News from the STEM Office
STEM outreach in Illinois and Michigan
Posted on: March 11, 2014 08:00 EDT by Sarah Durkin
During Spring Break in March 2014, LT Meredith Botnick, professor in the USNA Aerospace Engineering Department, traveled across Illinois and Michigan to promote STEM outreach, and was joined by 3 midshipmen.
LT Botnick visited 3 schools in Illinois: Urbana Middle School (Urbana, IL), Countryside School (Champaign, IL), and Aux Sable Middle School (Plainfield, IL). She brought a variety of hands-on STEM activities to engage the students in science and engineering. About 100 kids in grades K-6 at the Champaign and Urbana schools, learned engineering design principles as they built different types of gliders and rocket cars. They investigated electrical circuits using "energy balls", and tested their logic and strategy skills with Rubik's Cubes. At Aux Sable Middle School, LT Botnick met with two faculty members to help them launch a STEM program at the school. In addition to discussing a several different projects, she provided them with lots of materials to use as they get their program up and running.
MIDN 3/C Whitney Heer, Cullen Hanks, and Andre Evans met LT Botnick in Chicago, IL, where the group visited the Museum of Science and Industry, and then traveled to Albion, MI to help run a girls STEM camp at Albion Junior High School. Prior to the event, the group met with the district STEM coordinator and a dozen 7th and 8th grade girls to help train them to run modules, providing a STEM leadership opportunity for this select group. The following day, 60 girls from 4th-8th grades attended the day-long camp. The USNA group led a variety of modules, including the science behind tie dye, non-Newtonian fluids, Lego robots, and Vet Neuroscience.
LT Botnick described how the Naval Academy group rose to the challenges of the day: "Myself and the midshipmen really took away a lot from this trip, in addition to bringing STEM to some very underserved communities. We are used to working mostly with older kids, so we really had to stretch our mental muscles to learn how to reach much younger students, as well as flex when things don't go perfectly to plan."
MIDN 1/C Whitney Heer described the impact of the event on the girls, as well as herself: "I enjoyed helping the girls learn about science and math. They had no idea that tye dying a t-shirt was chemistry. I learned a lot about how others see themselves based on the environment that they are raised in. I also learned a new way to multiply from a seventh grader."
"Being a part of this program was a great opportunity for me," said MIDN 1/C Cullen Hanks, "Many of the students admitted to never looking at STEM in the way that we showed it to them, and they said it was a lot more interesting than they imagined. It's always rewarding to interest the younger generations in STEM. I hope to continue to participate in STEM outreach events such as this."
All involved agreed that STEM outreach is a fulfilling way to spend Spring Break. The activities were a success, as the student participants were inspired to look at STEM in a new way.