Instead of shooting 3-pointers or foul shots, thousands of local students who visited the College of Charleston’s TD Arena learned about liquid nitrogen, air pressure and animal bones.

Then they cheered on the Lady Cougars as they defeated the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 63-43, in a midday basketball game Monday.

The Education Day event, which drew about 2,000 students from around the Lowcountry, focused on STEM education — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“We talked about the best focus, and with STEMs being focused on in schools, it was a good fit,” said Jessica Rodgers, assistant director of marketing for athletics. “We thought we were going to have about 500 students and then it just exploded in the last couple of weeks.”

Jim Deavor, associate dean of the School of Sciences and Mathematics, organized the event from the academic side and led a “chemistry magic” show, teaching students about catalysts and chemical reactions.

“STEM education is not only important in preparing both the next generation of new scientists and engineers but also in educating all of these future voters and consumers so that they make wise decisions,” he said. “The issues of today of energy, environment and health will still be with us. To appropriately address these issues, these students need a proper foundation in science and mathematics so that they can create and apply the engineering and technology of the future in the most productive way possible.”

Professors and students from several departments at the college, along with representatives from the Medical University of South Carolina, the S.C. Aquarium and NASA, led experiments and other hands-on activities for the students, who were mostly in grades 4 through 8.

The event was followed by the women’s basketball game, where educational activities continued with science videos shown during time-outs and students answering math problems, such as figuring out a player’s free-throw percentage.

“Events like this are meant to energize and excite these students about the opportunities that exist for them and to help them to prepare for the challenges they will meet,” Deavor said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.