Approximately 650 middle school students got a hands-on chance to learn about STEM fields Wednesday at the fourth annual First City Science Fair at the University of Saint Mary.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“We hope to inspire them to be scientists,” said Matt Nonojen, director of the Leavenworth Public Library.

Approximately one dozen subject matter experts in an assortment of fields held presentations in classrooms in Miege Hall and McGilley Field House.

Students, organized in several groups, came from the Leavenworth, Lansing and Fort Leavenworth school districts. They rotated in groups to the 35-minute presentations.

Dr. Kathleen DeKrey, a USM faculty member who teaches physiology and anatomy, held a presentation on virtual cadaver dissection.

Chelsi Myer, a family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County, led students in a hands-on exercise about fresh food.

Chuck Magaha, director of Leavenworth County Emergency Management, presented on how natural events such as flooding and high winds can impact the environment and people’s lives.

USM professor Dan Williams talked to the students about aquaponics and how water, plants and fish create a self-supporting biosphere.

USM physical therapy students led the middle school students in demonstrations of functional movement. Representatives of Kansas State University talked to students about the healing properties of stem cell therapy.

The event is organized each year by the Leavenworth Rotary Club and the University of Saint Mary.

Nonojen, a Rotary member, said the organization donates money each year to host the event. He said the Rotary also coordinates with schools and sponsors.

Masa Watanabe, a chemistry and physics professor at USM, organizes the on-campus details for the event, such as providing space for the presentations and organizing student volunteers who guide the middle school students to different presentation sites on campus.