Teens Feelings about STEM – New Data from Lemelson-MIT

May 27, 2010


The 2010 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, an annual survey that gauges American teens perceptions about invention and innovation, reveals some telling information about their feelings towards STEM subjects (science, technology, education and math). 

Of the teens surveyed for this year’s report: 

–  77 percent showed  interest in pursuing a STEM career

 – 85 percent wish they knew more about STEM in order to create or invent something 

  – 66 percent identified field trips and other activities outside of the classroom as the best way they can learn about STEM subjects

– 75 percent chose hands-on individual projects and hands-on group projects as the types of classroom-based educational methods they enjoy most

– 43 percent said that role models in STEM fields would increase their interest in learning about these areas

One program at The Center for Excellence in Math and Science that incorporates several of the needs identified in the Lemelson-MIT survey is the STEM Mentor Program.  Our STEM Mentor Program is a collaborative initiative with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (BBBS) to increase interest, excitement, and exposure to informal STEM education and professionals.

 Mentors (or “Bigs”) in the program all have a background, career, or interest in the STEM fields.  The Bigs share their STEM excitement with Littles –  who have been identified by BBBS as having an interest in STEM subjects. 


“Littles” from the STEM Mentor Program have a hands-on STEM experience with a STEM professional from the Seneca Park Zoo.


The STEM Mentor Program facilitates field trips and hands on activities for the Big/Little pairs – things identified as important to teens in the Lemelson-MIT survey. 

The program also gives the Littles something the Lemelson-MIT survey found lacking on a national level – exposure to adults in the STEM fields.  Just 51% of teens surveyed said they knew someone who worked in a STEM profession.  

 Another mentor program aimed at increasing hands-on STEM learning and direct access to STEM professionals is Lemelson-MIT’s InvenTeams High School Invention Grants.

 InvenTeams is a national program.  Teams of high school students, teachers, and mentors receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. such as a temperature-sensitive color-changing roof to combat global warming.

 For more information about Lemelson-MIT’s InvenTeams High School Invention Grants visit: http://web.mit.edu/inventeams/index.html

 For more information about the STEM Mentor Program email Caurie Putnam, program coordinator, at  cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

Meet Mr. Robert Hollwedel – Nominee for 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award

May 24, 2010

“Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  – Robert Hollwedel, Nominee 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award


Mr. Robert Hollwedel - Nominee for the 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award

The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science is pleased to introduce Mr. Robert M. Hollwedel – a technology education teacher at Alexander Middle/High School – as a nominee for the 2010 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award.

This award is given annually to recognize effective, engaging, and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teaching in grades K-12 in the following New York Counties: Monroe, Cayuga, Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates.

Mr. Hollwedel, who is also the Co-Chair of his school’s MST Education Department, was nominated for the award by Kathleen Maerten – Superintendet of the Alexander Central School District .

While interviewing Mr. Hollwedel for this article, it quickly became apparent what makes him a phenomenal teacher:  he loves what he does.  After twenty-seven years as a technology teacher (twenty-six of which have been at Alexander Middle/High School) Mr. Hollwedel still exudes passion for teaching technology.

“My career choice has been extremely positive and exciting,” Hollwedel said, “I’ve learned quite a bit from my students. We’re a team – my classroom is as much my environment as theirs.”

Mr. Hollwedel was drawn to technology while a high school student himself. “I was always a hands on person,” he said, “I always found myself in ‘the shop’ with teachers that motivated and supported me.”

Hollwedel earned his bachelor and masters degrees in industrial arts at Buffalo State, but also has an associates degree in criminal justice from Genesee Community College.  He has a special affinity for teaching high risk students. “I have always enjoyed the task of having these students rise to a challenge and find success,” Hollwedel said, “Even those in the high-risk category [can] achieve success in a progressive, purposeful endeavor.”

One such endeavor is the Genesee Community College’s Tech Wars – in which Hollwedel is a founding member and active contributor. Tech Wars allows high school students in the  to utilize the “hands on” approach to STEM learning that Hollwedel espouses.

Emphasing teamwork, Tech Wars participants work together to build things such as robots and bridges.   This year 330 students from sixteen schools in the GLOW Region (Genesee, Livingston, Ontario and Wayne Counties) competed. “Tech Wars is such a neat, positive program,” Hollwedel said, “It is an awesome place to see kids who did not ever think they could do something engineering related succeed. It is not the win that is important, but the light in their eyes when they make their robot go.”

Deborah Dunlevy, the College Tech Prep Director at Genesee Community College, works closely with Hollwedel on Tech Wars. “Mr. Hollwedel has a passion for teaching that everyone would love to see in all teachers,” Dunlevy said. “Most of the activities I have seen Bob involved in are outside of the classroom and the school day which only emphasizes his dedication to students…he doesn’t have a job; he has a career.”

Inside the classroom, Hollwedel is just as passionate and innovative.  In response to the national need to get girls more involved in STEM education and a need he saw in his own school, Hollwedel recently redesigned an elective technology course to make it more appealing to young women.  The course – which was formerly an architectural based drafting class, is now called “Designs on a Dime” and focuses on interior design and floor plans for homes and businesses.

Such action exemplifies what Alexander Secondary School principal Shannon Whitcombe wrote about Hollwedel in his nomination letter: “Bob does a great job identifying program gaps and looks for ways to promote math, science and technology courses to all students.”

One student whose life has been changed by Hollwedel is Ethan Willard.  Willard, who attends Alfred State, was a student in many of Hollwedel’s classes and participated in Tech Wars under his tutelage.  Said Willard, of his Tech Wars experience, “‘H’ [how many students refer to Hollwedel] took a group of kids, some which knew nothing about technology, and gave them something to be proud of and remember.”

Willard also said: “‘H’ is my biggest role model and the reason why I chose to go to college for mechanical engineering technology. ‘H’ was more than a teacher; he was a friend and mentor to all of his students.”

Being a role model and exemplary teacher is not something Hollwedel tries to be and that is part of what makes him great.  “I try to be who I am,” Hollwedel said. “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Congratulations to Robert Hollwedel and the other four finalists: Scott Krebbeks, Andy Maillet, Laura Westerman and Robin Hill.

Visit the Rochester Area College’s Center for Excellence in Math and Science’s website to view finalist’s activities.

Article by STEM Mentors Coordinator Caurie Putnam at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

“BRAIN: The World Inside Your Head” at The Rochester Museum and Science Center

May 13, 2010

Coming May 22 through September 6, 2010 The Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) will be hosting “BRAIN: The World Inside Your Head.” 

BRAIN is a traveling exhibit that provides a hands-on and up-close look at the human body’s most essential organ by exploring its development, geography and function. Visitors can touch, sniff, listen, hold, pull, and walk on the exhibit as they delve into the inner workings of the brain!  Eye-popping effects and hands-on technology reveal how the brain learns and thinks.

Sections of the exhibit include: “Your Dynamic Brain,” “Lightning Storm,” “Wired,” “A Hole in the Head,” “The Living Brain,” and “Mystery of the Mind.”  

Within each section are numerous  interactive activities, such as “Brain Live” where you lean on electrodes and perform tasks to see real-time EEG measurements and “Nighshift” where you can play a special video game to see how sleep recharges the brain’s battery.

The “Virtual Reality” activity allows you to experience phantom limb syndrome – the sensation of feeling an amputated or nonexistent limb and “Be a Brain Surgeon” lets you use a gamma knife simulator to excise a brain tumor.

This exhibit – which first premiered at the Smithsonian – promises to bring an entertaining and valuable educational experience to Rochester.

“BRAIN: The World Inside Your Head” 

The Rochester Museum and Science Center

 657 East Avenue, Rochester NY, 14607

(585) 271 4320

Monday – Saturday, 9am to 5pm
Sunday 11am to 5pm

$12 Adults
$10 Seniors, College Students with ID, and ages 3–18
Free for RMSC members and children under 3

The RMSC is also free for STEM Mentors – a colloborative mentoring program between the Rochester Area Colleges’ Center for Excellence in Math and Science and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.  For information on becoming a mentor email STEM Mentors Coordinator Caurie Putnam at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

32,000 Experience STEM Education at 2010 Imagine RIT Festival

May 3, 2010

Sharon Deli, left, and Nyesasia Simmons from School 46 in Rochester enjoying the 2010 Imagine RIT Festival.

The campus of the Rochester Institute of Technology was abuzz on Saturday, May 1, 2010 for the school’s 3rd annual Imagine RIT Innovation and Creativity Festival.  Approximately 32,000 people came out to experience hands-on exhibits and presentations all around campus.  

The festival featured twelve zoned areas: Green Place, Technology Quarter, Computer Zone, Innovation Center, Engineering Park, Science Center, Business District, Artistic Alley, The Think Tank, Information Station, RIT Central, and the Field House.  Within each Zone were dozens of displays and 80% of the displays were unique to this year.

But it was not just the influx of new displays that made this Imagine Festival different—this year RIT worked hard to attract more Rochester area K-12 students to the event.  Ned Davis, the festival’s K-12 Educational Outreach Consultant, explained some of the steps RIT took to pitch the festival to a larger, younger audience.  These steps included presentations by Festival staff at monthly Superintendent meetings throughout Monroe County and BOCES, mass mailing of festival materials and posters to all schools in Monroe County, and emails to each school.  Davis guessed the year-long outreach effort pulled in thousands of new K-12 visitors this year.  “We really hoped to light a fire for STEM interested kids,” Davis said, “And to show them the universe of possibilities of science.” 

A large remote control vehicle platform was the favorite exhibit of many young Imagine RIT guests like Brice, of Brockport's Ginther School.

RIT’s K-12 outreach efforts brought fourth grader Nyeasia Simmons and her teacher Sharon Deli to the Festival.  Simmons attends School #46 in the Rochester City School District and heard about the festival from her teachers and administrators.  Simmons, who is part of the Green Team, also saw festival posters up at School #46.  “It is pretty cool,” Simmons said, “I love science and I love being here.” Deli was excited to bring Simmons to RIT, “I knew she would enjoy it and it is a great opportunity,” Deli said. 

K-12 educators pick up their welcome kits and drop off their raffle tickets at Welcome Tent #5. Teachers were able to register on-line before the event for promotional materials and raffle tickets.

The RIT Imagine Festival is also a great opportunity for students who attend RIT.  Jacob Sachs, a first year packaging major, spent the day volunteering at the Camera Obscure Exhibit sponsored by RIT’s special interest Photo House. “I’m having a great time,” Sachs said, “Teaching the magic of photography to kids is great.” Sachs noted the “flooded crowds” around the Camera Obscure Exhibit and said “it is awesome to see kids become fascinated by magical realism.” 

RIT students Jacob Sachs and Maggie Stockman outside of RIT Photo House's Camera Obscure exhbibit at the 2010 Imagine RIT Festival.


The date for the 4th Annual RIT Imagine Festival has already been set for May 7, 2011 so mark your calendars!  If the past three years are any indicator, next year’s Imagine Festival is sure to be even bigger and cognizant of the needs and wants of the Rochester area’s youngest science scholars. RIT is asking for feedback from those who attended this year’s festival. Click here to fill out an online survery about Imagine RIT.

Article and photos by Caurie Miner Putnam – Program Coordinator – Center for Excellence in Math and Science STEM Mentors Program cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu