First Robotics Finger Lakes Regional Competition Begins

March 24, 2016

The FIRST Robotics Finger Lakes Regional will be held today (3/24) through Saturday (3/26) in the Gordon Field House at RIT.  The competition is free and open to the public. It’s a perfect example of what happens when you bring schools, STEM focused companies, and mentors who work in the industry to work on a STEM based project together over a short period of time.


The agenda for the competition can be found here.

A list of the 49 teams that will be competing, along with updated scores throughout the weekend can be found here.

An explanation for this year’s game can be found here.

This is the culminating weekend for the event which kicked off in January (click here to read about the kickoff).




Bio Class visits URMC Life Sciences Learning Centers

March 14, 2016

The Life Sciences Learning Center (LSLC) is a unique hands-on science inquiry center for students and community members.  It is located at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  They offer innovative and engaging programs to area secondary students.  We invited a local high school student to share her experience following a recent visit to the LSLC.

A few weeks ago, my biology class visited the University of Rochester’s Life Sciences Learning Centers. We only knew that we were doing a lab, so we didn’t quite know what to expect. Upon arriving, we donned our lab coats and sat down at our individual stations. We immediately started a lab that involved the development of an HIV vaccine. First, we studied the spread of the virus and how the immune system reacts to it. This involved exchanging fluids which could possibly contain the virus. We then tested our fluids to see who was “infected.” Our instructor then showed us how to set up gels to test the vaccines. We got to use a micropipette to place the solution in the gels, which proved to be a bit of a challenge. However, there were some future doctors and scientists who were definitely naturals. After this, we sent an electrical current through the gels. Our results helped us determine which vaccine would be the most effective.


Brockport High School Bio Students visit the LSLC

At the end of the program, our class got a photo together.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time at the learning center. I liked getting to see what doctors and scientists do every day to help save lives and advance technology. I would definitely return to do another lab.


Bridget Moyer is a 9th Grade Student at Brockport High School.

Want to learn more about the Life Sciences Learning Center?

URMC To learn more about the LSLC, visit their website or check out their facebook page to learn more about their exciting work with area students.

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




STEM Scholarship is now open for Fall 2016

March 9, 2016

The New York State Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Incentive Program application is now available for high school seniors entering college in fall 2016.stock-illustration-35725116-scholarship-stamp

The STEM Incentive Program is available to those students who:

· Are in the top 10 percent of their high school Class of 2016

· Plan to attend a SUNY or CUNY college or university in fall 2016

· Plan to pursue an undergraduate degree in a STEM program of study

· Plan to work in a STEM field and live in New York State for at least five years after graduation

· Meet other eligibility requirements listed on the HESC website.

The deadline for application is August 15.

To learn more about the program and it’s requirements and regulations, visit the HESC website.


Student Blog Series: Tell us what you are doing in STEM!

March 9, 2016

We need you There are many exciting opportunities and activities that are happening across our region.  We would love to hear from the students that are participating in these activities, so that we can share your stories and highlight what students today are interested in.

Who wants to share their experience?

Who wants to share their experience?

STUDENTS: Have you participated in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) program that you really enjoyed?

  • What did you think about it?
  • Do you think other students would like to participate in this?
  • What has this experience meant to you?

We will walk you thought the writing process, giving as much (or as little) support as you need.  If you have an experience you would like to share, we would love to hear it! If you would like to see an example of a student blog, please see our WE@RIT:  A Student’s Perspective blog.

stock-photo-14048292-wantedTEACHERS:  Writing about field trip or class experiences also makes a great group project.  If your class would like to share what STEM programming they have been excited about, we’d love to hear from you. If you would like to see an example of a classroom submission, please see our Hour of Code:  5th grade edition blog.

If you’d like to share your experience, please contact our Web Administrator at

STEM Hub meets with Regents

February 17, 2016

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Members of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee met with Regents Andrew Brown and Wade Norwood in separate meetings over the past few weeks to talk about the upcoming science learning standards and other STEM issues. Dr. Joseph Marinelli, the new director of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, described the group as a “catalyst for collaboration” in the greater Rochester region that brings K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and the many STEM-focused industries of the area to the table. “We bring together a diverse group of people,” Dr. Marinelli explained, “all focused on college and career readiness for students, and that has had a profound impact on STEM in the Finger Lakes region.” The opportunity to also include a broader state perspective from two Regents took the conversations to new heights.

Regent Norwood

Regent Norwood

Both Regent Brown and Regent Norwood described STEM issues as some of the most critical for the educational future of New York State. “We are entering a period of incredible uncertainty,” Regent Norwood warned in reference to new members of the Board of Regents, continuing disruption around APPR issues, and the upcoming changes to science standards. Speaking further about the standards, Regent Norwood also cautioned that “the Next Generation Science Standards have been very tricky for New York State. In some ways they represent what people are scared about in a state wide adoption of a national approach.” The real concern here is that the national standards might be watered down compared to where New York can and is going. “It is wise to move slowly,” Regent Norwood said, “to engage with the field to make sure that as we adopt our vision of Next Gen [Science Standards] we aren’t going backwards in any areas.”

Regent Brown

Regent Brown

The need to move forward also resonated in Regent Brown’s remarks. “There are many reports of STEM field jobs that cannot be filled. Can’t be filled now, and we are adding more jobs.” Regent Brown was cautiously optimistic for a rollout of the new state science standards in the next few months. “It seems like the science world has been looking at science standards in New York forever,” he said, “and that is a blessing and a curse.” Regent Brown was pleased with the incredible opportunities for involvement from the field through surveys and planning groups, but noted that the time had come for action. “We are getting final feedback, and once this survey completes there will be a report back to the Board of Regents. Then the hope is to move forward swiftly.” His optimism comes from a lack of pushback from the field regarding the current draft standards – a situation he credits to the long term involvement of stakeholders.

When the conversations turned to science teachers, both of the Regents noted the need for new pathways for certification that would allow STEM professionals to fill empty teaching positions. “I love science, I read about science, I follow science, but I can’t teach science,” Regent Brown stated. “We need teachers certified in the areas they teach.” At the same time, Regent Brown also called for “better ways of linking what is going on in the classroom with the real world.” He praised the efforts of the STEM Hub around industry visits noting that “bringing teachers out into the real world is a constant reminder of what students need.” Regent Norwood echoed this, calling for a renewed focus on the multiple pathways to graduation and the importance of career readiness as well as college readiness. “Focusing on school to career,” he said, “is not relegating people to lower class lives but rather opens the door for young people to have an entering wage in a career without incurring massive debt from a four year degree that isn’t being used.”

The underlying issue is that of student readiness as they enter a global society and prepare to compete in a global economy. “Readiness is quite frankly of more concern to me than graduation rates,” Regent Brown noted, “We could have 90%, even 100% graduation rate but if students are not ready for what comes next it is a meaningless piece of paper.” Regent Norwood called for Boards of Education to pledge support for STEM and STEAM and not to give in to the pressure to compete around test scores. “The song running through my head keeps my mind occupied and not the idle playground of the devil as my mother would say,” Regent Norwood said. “By sixth grade,” he challenged, “all students must understand the scientific method of inquiry and the world around them.” This includes, he went on to explain, more outdoor experiences to counter the “nature deficit disorder” he sees in many children as well as a continued need for exposure to arts and music.

In terms of outcomes, both conversations left the STEM Hub with new action items to work towards. Regent Brown encouraged the STEM Hub to continue “making connections between the education world.” This includes, he noted, “formalized connections between schools and businesses with teams of committed volunteers who understand education needs and know community resources to bridge the gap and bring services to where they are needed.” Regent Norwood welcomed greater involvement from STEM professionals in crafting the instructional materials for the new science standards. “The Social Studies Framework shows that moving to a more compelling curriculum with a more rigorous approach works against the bubble sheet regime,” Regent Norwood claimed. “Going for rigor,” he cautioned, “means going for rigor not only on the part of the students but also the adults that fund and run the education system.” Regent Norwood strongly supported the idea of the STEM Hub being involved in a collaborative effort between education and industry in the Rochester region to build new instructional materials using open source content and resources from providers like

Christopher Harris is the Director of the School Library System of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership and a Fellow for Youth and Technology Policy Issues with the American Library Association.  He is an active participant on the STEM Hub Steering Committee.


2016 FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff

January 28, 2016
frc-stronghold-blockA few weeks ago, January 9th, local FIRST Robotics teams gathered at Spencerport High School to watch this year’s challenge be announced.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization that is meant to inspire students to become interested in science, technology, math, engineering, and entrepreneurship through robotics. Within FIRST, there is the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC), FIRST Lego League (FLL), and FIRST Lego League Jr (FLLJr). For FRC, every year in January, a new challenged is released to teams all over the world followed by a 6 week building period. After the build season is completed, teams compete in regionals across the globe. Qualifying teams move onto a championship with over 600 other teams in attendance.

This year’s challenge is FIRST STRONGHOLD. Teams will score points by crossing their opponent alliance defense, throwing “boulders” into openings in their opponent’s towers, and then hoisting their robot onto bars attached to the tower, all within 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Alliances are made of 3 teams and are rotated throughout the competition. The video below details all the difficulties in this year’s challenge:

The local regional will be taking place Thursday, March 24 – Saturday, March 26, 2016 at the Gordon Field House at RIT. 50 teams from across NY, Canada, and even one from Florida, will be competing locally this year. For more information on the Finger Lakes Regional, check out:
If you want a preview of the robot action that will take place at the regional, Penfield High School’s team, Rolling Thunder, will be holding a scrimmage event on Sunday, February 21st,  from 10AM to 4PM at the school. For more details, check out

 For more information on FIRST:

Dan Schneiderman is an organizer, web developer, and maker. He is currently co-chair the Rochester Mini Maker Faire, a member of the Finger Lakes Regional STEM Hub, and is working on a few interactive light projects. Within the past year, he has helped schools with their Maker programs, volunteered at FIRST Robotics events, and hosted LED throwie experiences. He recently left his job to focus on expanding the maker movement within Rochester.

New Year, New Director for Finger Lakes STEM Hub

January 22, 2016


The Finger Lakes STEM hub is pleased to announce the appointment of our new Director: Joe Marinelli

Joe takes over the reins from Sara Silverstone, who was the Founding Director of our Hub. Joe has been an active member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub’s Steering Committee since his retirement in 2012,  after 18 years as Superintendent of Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES. Prior to joining the Steering Committee, Joe served on our Board of Champions.

Joe Marinelli, Ph.D

Joe Marinelli, Ph.D

As a member of the Steering Committee, he played a significant leadership role in  the development of our Strategic Plan, and in our efforts to reach out to our regional BOCES districts and our NYS Regents. In addition to his new role with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, Joe continues to serve as the Vice President for Exploring with the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

We asked Dr. Marinelli to tell us a little bit about himself and the future of the STEM Hub as he sees it.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am a native New Yorker, but spent many years in Florida. I graduated from the University of Florida with BS in psychology and Masters in counseling. My Ph.D is in Ed Admin from University of Wisconsin-Madison. After serving as  a rural high school counselor and administrator, and attending UW, I was awarded a fellowship to learn about the federal education political arena at the headquarters of the Council for Exceptional Children in DC. That led to a job as Washington Lobbyist for Florida’s Commissioner of Education.  I was Associate Superintendent in Orange Co.(Orlando) FL and Superintendent in Livonia, MI, a Detroit suburb. In Orlando I handled state and federal governmental relations, strategic planning, grants development and management and the district’s foundation. Because of my interest and experiences in lobbying on behalf of education and in particular, educational opportunity for all students, I became active in state and national associations, eventually serving as president of both the Florida Association of School Administrators and National Association of Federal Education Program Administrators.  During my tenure as District Superintendent of the Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES, I served as president of the Association of Educational Service Agencies. I am married to the former Becky Slavis, a journalist at the Orlando Sentinel. We enjoy traveling, visiting family and friends, and collecting art glass.

How/when did you become involved with the STEM Hub?

My interest in STEM precedes involvement in the STEM Hub. As far back as 2005 our BOCES began to pay attention to what futurists were saying about workforce and economic development and the growing need to create interest in and prepare individuals for jobs in STEM careers. As a new strategic plan priority and early adopter of STEM, we created enrichment programs in STEM, career tech programs in renewable energy and engineering technology, home energy audit technician training, online accelerated STEM courses and expanded professional development offerings. When the Hub was created the BOCES superintendents were invited to be members of its Board of Champions. I have been involved in the Seneca Waterways Council of the Boy Scouts of America for a number of years,  but since retiring from BOCES in 2012 I have served as its VP for the Exploring Program.  It is a career education and mentoring program whereby businesses, associations and government agencies sponsor units at their locations so youth get hands on knowledge of careers offered by those sponsors. Growing units in STEM and locating units accessible to youth are priorities. I have represented that program while on the Hub’s Steering Committee.

Why did you want to become the new Director?

I felt that my commitment, experiences, active involvement on the Hub’s Steering Committee and available time would allow me to build on our successes with Sara Silverstone as our director, and advance our STEM agenda. Serving as a judge for the youth STEM advertising awards, member of the professional development conference and strategic planning committees, initiator of annual meetings with members of the Board of Regents and potential additional partnerships with the BOCES have all contributed to my interest in the position.

What future projects or events are you most looking forward to?

We should keep in mind our mission, vision, core values and commitments as we consider future projects and events. To paraphrase, we are a catalyst for collaboration among business, education, community organizations, individuals and government entities. We leverage diverse resources to advance the interdisciplinary teaching and learning of STEM disciplines for sustained economic vitality in our nine county region. We are committed to college and career readiness among students and pathways to achieve them. We create, sustain and enrich partnerships, and assure access to and awareness of STEM opportunities. We are a catalyst, enabler and accelerant in the region. Currently, there are three priority areas, professional learning, community awareness and involvement, and student impact.

In light of the above,  it is important to note that, while we sometimes carry out projects directly as we currently do in those three priority areas, we also create conditions whereby organizations can come together and partner or support each other’s endeavors. My thoughts for consideration are the following:

1. The Hub’s need for sustainability which requires us to examine how we are organized and seek the resources to carry out our mission, be it by memberships and/or grants.
2. Related to the project above is for us to capitalize on the value we can offer to all of our 3 constituencies, k-12, higher education and business and industry, and consider offering services currently unavailable to them.
3. An area in our strategic plan which needs to be addressed is the provision and accessibility of hands on career education, including pathways to careers, and mentoring opportunities in STEM for young people. This has been expressed in survey results by local school district personnel.
4. We should broaden our professional development services and give k-12 instructors opportunities to engage with STEM  businesses and higher education training programs to better understand the skills needed to be employed in those fields.
5. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is an important body whose economic and workforce development priorities in STEM should be monitored so that we can be a player in supporting those initiatives.
6. I envision a STEM Hub website that is the “go to” clearinghouse in our Hub region for current information about STEM organizations, reliable resources, sound references, events, recognized quality programs, etc. This is currently a work in progress.
7. It has been several years since we reviewed our strategic plan. It is time to consider examining and updating it as appropriate.

As we go forward I know that other suggestions will surface for us to consider as well.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

For those of you who have not attended our Steering Committee’s monthly meetings on the second Friday of each month at the RMSC,  let me invite you join us to hear at each meeting what’s happening in each organization represented at the table, network and collaborate with other advocates, lend your advice and counsel, add to the energy and diversity of resources represented and actively support the activities we carry out directly.

The STEM Hub congratulates Dr Marinelli on his appointment and looks forward to a successful 2016 and beyond!