Dr. Silverstone Goes To Washington

May 28, 2014

Bill Nye at USA Science and Engineering festival

This spring, I have had the privilege of attending two major STEM events in Washington, DC: The US News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference and the USA Science and Engineering Festival.

The first conference was a gathering of business and education leaders. It included a session organized by STEMx, the 19-state national coalition that is sponosred by Battelle. STEMx also held a reception so that members could get to know our counterparts from other states. While there I met up with other NYS STEM Hub leaders and we discussed the possibility of holding a statewide convening here in the Finger Lakes next fall.

The second event was huge free science fair for kids of all ages. Bill Nye the Science guy was there, as was Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST Robotics. The event was huge, covering two floors of the gigantic convention center, which stretches over four city blocks.

Sara presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Dr. Silverstone  presenting at the Biodrill Exhibit

Mostly I attended not to sit in on the sessions, but as an exhibitor for a small educational start-up, BioDrill. As a vendor, I got to hold a series of conversations with many attendees and spent time visiting the other exhibitors. One such exhibitor was the National Science Foundation, where I ran into some old friends.

hands on exhibit: holding a human brain

In addition to showing off our science education kits and equipment, we gave hands-on demos on creating batteries from fruit and potatoes. It was rewarding to see the parents reveling in teaching their kids, or learning along with them, how to make a circuit. Seeing people of all ages light up with a smile at seeing as tiny little LED light being powered from fruit was a lot of fun. Several parents recalled doing this experiment (often it was the “Potato Clock” variation) and were thrilled to share it with their kids.

Some of the exhibits featured opportunities for kids and parents to experience new things for the first time together, such as holding an actual human brain.

Although it was as loud, busy and exhausting as Disney World, the Science and Engineering festival is highly recommended for parents who want to share their enthusiasm for science and engineering with their families. There was fun for all ages and it is all free. We are fortunate to have our own Imagine RIT right here in Rochester, but if you are looking for a real adventure and something very special to do in Washington DC, this is a great event.

Sara Silverstone is President of Brockport Research Institute, Vice-President of Research and Development at BioDrill Technical Solutions and Director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub. In her spare time, she plays ice hockey.


Guest Essay: NYS Should Adopt the Next Generation Science Standards

May 23, 2014

Kimberle Ward addressed Regent Norwood at the May Meeting of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub

My work with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub has been a passion of mine. The Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) have provided an equitable playing field for students throughout New York State as well as the Nation. With the implementation of the CCLS our STEM learning standards have been addressed in isolation. It is time to fully align and integrate STEM learning skills P-12.

The opportunity to speak with Regent Norwood was an honor. On behalf of educators my message was composed to share the urgency to continue the momentum of the teaching and learning improvements we are experiencing with the CCLS and adopt/adapt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Regent Norwood,

The research highlights that when provided with equitable learning opportunities, students from diverse backgrounds are capable of engaging in scientific practices and constructing meaning in both science classrooms and informal settings. The NGSS account for the changing demographics of our schools and place every child on a fair and equitable playing field.

College and Career demands the ability to problem solve by forming a hypothesis and testing it out. These are the skills our students need to be successful professionally and personally.

The demographics of our schools are rapidly changing. We are facing challenges as a result of increased poverty levels and the presence of families in the United States seeking better opportunities for their English Language Learners.

The NGSS are rigorous, they place every child on a level playing field, and they make connections to the ELA and Math standards. Our students need to be exposed to STEM learning opportunities in a world that is globally connected with competitive demands that will continue to focus on the success of students throughout the United States.

Integration of subject areas strengthens science learning. Science is currently being de-emphasized. We cannot afford to disregard the 21st century learner and learning skills K-12. We need to excite, inspire and motivate our students to use inquiry and problem solving to explore the wonders of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The NGSS provide these opportunities.

The crosscutting concepts are overarching scientific themes that emerge across all scientific disciplines. These themes provide context for new disciplinary core ideas that enable students to develop a cumulative, coherent, and usable understanding of science and engineering. Concepts are integrated and interrelated supporting a rigorous set of standards for increased learning and deep understanding.

The time is now, why wait? Teachers are embracing the shifts in ELA and Math, making the shifts in Science reachable and doable. Developing modules using the NGSS that imbed the ELA and Math standards will certainly provide a cross-discipline of learning, making it relevant and rigorous. This is critical especially for our K-6 teachers who often disregard or spend less time on Science standards due to lack of competence, confidence, and connections. the NGSS provide these connections.

With a strong engineering component present in the standards our students will have increased chances for a decent, well paying jobs. Engineering provides opportunity to inspire creativity and innovation…the very things that will position the United States to be much more globally competitive.

The progressions are critical for deep understanding of the foundational concepts of science and engineering. We can no longer teach these concepts in isolation of each other. Please, our STEM learning commitment needs to be aligned and the NGSS give us hope for improved learning in the area of Science and engineering. We cannot wait, our students deserve a set of standards that speak the language of 21st Century learning skills needed to improve and advance. This makes good sense, providing a model for innovation and commitment to our students K-12, by adopting the NGSS, will continue to motivate other States to emulate the work of our NYS educators. They have embraced and persevered the work…because they believe this is what is best for KIDs!  

Thank you.   (Presented at STEM Hub Meeting, May 9, 2014)

Kimberle A. Ward is the Superintendent of the Gates Chili Central School District.  In addition, she is the Previous Superintendent of the Naples Central School District, and taught Science at the Middle and High School levels for 14 years prior to Administration.


Exciting new Incentive Program for NYS STEM Students

May 14, 2014

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced an exciting new Incentive Program for college-bound STEM students across New York State.graphic header

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of the New York State Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program, which will encourage the best and brightest high school students to pursue high-demand, high-tech careers and build their future in New York. The program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship to the top 10% of students in every New York high school if they major in a STEM field and work in a STEM job in New York State for five years after graduation.  (May 6, 2014)

There are several eligibility criteria, such as an applicant must:

  • Be a NYS resident
  • Be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen
  • Be enrolled full time at a SUNY or CUNY college beginning with the fall term following his or her high school graduation
  • Be ranked in the top 10% of his/her high school graduating class of a NYS high school
  • Be matriculated in an undergraduate program leading to a degree in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics at a SUNY or CUNY college
  • Earn a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.5 or higher each term after the first semester
  • Execute a service contract agreeing to reside and work in NYS for five years in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics. View the terms and conditions of the service contract
  • Not be in default on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or repayment of any state award
  • Be in compliance with the terms of any service condition imposed by a state award

For more information about this incentive program, please visit the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation website.  You’ll find all the details you need, including how to apply, and special details and restrictions.


Family Fun at Imagine RIT!

May 8, 2014

Ready to go exploring!

On Saturday, our family attended the Imagine RIT Innovation and Creativity Festival. This was our first time attending, but it will definitely not be the last! There was so much to do for children of all ages, that I will definitely be marking the calendar each year for this event.  Our entire family attended, including 2 teenagers (17 and 15) and 2 elementary students (9 and 7).  We had a blast exploring the entire campus.  There were so many things to do it was hard to decide what to do first.

I really appreciated the Plan Your Day section of the Imagine RIT  Website.  You could choose from preselected itineraries (we chose Elementary and High School) as well as a build-your-own itinerary that we tried out as well.  Along with the map, the itineraries were very helpful in figuring out where we wanted to go, and what we wanted to see.  Upon arrival, we were greeted at one of the several Welcome Centers, where we received a full size map and events listing that really helped us as we navigated our way through our itinerary.

Sustainability Passport

Sustainability Passport

Some of the buildings we went through quickly, while others we really explored all they had to offer.  In the Sustainability Hall we had fun filling our a Passport at the different exhibits.  There was so much to see that you really could spend the whole day there and not see it all.

The one exhibit that we had talked about ahead of time, that was on our “must do” list was the robotic s’more maker.  Of course this was all the way at the other end of campus from where we parked, and we saw some very cool stuff on our way across campus.  From the Concrete Canoe to the Robotic Fish, there were interesting things to learn about at every turn.

The robotic fish drew a huge crowd

The robotic fish drew a huge crowd

The Cement Canoe really floats!

The Cement Canoe really floats!

Along with informational displays, there were hands-on opportunities throughout the festival.  We made pinwheels as we learned about alternative energy sources, had faces painted as we learned about eco-friendly materials and learned about electromagnetics as we tried to pop balloons with an electromagnetic dart.

We took a wrong turn trying to find an exhibit and found ourselves in the Project Lead The Way department.  This ended up being a nice little detour as my older boys (who both participate in PLTW at Brockport High School) were able to explain the many projects on display to their younger siblings.

Overall, this was a great experience and a really nice event to take the family too.  Even with a wide range of ages, we found things of interest to everyone – parents included!

Making a pinwheel to demonstrate alternative energy

Making a pinwheel to demonstrate alternative energy

If you went to the festival, RIT would love to hear from you!  Please fill out their survey to let them know about your experience.  Survey participants have a chance to win a prize if they complete the survey by May 14, 2014.

They have already announced the date for next year, so mark your calendars:  May 2, 2015.

Tammy Bonisteel works for the Fingerlakes STEM Hub and maintains the Hub Website along with the STEM Hub blog.  She lives in Brockport, NY where she is an active community volunteer.

 


Imagine RIT this weekend!

May 1, 2014
Imagine RIT

Come explore the many hands-on demonstrations at Imagine RIT!

Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival is a campus-wide event held at the Rochester Institute of Technology that showcases the innovative and creative spirit of RIT students, faculty and staff. Visitors can experience the depth of RIT through interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions, and research projects set up throughout the RIT campus. With inflatables, games and multiple performance stages with live music and entertainment, visitors of all ages will be amazed at all that Imagine RIT has to offer. In its seventh year, Imagine RIT is the kickoff to Rochester’s rich festival season.

“The festival’s mission goes beyond showcasing the thriving RIT campus. We see it as a call to national service. Innovation is one of our country’s last competitive advantages. Young Americans want to walk to the beat of their own drummer, and their desire to be different is an innate American characteristic. At RIT, we help students channel that passion in constructive ways and foster the United States’ leadership in technical innovation and creative ideas for new products and services.”
– RIT President, Bill Destler

The first Imagine RIT festival launched in 2008, drawing in more than 15,000 visitors to the RIT campus to see more than 300 interactive exhibits and displays. Now in the festival’s seventh year, Imagine RIT draws in more than 35,000 people to RIT each May to see exhibits and exciting new displays of the university’s unique talent to innovate and create. The Imagine RIT festival is a result of what happens when the right and left brain collide. With innovation and creativity being integral components of this extraordinary festival, each year the festival just seems to get bigger and better.

See the robotic s'more maker in action!

See the robotic s’more maker in action!

Hungry for innovation? The MFET Senior Design class here at RIT has created a fully automated, user interactive work-cell capable of manufacturing and assembling the delicious campfire treat known as the s’more! Consisting of robotic arms, conveyer belts, pneumatic systems, and sensors, visitors at Imagine RIT will be able to view and fully customize their s’more experience via a touch screen menu. Check out this video clip to see the robotic s’more machine in action!
Exhibitors from the MFET Senior Design team include: Josh Depot, Cory Deacon, Chung-Wei Chan, Dominic Fioretti, Patrick Adams, Scott Baxter, Nicholas Newland, Duane Beck, Erin Haier, Cody Farr, Anna Lorette, Michael Hymann, and SunWoo Ji.

The festival is held this Saturday, May 3 from 10-5.  Please visit the event page for directions and parking instructions. The festival has it’s own blog as well, if you want further updates.

John Horton is an Imagine RIT Co-op.  He graduated from RIT in May 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. His future aspirations are to continue his education and to travel.

Imagine RIT 2