By Raiza Giorgi

Andrea Garcia had never operated a robot before, and within a few minutes of instruction from Terrific Scientific staff, she looked as though she had been doing it for years. 

Andrea, 10, of Santa Ynez, said she really enjoyed getting a new experience at the “STEAM Under the Stars” event at her school, Santa Ynez Elementary. 

“It’s so fun, I definitely want to know more about this,” Andrea said with a huge smile on her face. 

Andrea and her little sister Kimberly, 6, were exploring different rooms at the annual STEAM night on March 2. For more than 10 years, the school has been putting together this program to introduce more children to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education. 

“I really enjoy seeing the students with their families participating in STEAM activities,” said Nikole Delman, science teacher and Gifted and Talented Program (GATE) instructor. “It just brings the school as a community together, and perhaps opens some students to learning more about these subjects.” 

Fourth grader Dylan Shomes, 9, made a “Peace” rock during the STEAM Under the Stars event at Santa Ynez Elementary School.
Photo by Raiza Giorgi

There were several classrooms dedicated to each area of focus, and the GATE students acted as ambassadors to each program, explaining more about the projects from painting rocks, robotics, doing science experiments, learning about coding, and looking through high powered telescopes to see the stars.  

“It’s super exciting to see the kids explore new things in the science world and how they can use these skills to make a great career someday,” said Onolee Zwicke, founder of Terrific Scientific, in the room with robots for kids to play with. 

Zwicke said this is the first year she has participated at the STEAM event at Santa Ynez and is bringing her science related camp to the Santa Ynez Valley this summer. 

Through discovery-based learning, students carry out experiments, engage in team activities, build and program robots, learn new technologies, and see how science works in the real world, she explained.

Terrific Scientific students have a safe and positive learning environment where they can experiment, problem solve, build scientific skills and delve into the mysteries of science.

Zwicke said she started this program more than 18 years ago, because she was first a teacher and then got her Ph.D. in Education, working at UCSB in staff development programs.

“I started with after-school classes and have more than 1,000 students going through our programs including summer camp now,” she said. “We have 64 different kinds of camps that are based off what kids tell us they want to learn about.”

Some of her widely popular programs range from archeology, oceanography to Lego building and more. 

“We have a lot of valley families that drive down to our programs in Santa Barbara, and when I started exploring summer camp offerings here, saw there was a need for the program,” Zwicke added. 

Allan Hancock College brought its mobile planetarium to the STEAM Under the Stars event at Santa Ynez Elementary School.
Photo by Raiza Giorgi

There will be five different camps offered at Solvang Elementary School this summer from Minecraft, Star Wars, Jr. Robot creator, Young Robot Builder and Sea Adventures, according to the Terrific Scientific website. 

The biggest exhibit at the Under the Stars event was the mobile planetarium set up in the gymnasium, brought by Allan Hancock College, so students could get an up-close look at some images of stars and systems. 

“Getting the kids involved in science education by hosting activities such as these are great,” said Tyler Little, AHC student. “Being able to take this mobile planetarium to different schools and show the kids what they can study is so fun.” 

When students and parents went through the planetarium opening, they could lie on the floor and watch a program put together of photos of places like Alaska and watch the northern lights, aka aurora borealis, and learn what phenomenon causes this event. 

To learn more about Terrific Scientific visit, and to learn more about Santa Ynez Elementary School visit