STEM Day 2011

So, it’s the last day of November’s NaBloPoMo! I made it with a post every day! Thanks to all those who went into it with me, and helped keep me going, especially A BCPSS Parent who completed the full month of posts!

As today’s post, I wanted to expand a bit about this year’s amazing STEM Day Competition, which took place on November 17th. This was our fourth annual STEM Day.

The six events were centered around the theme: “Earthquakes, Hurricanes, & High School: How to Survive These & Other Natural Disasters”. We tried to tie in each event to some of the craziness we’ve experienced this fall, from the strongest earthquake I’ve ever felt, to Hurricane Irene, to tornadoes, and related power losses and flooding. For example, your plane hits a tornado, and you must design a protective container to safely drop you and a friend to the ground (double egg drop). Or you create a zip-line vehicle to help people escape an incoming flood. We even tried to create a storyline to the events! After all the natural disasters, you design a rocket that will transport you away from all the catastrophes happening on Earth and allow you to begin a new life on Mars 🙂 .

A student team working on their balloon-powered zipline car

The entire events description is here.

This was our largest event ever! Almost 120 students participated as competitors, in teams of 4. And more were helpers. As comparison, when we started this three years ago, we had 40 student competitors. We also invited teams from other schools to participate in STEM Day, and two other high schools and a middle school took part. Check out this write-up by one of our students in the school newspaper!

Hallway packed with students excited about STEM - even more are through the double doors at the end, and more still are in a classroom for an event!

It was also the most disorganized of any STEM Competition. We’re always running around a bit that morning to make sure things are set up and prepared. But it was moreso this time, in large part due to the great number of participants.

A couple things to make the day bittersweet. And to remind me that there are people (outside my school) I shouldn’t count on. One person had talked a big talk about sharing a bus among several outside schools we had invited to our STEM Competition. But then backed out at the last minute. Several more schools could have joined us today had that idea been followed through on. Another person, at the central office, had talked about sending various people: from their department, to the chief academic officer, to the school system’s cable access channel video crew.  This would have been a great way to publicize the great things happening at our school. But none of that materialized.

Still, we had amazing support from both the school community and from our industry & higher education partners. Our principal came down and saw what students were doing, and helped for a while with the rocket launching. Many teachers donated an hour out of their planning periods to help judge an event. Photographers from the yearbook and newspaper came down. A video team was sent by the chair of our industry advisory board and his engineering company. Many professional engineers (from local engineering firms, from nearby colleges and universities, and from government) and other community partners spent the whole day helping us as judges. So, all in all, it was a great success!

And, personally, I’d just like to add that I love my job because we get to do things like this! Planning and organizing a STEM Day each year is stressful but also awesome. Plus, I get to wear a silly hat!

Me on STEM Day, 17 Nov 2011

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