Stanly Community College hosts SciFest event

Published 6:21 pm Friday, April 14, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Biology, chemistry and physiology labs at Stanly Community College were active with aspiring young scientists and their families on Thursday evening as the college hosted one of more than 400 statewide events of the North Carolina Science Festival.

“The NC SciFest is sponsored by BioGen and the Morehead Planetarium Science Center and is being held on campuses throughout the state during the month of April,” said Michael Lowder, a biology instructor at SCC and coordinator of the event.

According to Lowder, the event at SCC was set up in such a way as to highlight the areas of expertise of the faculty science instructors. These included Lowder (arachnology), Bryan Sharp (ornithology), Dr. David Graves (chemistry) and Dr. Jacci Waltz (physiology and anatomy), each of whom offered hands-on demonstrations and exhibitions to the participants in the event.

For Lowder, whose studies concentrated on arachnology (the study of arachnids — spiders, scorpions, ticks, etc), the event provided an opportunity to exhibit his collection of both local species and those from other areas to event attendees.

“This looks like a microscopic scorpion,” said Abyl Dahle, as he viewed a pseudoscorpion, an arachnid found mostly in tropical climates, through a magnifier.

Event coordinator and SCC biology instructor Michael Lowder speaks with Harmony Dahle, Abyl Dahle and Tiffany Dahle at the NC Science Festival event at SCC Thursday. (Photo by TOBY THORPE)

In addition, Lowder exhibited a trapdoor spider found “closer to home,” as well as a lampshade spider, commonly found in the Appalachians, to those in attendance.

In the college’s anatomy and physiology lab, those in attendance were able to view model human skeletons, as well as a sheep brain and a dissected pig, both of which are used in lab work by SCC students.

Also on exhibit was the college’s anatomage table, which provides SCC students the opportunity to virtually dissect a human cadaver, although this function was not on display at the SciFest event.

“Because of the age of most of our participants, we decided not to exhibit that (a virtual cadaver) tonight,” said Lowder.

In the chemistry lab, Graves manned a heated flask containing a liquid held at a slow boil. The liquid, however, periodically changed color from clear, to a reddish-orange, then back to clear again as it boiled. Graves asked viewers to consider the question as to whether the liquid held the properties of life.

“A life form must consume food, produce waste, modify its environment and reproduce,” said Graves, noting the liquid meets all the requirements of life except reproduction.

Assisting Graves in the lab was SCC student Holly Drye, who showed participants the mechanics of surface tension via a “soap-powered boat” using a toothpick, dish soap, water and a small cardboard “boat.”

“Soap breaks down the surface tension of water,” said Drye, who, after placing the “boat” in a bowl of water, used a tiny amount of dish soap on the tip of a toothpick, which, when dipped into the water, sent the boat scurrying across the bowl.

“The plans are for this to become an annual statewide event,” said Lowder, adding that similar events will be held in nearby areas during the remainder of April.

For more information, visit