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UVA PhD student starts STEAMKITX to teach kids about science

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:23 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia PhD student Merci Best says her love for science was overlooked by teachers until she joined a research lab as a middle schooler.

“By the time I got to college I already knew I wanted to get a degree in neuroscience, so I was pretty much on the STEM route as early as eighth grade,” Best said.

She was invited to work in a research lab at the University of Richmond before high school.

“I was working on fruit flies, which was gross at first, but to be able to use them as a model for the human brain really fascinated me,” said Best.

That’s when a personal experience really helped grow her love for science.

“Around that same time, my grandmother was actually presenting signs of dementia and memory loss. So I’m studying a fly’s brain but then also seeing a brain change in someone that was very close to me,” said Best.

This passion led Merci to start STEAMKITX, a company that makes STEM and Arts kits. The name uses the STEM acronym with an added “A” for the arts.

Then the pandemic began.

“Parents needed some things to do with their kids while schools were virtual or even some schools were shut down at the time so STEAMKITX actually came at the perfect moment,” Best said.

Kids learn the science behind making ice-cream in one STEAMKIT. Instructions lead them through mixing sugar, water and ice while taking note of temperature change. It teaches a chemistry lesson, while keeping children interested.

“Kids are naturally interested in science and technology, but you just have to make it fun and engaging,” Best said.

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