Splash brings 2,000 participants to campus

Students learn to play Quidditch, the fantastical sport in the popular Harry Potter series, during one of 255 classes offered by Stanford Splash this past weekend. (Courtesy of Michael Shaw)

This past weekend, over 2,000 people came to campus for Stanford Splash, a biannual event in which middle and high school students participate in 255 classes taught by Stanford students and Palo Alto community members. This weekend’s event, featuring classes ranging from “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” to “Scottish Highland Dance,” was the second largest in Splash history.

Organizers advertised in schools, drawing most of their attendees from California, though some flew in from as far away as Maryland, Georgia and even London. 1,505 students, 250 volunteer teachers and around 200 volunteers showed up for the two-day program.

New this year were walk-in seminars, taught mostly by Stanford students. According to Tim Huang ’14, co-president of Stanford Splash, about 10 to 20 classes are cancelled by Splash teachers at the last minute every year. That means that many students are left without classes to attend after traveling all the way to Stanford.

“Stanford students have very busy schedules and they often inform us [of cancellations] at the last minute,” Huang said. “[Walk-in seminars] are meant to combat that. We want to provide students with a place to go.”

Splash participants are charged $40 for the event, though need-based financial aid and free transportation were offered to more than 300 students.

“That [charge] helps to cover the operation for Splash, making sure that we have the reserved room, food and transportation,” Huang said. “A portion of it goes back to students from under-resourced, low-income background.”

According to Huang, most seminars were well-attended, with walk-in seminars fulfilling their intended purpose. One favorite was a seminar on acting and stage management, put on by The Stanford Shakespeare Company.

As Splash grows, Stanford has started hosting student leaders from other universities. Splash student leaders from Duke University, Rice University, San Jose State University and the University of Chicago have all come to campus to study the Stanford Splash model, according to Huang.

“It’s really inspiring to see so many people working together to put it on,” said Rebekah Johnston, president of Duke’s Splash program, ‘‘Duke has a much smaller Splash. … Our goal is to be like Stanford Splash.”

Huang emphasized the importance of undergraduate and graduate student collaboration in organizing Splash program.

“What makes us unique above all is that we have a very unique undergraduate to graduate ratio,” Huang said. “I think what the undergraduates bring are a lot of passion, a lot of energy, while the graduate [students] bring a lot of stability in terms of managing logistics.”

Along with the classes offered to students, Learning Unlimited, a non-profit educational institution that sponsors 15 Splash programs nationwide, offered a program for parents.

Daniel Zaharopol, Learning Unlimited’s chief executive officer, said the parent program gives parents a platform to discuss educational opportunities for their children, but also offers students greater independence — more space away from their parents — while at Stanford.

“This is my third year attending the parent program,” said Anju Marang, whose two children both attended Splash this year. “I learned a lot [about] how to deal with teenagers and how to find passion in them.”