A visit to Sue’s Tech Kitchen at its Tacoma stop may cook up some STEM love in kids

Sue’s Tech Kitchen is a combination arcade, interactive exhibit and high-tech café aimed at getting kids excited about cutting-edge technology.

On the menu at the pop-up playspace that is setting up in Tacoma later this month: 3D-printed s’mores, candy delivered by drones — and a big helping of education and inspiration about the wonders of technology.

Randi Zuckerberg, a best-selling author and entrepreneur and the sister of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, cooked up the idea for the kitchen — and for Sue, a fictional 12-year-old who loves science and cooking.

Zuckerberg initially planned to write a book about Sue, but then thought better of it, said kitchen co-founder Steve Anderson. She eventually decided it would be more fun to do as an actual hands-on experience, he told The Olympian.

“I thought, ‘What do kids love? How do you engage them?’ ” Zuckerberg told nymetroparents.com last fall, when the kitchen visited New York City. “Well, all kids love snacks and games and play.”

Apparently, grown-ups do, too, as organizers learned at the kitchen’s September test run in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“We wanted to learn who would want to come to a space like this, and the answer that we got from the test run was: everyone,” Zuckerberg said in a video about the exhibit’s debut. “I can’t tell you how many adults came without children, and they would say that they were interested in learning about tech, and this seemed like a really fun and approachable way to do it.”

Tacoma is one of 10 cities on the current tour, which will continue into the fall. The Broadway Center and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber are presenting the Tacoma stop and led a fundraising campaign to pay for reduced ticket prices.

One of the kitchen’s most popular activities puts a new spin on the old adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

“Our ‘Taste Hacking’ module, where guests ‘hack’ their taste buds to make lemons taste like lemonade, seems to be a favorite,” Anderson said.

Another talked-about treat are those s’mores, with chocolate designs applied by a food printer.

“Adults often enjoy learning about the food printers,” he said. “We have a lot of fun, creative discussions about how they might use them in their own kitchens one day.”

The playspace, to be set up at the Tacoma Armory, will offer about a dozen activities at a time, “and almost all of them include an edible component,” he said. (The Sue’s Tech Kitchen website reveals that the treats are not made with nuts or shellfish and are mostly dairy free. There’s no mention of gluten-free options.)

While they’re munching — and learning about science, technology, engineering and math — visitors won’t be glued to screens.

“The first thing one notices is that although this place is loaded with technological activities, there is not a screen in sight,” wrote nyparents.com’s Bethany Braun-Silva, who visited the kitchen last fall in New York City. Zuckerberg has said that was her intention.

Zuckerberg, who spent a lot of time being the only woman in the room when she worked in Silicon Valley, also intended to attract girls to STEM fields.

“Naming the pop up Sue’s Tech Kitchen was a very purposeful choice,” she told nymetroparents.com. “There is nothing traditionally girly about the space. … It’s meant to be a fun space for boys and girls alike. But it was really important for me to have a girl’s name on a marquee so that somewhere in that third grade girl’s psychology, when she’s thinking about turning away from science, she will say her to herself that she went to Sue’s Tech Kitchen and girls can actually do all of that.”

Sue’s Tech Kitchen

This pop-up playspace aims to get kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math — and adults have been flocking to it, too.

When: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 24-26, with last entrance at 5 p.m.; adults-only launch party at 6 p.m. Aug. 23

Where: Tacoma Armory, 1001 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma

Tickets: $15 general admission, $7 for youths, $50 for the 21-and-older launch party

More information: 253-591-5890, broadwaycenter.org, suestechkitchen.com

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