More than 30 Schools Represented at UT Libraries’ STEM Event
October 10, 2018

About fifty East Tennessee K-12 teachers devoted a recent Saturday to learning new ways to help their students excel in science and mathematics. Big Orange STEM Saturday for Educators, held at UT’s John C. Hodges Library on September 29, was sponsored by the UT Libraries, the East Tennessee STEM Hub, and the Center for Enhancing Education in Mathematics and Sciences.

The half-day event was filled with hands-on learning activities. Teachers attended their choice of workshops: they engaged in hands-on exercises that teach mathematical concepts, learned about the history and classroom use of 3D printing, and discovered the impact of new science standards that encourage hands-on inquiry-based instruction for K-5 students. One breakout session engaged teachers in a simple math game, “Prejudiced Polygons,” that illustrates a social phenomenon: how small individual biases against diversity lead to greater segregation in the general population.

Lunch was an opportunity to meet colleagues and share experiences. During lunch, Melanie Allen, health sciences librarian at the UT Libraries, offered a keynote presentation on how makerspaces in educational settings support STEAM (STEM and art) research initiatives.

Allen also demonstrated a cutting-edge teaching tool that is part of the UT Libraries’ makerspace: a touch-screen 3D Anatomage Table. The table is equipped with digital cadavers that allow students to visualize thousands of anatomical structures and perform virtual dissections as they would on a real cadaver.

The event culminated in an exhibitor fair. Exhibitors included UT colleges and STEM programs, Oak Ridge Associated University, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Future City Tennessee. Attendees were able to talk with staff from UT offices such as Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of Community Engagement and Outreach, which sends students into the local community to find practical solutions to real-world problems.

College students from the University of Tennessee lent their support. Students from VolsTeach, UT’s teacher-preparation program for undergraduates in STEM fields, helped stage the event. Students’ research posters were on display during the exhibitor fair.

The event drew teachers from about thirty schools – elementary through high school – as well as at least one homeschooling parent and a number of students from Tennessee Tech’s Teacher Education Program. Teachers received professional development credits for their participation. It was the third annual Big Orange STEM Saturday for Educators hosted by the UT Libraries and its STEM partners.

A similar event for K-12 students is held each spring. The student-focused Big Orange STEM Saturday scheduled for April 6, 2019, will be the eighth annual library-sponsored event at which K-12 students can sample hands-on learning activities; get advice on careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; and meet current university STEM majors. Attendance at both events is free.

For more information, contact Thura Mack, coordinator of community learning services and diversity programs at the UT Libraries (865-974-6381 or