2011 Xerox Science Challenge Day

May 26, 2011

As I entered building 335 on the Webster campus on Tuesday morning, I could tell that today was not a normal day at Xerox.  The cafeteria and the conference rooms were filled with sounds of chatter and excitement as 140 elementary students from 15 different schools in and around the city of Rochester, prepared for the Xerox Science Challenge Day.

The Xerox Science Challenge Day is an annual event organized by the Xerox Science Consultant Program.  The program challenges local elementary students to participate and compete in one of two primary events, The Invention Convention and The Engineering Structures Competition.

The Invention Convention allows students in grades 3 through 6 to display and present their inventions to challenge day attendees, other participants, and a team of judges.  Each inventor is required to display their invention and give a short presentation.  The inventions and inventors are judged based on a series of criterion including creativity, marketability, communication and salesmanship, use of resources, use of the invention process, enthusiasm, quality of display, and design and construction.

A'sana and Anthony, 5th graders from Nazareth Academy, present their invention The Smell Good Shoe!!

The Engineering Structures Competition involves students in the creation of structures using basic concepts of engineering.  The students are challenged to create strong structures using the smallest possible amount of materials (straws and paperclips).  Results are determined by piling an increasing number of weights onto the structures until they finally collapse.  Each structure receives a score based on the amount of material used and the amount of weight the structure can hold.

Students from John Walter Spencer School No.16 test the weight capacity of their structure.

Matthew, a 5th grade student from school #16 in the city of Rochester described the structure building process. “We spent a few days during science class building and testing our structures.  You see, you want to build a structure with the least amount of straws and paperclips that will hold the most weight.  I was able to build and test 3 different structures in class before coming up with this structure.”  Matthew went on to say that the competition was not about winning but having fun with science. “This has been the coolest thing we’ve done in science class so far this year, other then dissecting frogs.”

Winners from both competitions were announced in a short ceremony at the end of the event.

To learn more about Xerox Science Challenge Day and the Xerox Science Consultation Program contact Mike Long at scienceconsultantprogram@xerox.com

Article and photos by Katie Monroe, RACCEMS Graduate Student.

Meet a STEM Mentor Pair: Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon

May 5, 2011

Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon photo by Caurie Putnam

by Caurie Putnam, coordinator, STEM Mentor Program

From time to time The STEM Blog profiles pairs from the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative collaboration between The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (RACCEMS) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

This program matches adults with a career, education, or interest in science, technology, education, or math (STEM)  with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from the Rochester area.  STEM Mentor pairs – also called “Bigs” and ”Littles” –  meet once a month to engage in a STEM related activity or outing. 

All STEM Mentors first go through the thorough background check and training process to become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon, age 9,  have been part of the STEM Mentor Program since its inception in Fall 2009.  The pair is extremely active in the program and enjoy doing STEM activities both with the group and together – often far exceeding the requirement of one STEM interaction a month.

For example, here are the STEM activities the pair did in March 2011: 1)  Created a paper mache solar system 2)  Attended a HO Model Train Display  3)  Played a computer game where Raajon was a “surgeon” operating on patient (30 minute limit) 4) Played chess 5)  Cooked a dinner – Raajon helped with the measuring

Jim and Raajon at the Corning Museum of Glass in December 2010

Over the course of their time in the program Raajon’s interest and enthusiasm towards STEM involved activities has flourished.   

Here is an example of his excitement as Jim recalls their visiting the Rochester Museum and Science Center this month for Opening Night of the Dinosaur exhibit:

Raajon was so excited he couldn’t eat his dinner beforehand, and couldn’t eat much of the snacks [at the museum] — but nevertheless he bounded and bounced back and forth through the exhibits for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Another great example was Raajon’s own quote as he was driving with Jim and his wife to the Corning Museum of Glass for a fun-filled day of science in December. Before they even arrived at the museum Raajon said:

This day has already been great!  Why, already we have seen seven [science] things:  hawks, road kill, three live deer, cows, horses, a salt mine [he remembered RMSC’s multi-media presentation on the American Salt Company] and a cheese factory! 

As the coordinator of the STEM Mentor program I’ve had the opportunity to witness many wonderful interactions between Jim and Raajon where Raajon’s eyes light up with excitement during a discovery. Jim is constantly encouraging Raajon to ask questions, dig deeper, and think like a scientist. Here is a wonderful example of that in Jim’s words:

Raajon likes to ride with the car window down, and noticed the intermittent “whoosh” sound when our car passes parked cars.  His two partial hypotheses: because there’s air between the cars, and because the street is wet which makes more noise.  I acknowledged that each had something to do with it, but challenged him to find a more complete explanation before July 4th.  He liked the challenge very much.  

Thank you to Jim and Raajon for adding so much to the STEM Mentor Program and allowing me to share their story!

If you are interested in learning more about the program please email Caurie Putnam, program coordinator, at cputnam3@zimbra.naz.edu

Raajon engineering a tower at the RMSC provided photo