Hannah Vanderhooft – Staff Writer
An academic chatter murmured throughout the Science and Technology Center as students, faculty, and community members walked between classrooms and conversed at the steps of the Jacob’s Ladder. Students gave a variety of presentations—speaking in classrooms, standing by posterboard presentations, and screening documentaries. For the first time since 2019, IDEAFest was back.
Dr. Paul Fessler, chair of the history department, started IDEAFest in the early 2000s. A new professor at the time, he saw a need for Dordt to celebrate the students’ academic work.
“It’s supposed to be all the different departments and the students in them coming together,” Fessler said. “Students do things throughout their entire time here that we don’t necessarily see—from poems, to science, to an academic paper—that is important work.”
In recent years, IDEAFest has taken place on a Thursday afternoon, following the testing and focus groups of Assessment Day. This year, four, concurrent, 15-minute sessions took place from 1:00 to 3:15, along with a myriad of poster presentations from business, nursing, and science students.
When IDEAFest began, it started on a much smaller scale, taking place in the afternoon during a two-hour time block following the completion of classes. Then, students presented as volunteers. Now, a number of departments require participation. Slowly, the program grew over time, with more students giving presentations and more individuals sitting in on them.
For many students, presentations were a requirement of their senior capstone classes. Senior Collin O’Brien, along with three other senior engineering students, presented on the work they had done for their Senior Design—a two-semester senior capstone class for engineering students.
O’Brien and his classmates had worked on their project since the beginning of the school year, a redesign of a drive system for Kelly Engineering Equipment. Previously, one of O’Brien’s classmates worked for the Omaha-based company.
“Our goal was for the drive to be used, but we ended up just presenting a proof of concept,” O’Brien said. “It was hard to present all that we had worked on, because it’s been a year-long project that we had to fit into a ten-minute presentation.”
O’Brien’s project was one of many engineering presentations throughout the afternoon. Also, other departments participated.
Lindsay Kuiper, a junior, performed with her Devised Theatre class for a presentation. They performed a piece they wrote together over the semester.
“It was a cool experience to perform to people who wouldn’t necessarily come out to see an entire theatre performance,” Kuiper said. “IDEAFest is a cool experience because I went from seeing an engineering presentation to performing theatre.”
In 2020, IDEAFest was cancelled due to COVID-19. Last year, the university’s pandemic-related restrictions prevented its occurrence. Given its absence from the university community, less students participated in IDEAFest this year.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed up on Thursday afternoon,” Kuiper said. “I’ve heard a lot about it, but I’ve never been able to experience it.”
In past years, as many as six presentations occurred at the same time. Fessler hopes that as IDEAFest regains its annual occurrence, students will be more willing and excited to present.
“I want people to show up and support the academic work that students are doing in class every day,” Fessler said. “It doesn’t have to be earth shattering—but it’s encouraging to see students working on things they are learning and trying to figure out.”