Summer Science Lab Camp

June 14, 2016

What happens when you have a student with a passion for volunteering combined with a love of science?  The Summer Science Lab Camp is born!  The driving force behind this camp is local high school student Julia Visconte.  For this segment of our Student Guest Blog Series,  we asked Julia to tell us about the inspiration for this program:summer fun

I started a summer science lab camp this year (being held from August 8th thru August 12th) for students from any district entering third to fifth grade. The camp encompasses five days of learning and participating in labs in relation to several different branches of science: earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. In addition, four of the five days includes a fun engineering challenge where students will work together to solve the challenge put in front of them.

The idea to create this program came to me in a conversation I had with my mom. I volunteer through notable clubs such as KEY Club and National Honor Society, participating in events like bell ringing for the salvation army and helping out at the community rec. center. One day, after volunteering I got home and told my mom I loved helping out but wished I could add more value rather than collecting money or passing out treats. After hearing my comment she asked me: “Well, what exactly would you be interested in helping in?” I pondered her question for a few days then told her about my idea of a science camp. My mom gave me full support for this idea! My dad was a little more hesitant. He was worried I was getting into something that would be too much to handle on top of the clubs I was already in, my advanced courses at school, and running long-distance on the outdoor track team. I took his criticism into consideration and replied that I was too passionate to give this idea up. He was on-board.summer science

Along with the support of my parents, I received an enormous amount of help and support from my science teachers and technology teachers at school. My physics teacher in particular was enthusiastic with my camp idea and helped me in creating it. He coordinated several conferences including a meeting with the entire high school science department, one with the principal at an elementary school, another with the principal at my own school, and one with the enriched club leader for younger students. These opportunities changed my stature in front of groups of people, I gained so much confidence from this experience. I even got a chance to pursue funding from the student council of my school, thanks to two of my friends who spoke to the advisor about my camp. I can’t even count the number of emails my teachers and I sent to get this program running. This camp helped get me a ton of exposure in the district. This experience has been really good for me and I’m really glad that I got involved with it!

Camp Details:

  • August 8-12, 2016, 9-11 AM
  • Open to students from all districts entering grades 3-5 in September
  • Camp held at Brockport High School
  • Cost is $80
  • Click here to see the flyer for more details and registration information

Julia Visconte is a rising senior at Brockport High School.  She is an active member of the National Honor Society,  Key Club and the Varsity Track Team.  She has participated in Explorers in Engineering with the Rochester Engineering Society,  and is currently involved in Project Lead the Way. She is also a recipient of the 2016 Rensselaer Medal, the 2015 Chemistry and Algebra 2/Trig Award, and the 2015 Pre-Calculus Award given at Brockport High School’s scholarship and awards night.

STUDENTS:  Are you a local student interested in writing about your experiences in local STEM activities?  We invite you to join us for our student guest blog series! Contact our Web Administrator at


Initial STEM Coach Goal Met

December 1, 2015

Earlier this month we featured the RES STEM Initiative and their call for volunteers to get more STEM coaches into area classrooms.  If you didn’t see the original blog post, you can read it here:  STEM Education is Important – and You Can Help!


The RES STEM Initiative has exceeded the 2015/16 school year starting goal to have 30 volunteer Coaches available to support STEM teachers in Upstate New York.  We filled the conference room the evening of Thursday November 5th, with STEM Coach candidates, Teachers, and School Administrators interested in building the connections that put technical people into classrooms.  Engineers, technicians, entrepreneurs, machinists or anyone with a STEM Related Background, will now begin to support hands-on STEM Delivery.  (The year-end goal is more than twice that number.)

November meeting was well attended

November meeting was well attended

The “magic” is that these people have the real-world application experience to make whatever STEM Topic their teacher/partner is pursuing, tangible, usable, and therefore worth remembering!  These Technical people not only bring concepts, but in particular, they bring the Hardware that supports STEM instruction, to the classroom.  We are offering volunteer STEM Coaches to all Rochester area school districts.  Six STEM Coaches are already working at Honeoye Falls-Lima Primary School.

Taking a closer look with Survey equipment

Taking a closer look with Survey equipment

If you have a Science Technology Engineering or Mathematics background, and are retired (or available during school hours), please consider joining this effort.

The RES is also providing Literacy Tutoring at the Dr. Walter Cooper Academy.  This is a Third-Grade volunteer initiative that also needs your support.

There is a BSA Explorer Troop run by the Rochester Engineering Society, where Teens get an eleven-week exposure to Area Engineering/Manufacturing Firms, and extensive Career-Path guidance from practicing Engineers.  We featured this Explorer Troop earlier this year on our blog.  Check out the blog post here.

For further information, please use the Contacts below:

STEM Coaching:  Jon Kriegel –  or cell: 585 281-5216

Literacy Tutoring:  Lee Loomis –

RES Explorer Post 801 Staff or Tour Options:  Richard Repka –

Jon Kriegel is a Director and Past President of the Rochester Engineering Society.  Jon began mentoring and volunteering as part of Eastman Kodak’s 21st Century Learning Challenge, and continues to volunteer today through his work as the Volunteer Coordinator at the RES.

Urgent Need for Volunteers – please share!

October 19, 2015


Earlier this fall we wrote about why STEM Education was important, and how you could help.  See the full article here.

Rochester Engineering Society’s Volunteer Coordinator Jon Kriegel has many opportunities in our classrooms that are looking for volunteers, and his focus this fall is identifying new volunteers and getting them matched up with area projects.

An informational meeting for anyone interested in volunteering will be held on November 5th at 7:00 PM at the Rochester Museum and Science Center.

This meeting is open to the public, and anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to attend.

If you are able to attend, please register so that we can make sure we have enough space and materials:  Click here to register.


Who should attend?

  • Retired Engineers
  • Engineers who work B or C shift
  • Volunteers whose employer supports community involvement during the day
  • Anyone with a STEM background that has time during the school day

What kind of Volunteer Opportunities are available?

Please share this meeting announcement.  The more potential volunteers we can connect with, the better!

For more information on this program, please call RES Volunteer Coordinator Jon Kriegel at (585) 281-5216.


Homegrown STEM Learning

November 15, 2012

Brickport Lego “Quick Build” Contest

I was honored to serve as a judge for the Second annual “Brickport”  Lego building contest on Monday. It was a school holiday and about 20 kids participated in the contest held at the Seymour Library in the village of Brockport, NY. The event was organized as a fundraiser by the Prairie Fire Twig, a group of local women who provide support to the Brockport Lakeside hospital. This Twig, led by professional working women, decided to to create an event that benefits more than the hospital, but also rewards local kids for their creativity and industriousness. I don’t usually get too excited about fundraisers, but this seems like a piece of my dream for the future: where creative thinking  and STEM learning are integral to our society.  The group simply solicited/donated prizes and snacks, had a big box of Legos and advertised the event. It cost $5.00 to enter and there were many prizes (all building kits) to be won. As we celebrated Veteran’s Day on Monday, the theme was “Honoring American Heros”.  There were lots of creative entries.

Winning entry “9/11 Heros”

The grand prize winner was a dramatic scene entitled “9/11 Heroes”. There were also a series of “Quick Build” competitions. Kids were given a theme and ten minutes to build something. They even had an adult round (our theme was “politics”) and I learned how hard this is. My entry consisting of of a little green plant did not win, but the experience sure helped me gain a measure of respect and appreciation for the kids who built frogs (“rainforest”), swimming pools (“sports”), solar-powered lunar modules (“space”) submarines (“underwater exploration”) and more with only ten minutes, a bucket of parts, and the ability to plan and design that will take them far. These are our future engineers and my hat goes to off them as well as to this creative group of women who found a way to encourage their thinking while raising money for a good cause.

This is STEM!

May 17, 2012

Michelle Kavanaugh
Honeoye Falls-Lima School District

Note:  This is fifth in a series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions. Dr. Kavanaugh was a speaker at the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Launch on May 10th, 2012. Below is the transcript of her presentation.

This is an exciting moment for regional K-12 education.  The Hub is one of the most promising supports in our mission to assure all students are college and career-ready. At a time when local employers are being forced to leave STEM-related jobs unfilled, school districts and colleges share a mandate in providing students with pathways and experiences that lead to a more vibrant future.  Together, we face a new-era Sputnik-type of imperative to change the course of education.

STEM education is a catalyst for a new tomorrow because it can engage, excite and empower.  It can lift up learning because it challenges students to think critically, collaborate and solve complex problems.  It can inspire because it is built on forging four meaningful connections.  Here is what I mean:

#1)  Connections with the Real World – Nothing is more motivating for learners than when rolling up their sleeves to do hands-on experiences that are relevant to their interests and to their future opportunities.  For example:  Solving authentic environmental problems or interning in local businesses – this is STEM!

#2)  Connections across Content Areas – Students are involved in solving complex problems when they can design new solutions and explore innovations by applying knowledge broadly across subject boundaries.  For example:  Robotics competitions – this is STEM!

#3)  Connections with Higher Standards – STEM learning is rigorous and aligned with industry standards as well as state and national core curriculum and the newly-released Next Generation National Science Standards.  For example:  the Hub’s plan to inspire student created video productions based on inquiry and media literacy, as seen in the Hub’s Video – this is STEM!

#4) Connections with Business and Community – STEM learning requires the active involvement of leaders and enlightened volunteers across economic sectors.  For example:  partnerships that support learning with the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Siemens and Xerox – this is STEM!

The Hub is poised to provide schools support for professional development, and sharing of innovative practices.  This gives us hope and great promise. A recent Hub-sponsored tour of an East Syracuse school district is an example of the work of the Hub in building local capacity through valuable networking.

On behalf of K-12 educators, we call on each of you to join us in making STEM education a local covenant for building a better future.

Michelle Kavanaugh is a member of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee.

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

Raajon engineering a tower at the RMSC provided photo


Robots and Roosters: STEM Mentor Program Visits Springdale Farm

June 30, 2010

Big Sister Taylor and her Little Sister Shalese at Springdale Farm

On June 19 the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative partnership between   The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (The Center) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester (BBBS)   – visited Springdale Farm in Ogden, New York. 

Springdale Farm provided a wealth of STEM education and activities for the Bigs and Littles in the program, which matches fourth, fifth, and sixth graders from the Rochester area with adult mentors who have a background or passion in STEM  fields.

Owned by Monroe County and operated by Heritage Christian Services, the 200 acre farm is a working agricultural education facility open to the public. It boosts a petting zoo, greenhouse, duck pond, nature trails, picnic area and playground. 

The farm is also home to Riedman Robotic Milking Center –  a working dairy that utilizes a robotic milking machine to milk sixty cows.  Springdale Farm was the first public demonstration farm in the Northeast to install this cutting-edge technology.   

STEM Mentor participants took a tour of the Riedman Robotic Milking Center and got to see this amazing technology first hand.    

Tour of the robotic milking barn

The tour elicited many questions–by the Bigs and Littles alike.  “I have a question,” said Little Brother Raajon as he watched a cow being milked and a nearby tank filling with the cow’s white milk, “Where are the cows that produce the chocolate milk?” The Springdale Farm tour guide proceeded to answer the question with great detail for the entire group.   

Little Brother Colton in the petting farm area

Raajon’s Big Brother Jim loved how the tour evoked many questions and provided great answers. “There were good questions coming from the mentors and the mentees,” Jim said. “It was really exciting to see.”    
Big Brother Ensley also enjoyed the dairy barn tour. “I found the robotic dairy barn fascinating,” said Ensley – an engineer. “There was so much I did not know. I will certainly encourage friends to come.”    

 In addition to the dairy barn tour, STEM Mentor pairs enjoyed lunch, a roundtable discussion about informal science learning, and a scavenger hunt around the farm for science prizes like kites, volcano making kits, and owl pellets to dissect.   

“It was a cool day,” said Little Brother Shamar. “I liked everything, but I liked petting the animals the most.”  

 If you are interested in learning more about or joining the STEM Mentor Program please email the program coordinator, Caurie Putnam, at  

All STEM Mentors are Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers foremost and must first go through the thorough background check and training the organization provides.  


Fun at Springdale Farm