the STEM field and see there’s a connection between things in their life and STEM,” she said.
So how do reindeer fly?
“It’s jingle bells,” one youngster suggested.
But the STEM students suggested Santa infuses his reindeer feed with the power of a Van de Graaff generator. Diana Sabados and Alexis Meinert demonstrated the electrostatic generator by placing a FHSU Tigers pom pom on it. In just a few seconds, the electric charge increased enough the pom pom flew into the air.
The students had a box of Santa’s reindeer feed — actually puffed rice cereal — that they placed in a cup on top of the generator. As the electricity built up, the cereal pieces began flying out of the cup.
As for how a large person like Santa can fit down a narrow chimney, the STEM students hypothesized Santa brings a container of cold North Pole air with him in the sleigh that helps him shrink. Once down the chimney, he returns to normal size.
They demonstrated how that would possible by placing an inflated balloon on top of a container of liquid nitrogen, whose temperature is about minus 320 degrees. The balloon deflated as the air inside condensed, then crinkled and crackled when brought out into room temperature and reinflated, getting an “oooh” from the children.
They reached their hands in the air to try to put their hands through the smoke rings blown by a vortex cannon, and waved at the small drones the FHSU students flew overhead to show how Santa keeps tracks of who is naughty and nice.
It was almost hard to tell who was having more fun — the children or the FHSU students.
“I thought it was pretty cool. I was having fun watching it up here,” Meinert, a Garden City junior, said. It was her first time participating in the show.
“I think the kids were having more fun than we were,” she said.
“I don’t know. I was having a blast,” Sabados said.