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Rock the Block will showcase science, technology, arts and math from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Southeast 187th Avenue between Burnside and Stark streets.

COURTESY PHOTO: LISA OBUNGE - Former NBA player Brian Grant, left, and David Lucas, executive director of the Maurice Lucas Foundation, read to kids during the 2017 Rock the Block.Community organizers are getting excited for Rock the Block this Saturday in Rockwood, with plans to include even more family services during the event.

Scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15, near the Rockwood MAX Station on S.E. 187th Ave., this year's theme is Full STEAM Ahead, using transportation activities to engage children in science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

"We try to always have some kind of educational focus on this event," said organizer Lisa Obunge, with Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center.

She said this is the sixth year for Rock the Block with many old favorites expected to return, such as owl pellets from the Portland Zoo for kids to dissect. Obunge said each vendor will have some kind of educationally stimulating game or project for children to enjoy, such as Portland General Electric supplying an electric vehicle.

"Every booth has to have an activity for the kids because it's boring just to go to a booth and hand out a brochure," she said.

New this year is a backpack giveaway as part of We Got Your Back!, which is normally held separately but this summer is part of Rock the Block. Obunge said volunteers are busy stuffing 1,500 backpacks they plan to give away from 10 a.m. to noon.

Any K-12 students living in East Multnomah County are eligible for a free backpack, and Obunge indicated she does not expect the supply to last long.

"Last year we had several thousand backpacks and they were all distributed," she said. "I think they're going to go quickly."

The Boeing Company and Bank of America are among sponsors for the backpacks and supplies. Other supporters of Rock the Block include the city of Gresham and Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who lives nearby and has become a regular at the event.

"It's a real community event," Obunge said. "It really brings everyone together to make things happen."

Holding Rock the Block in a neighborhood like Rockwood is important, she noted, because residents may feel overlooked in an area where needs sometimes outpace available services. She said the area has a very diverse population with many different languages spoken among many groups and Obunge's organization wants these groups to know they are not forgotten.

"Sometimes Rockwood doesn't get all the services and love and attention they need, and we want them to know their community does care about them," she said.

While all vendor spaces have been filled, there are still opportunities to volunteer and help support the event. To become involved, call Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center at 503-797-7222.

If you go

WHAT: Rock the Block

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 25, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Southeast 187th Avenue between Burnside and Stark streets, near the Rockwood MAX station

COST: Free

INFO: Full STEAM Ahead

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