STEM Conference Motivates Eager Students

By Jonathan Zaika’ 15 & Bazit Bisiolu ‘15

Students in the AutoCAD classes got a new perspective on STEM careers at the National Stem League convention last month. The NSL was created to help get students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, or to at least be more aware of their choices. They were also aided by the ArmyEdSpace, a program funded by the U.S. army to support education in a wide variety of subjects.

“I think the exposure to the different engineering careers really motivated my students to expand their knowledge of the STEM fields,” said Ms. Lisa Ali.

She was pleased that the students were exposed to how autocad was incorporated in different high-ranking careers outside of the classroom. Ms. Ali is hoping that she’ll be able to take her students on other trips to explore more engineering fields in the future.

“I’m so happy with the outcome of the trip, it was a success,” said Ms. Ali. “There were nine other technology high schools at the competition, it was such a rewarding feeling that my students placed third although we are not specifically a technology based high school.”

The conference was surprising. Instead of a long lecture about how important STEM programs can be, students were given challenges relating to STEM careers.

Brandon Marsi ‘15 said, “I was completely surprised when I found out that I was competing against different schools.”

Sean McDonnell ’15, “I was expecting to sit in an auditorium and listen to a lecture but instead I was put into a competition.”

The meeting was held in Medgar Evers College and hosted different high schools. Midwood was the second to arrive. Walking in we were told we would be a part of the green team then we each received green shirts. Once everyone had put on their new shirts, we were lead to the auditorium. To the side of the stage there were robots ranging from drones, remote controlled cars, rovers, to a 3D printer. The 3D printer was printing something that we wouldn›t know till the end of the day.

“The 3D printer caught my attention because we had a chance to see it up close and in action.” said Brandon.

“This was the first time that I saw a 3D printer and I was amazed,” said Sean. “On top of that, I saw many different robots and even had the chance to drive one.”

After sitting we were greeted by Yuri, who didn’t look like the typical speaker. He was tall with a long beard resembling those of the Duck Dynasty cast. He was lively and greeted us with, “What’s up Midwood!” He got the name wrong a few times but he eventually got it right. We were introduced to our group leader, a soldier who handed out red tickets and explained that at the end of the day we would be having a raffle for an unknown prize. He told us we would be participating in challenges against other teams broken into three categories: Rover, Racing, and Innovation/Energy challenges. We would be playing for a prize that would be revealed to us during one of the challenges.

Then there was the chant. Whenever Yuri would ask, “Where you at green?” we would respond “Army Strong!” as loud as we could. It broke the ice and brought a little competitive spirit after he started comparing which groups were the loudest. After introductions were over for our school, others soon began to enter. Soon the auditorium was filled with different group’s colors such as green, blue, red, brown, and yellow. Once all schools were introduced, we were sent to separate challenges, two schools per challenge.

First was the Innovation & Energy challenge. In this competition we were instructed to create an innovative idea and then create a presentation to market our idea or we could create a logo for a racecar. We were given only 10 minutes to come up with the idea and present it to a judge, who would then choose which teams would present at the end of the day to all the schools. We came up with some interesting ideas like “Pika Energy,” an idea that was supposed to provide energy to hospitals and “MJ Autos,” a company name created for one of the racecars. Sadly we weren’t able to present our companies in time and ultimately lost the challenge and the 100 team points awarded for it.

Melanie Martinez ‘15 said, “My least favorite challenge was the marketing challenge because we weren’t given enough time to think of a good product.”

Second was the Rover challenge. In this challenge we were given a worksheet, several tasks, and a little machine with two buttons, each connecting to its own LED light. The worksheet as well as an instructor taught us the basics of binary code. The tasks provided ranged from deciphering a hidden message to creating our own unique sentences. Because binary code is only composed of the numbers zero and one, we used the little machine with LED lights to convey the binary message. Holding one button, turned on one LED light, represented a zero and holding both buttons, turned on both of the LED lights, representing one. The team that completed each of the tasks first, was awarded with team points. Luckily, we were the first to decipher the code and the first team to create our own sentence gaining 130 points for the school. We even got to the see the 3D printer’s completed model, a miniature green racecar.

”Out of the three challenges the Rover challenge intrigued me the most because I have never heard about binary code,” said Alex Rubinchik ‘15.

Last was the Racing Challenge. This was where we learned that the prize of the competition would be a remote controlled car for the school. In this challenge there was a whole room filled with racecar lanes. Each lane contained a race car and a controller. Each school was told to create two lines, one at the start of the lane and one at the end, with approximately 10 people in each line. We were instructed to drive our racecar forward while following behind it. Once we reached the end of the lane, we would pass off the controller to a teammate in the second line. We would continue this pattern until the first person who started the challenge received the controller again. After several competitive rounds, our team came out on top and won the challenge earning another 100 points.

Brandon said, “Out of the three challenges the Racing challenge was my favorite because it was the most interactive and all of my friends and I got a chance to steer the race car.”

Once all challenges were complete the schools gathered in the auditorium to hear the chosen presentations, draw raffle tickets, and find out which school would win the prize. At the end of the day when all of the scores for all of the teams were added up, Midwood received third place with 235 points. Even though we lost, we enjoyed the trip and learned about the STEM program.

“This trip was very insightful because I learned about the many ways that the US Army uses this technology in their everyday operations.” said Alex.

“I enjoyed this trip because it was different,” said Brandon. “This trip was very interactive and hands-on. I had a chance to compete against several different schools and I enjoyed every moment of it.”

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