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Sunday's STEM Fair at museum combines apricots and science


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Last year’s Apricot STEM Fair proved a big hit for the Los Altos History Museum, drawing more than 700 visitors.

Blending past and present, a free event that combines Los Altos’ agricultural roots with its current role as an area of innovation is scheduled Sunday at the Los Altos History Museum.

The second Apricot STEM Fair is slated 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road.

Last year’s fair drew more than 700 people, and museum officials hope to make the fair an annual event, according to Elisabeth Ward, the museum’s executive director.

Ward explained that from 1900 to 1970, the apricot harvest was a large community event, but as Silicon Valley developed, the celebration began to fade and eventually disappeared.

“The museum was trying to think of a way to share with current residents the feeling of the apricot harvest that would be relatable to kids today,” she said.

According to Ward, the apricot harvest actually had a direct connection to science, technology, engineering and math, as it “involved a lot of engineering (for the equipment) and science (for not only growing the apricots, but also for treating them and drying them)” – and the museum wanted to highlight that.

Ward and others at the museum created the Apricot STEM Fair because STEM and agriculture are two disciplines with substantial overlap that represent different facets of Silicon Valley. The event highlights the connection through old-fashioned apricot games reinterpreted with a STEM focus and STEM activities that incorporate apricots, like apricot DNA extraction.

This year’s fair will include a mix of new activities and popular repeats from last year’s festivities.

Ward revealed that in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, the museum has invited NASA Ames to present some hands-on activities, including the chance to see a Moon rock, view a live link to the space station through the Discovery Trailer and talk with a NASA scientist.

For the first time, teens will have a chance to participate in the Los Altos Environmental Commission’s Environthon Challenge, pitching environmental projects under guidance from the commission to compete for a cash prize.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., attendees also will be able to experience an apricot tasting competition for $5, sampling dishes from Los Altos restaurants and markets such as ASA, Cafe Nur, Draeger’s Market, the Los Altos Farmers’ Market, Tre Monti and State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria. At the end of the competition, winning dishes will receive ribbons from a panel of local judges.

Other activities will include an interactive bubble station, flower design, insect taxonomy, geocaching, a scavenger hunt, robotics demonstrations and an Edible Trees walk around downtown.

For more information, visit losaltoshistory.org.

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