Summertime STEM: Summer Camps

June 9, 2014

Summer Vacation is right around the corner!

Summer vacation is right around the corner!  Our region is filled with opportunities to engage in STEM learning over the summer.  Our Summertime STEM Series of blogs is going to look at a wide range of activities, for kids of all ages and abilities.

In this first installment, we’re going to focus on Summer Camps. Summer Camps are a great way to get immersed in a specific theme or subject. They can range from a couple of days to several weeks, and from an hour or two a day to full day programs, with residential camps an option as well.  Chances are, whatever you are looking for, there is a camp for that!  Summer camp is a summer highlight for many families, so take a look now to see if there’s something that appeals to you.  If you haven’t already, check out our School Break Camps page for a listing of many different kinds of camps in our area.  We’ve tried lot list as many camps in our area that we could find, in a variety of age and price ranges.

Do you have information on a STEM camp that you don’t see listed?  Please share with us and we’d be happy to add it to our listing.

Summer camps are a great way to get activities in without having to do all the planning yourself.  Registrations are well underway, so sign up soon if you are interested.


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.


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.


High Tech Night at MCC

March 31, 2014

Last week we attended the High Tech Night at MCC.  This Annual event is a great opportunity for students interested in Engineering and other high-tech fields to take a look at some local companies and see what they have to offer.  I attended with my high school freshman, who is a current participant in our high school’s Project Lead the Way program.  He was surprised at the many different ways companies used Engineers, and how different the jobs looked depending on what the company’s focus was.  It was eye opening to see the many opportunities there are in the Engineering and Technical fields.

One of the hands on demonstrations - plastic injection molding

One of the hands on demonstrations: plastic injection molding

Our region has many high-tech companies, and many of them were on-site to showcase who they are and what they do.  There were several booths that had video presentations, they all had staff willing to answer questions, and many of them had a hands-on component.  The hands-on displays were a huge hit, as evidenced by the crowds at these stations as teens lined up to participate.  We were able to see how contact lenses are made and the various stages they go through before being delivered to the consumer, how a 3-D printer works, and even learned how to operate a plastic injection mold to make a small screwdriver.

The RIT Racing Team's display was a big hit!

The RIT Racing Team’s display was a big hit!

In addition to the company displays, there were several colleges represented that had information on their Technology and Engineering programs.  MCC had multiple tables showcasing the many different options they currently offer, and there were also tables from Syracuse University and Rochester Institute of Technology.  RIT brought their student-made race car from their racing team, and that was a huge draw as well.

Group tours of MCC’s labs and buildings were also offered for anyone that wanted a close-up look at the facilities being used in their programs.  Between the tours and the displays, there were many ways to explore the field in an engaging manner, and my high-schooler left with a better grasp of what career paths could be in his future if he wanted to continue along the engineering path.

The Sky Op, a remote-controlled aerial videocamera

The Sky Op

My son’s favorite display was from a local company called SkyOp.  They build unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are basically a remote-controlled mini helicopter, that carries a video camera.  The staff were very engaging and were great at answering all the questions my son had about how long the battery life is (about 20 minutes), how much they cost (depends on size) and how durable they are (quite, and we got several stories of accidental landings and how well they fared).

The presenters were all very engaging and asked the students about themselves, what they wanted to study, and offered tips on course selection (take math and science, and lots of it!) as well as offering some information on internships and entry-level job opportunities.

If you have a student interested in the high tech fields, this is a great opportunity to learn more about what is available locally and to see recent developments in the field.  I would highly recommend going.  This event is run annually at MCC in the early Spring.


May the STEM of learning be with you!

May 6, 2012

Kimberle Ward
Superintendent
Naples Central School District

Note:  This is first in a series of posts by members of the Finger Lakes STEM hub Steering Committee and Board of Champions.

Working with the Finger Lakes STEM Hub committee to prepare for this exciting launch has been a real passion of mine. After teaching Biology and Chemistry for 14 years my hope was to preserve the integrity of the sciences, along with technology, engineering and math as a school district administrator. Many of my colleagues have been overwhelmed with the Regents Reform Agenda, Race to the Top (RTTT), and the many mandates facing school districts that focus primarily on English Language Arts (ELA) and Math. I shared the vision of my peers serving on this committee and taking on the challenging work of creating a local Hub. I wanted to be sure there was a formal awareness and support for school districts to maintain a strong academic program for the Sciences, Technology and Engineering while meeting the demands of educational reform in the areas of ELA and Math.

The Hub is a collaboration of people that see the benefit in teaching our students how to problem solve, use inquiry, and participate in hands-on learning through STEM, and for many through STEAM (adding an “A” for the arts). There has been recent research to support the value of a strong STEM education that can be integrated into the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). I recently read an article that voiced a real concern for Homeland Security and Secret Service type careers-they report that we do not have students pursuing STEM fields that will ensure progressive/modern improvements in the United States’ ability to compete with our global neighbors. Our job, as the Finger Lakes Hub is to work collaboratively with UPK-12 educators, Colleges and Universities, and more importantly workforce providers to make STEM learning interesting, inspiring, and fun for all students. This is hard work, but exciting work. May the STEM of learning be with you!

Kimberle Ward is a member of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub Steering Committee.


Finger Lakes STEM Hub Launch

April 30, 2012

Sara Silverstone

Each month since December of 2010 I have had the privilege to facilitate a remarkable collaborative group of leaders in education, government, higher ed and community organizations as we developed a regional Hub of the Empire State STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Learning Network. We developed a mission, vision, goals, working committees and action items for the year. In the past week we began inviting influential community leaders to join our Board of Champions. We have big plans and a wonderful, energetic and diverse group to carry them out. This is networking at its best!

Nearly every day I read about economic problems whose solution is to develop a technically trained workforce who can fill the jobs of the 21st Century. Students graduate without the skills employers are desperately seeking, and as a result, half of all of recent college graduates are either jobless or underemployed while great jobs are remain unfilled. Clearly there is a gap between what we are teaching our young people and what they need to learn in order to find good jobs.

What can leaders from business and education do about this disconnect, which adversely affects everybody?  By coming together in agreement about the elements of a high-quality 21st Century education and ensuring that that is what our students receive, the double-edged problem of unemployment and lack of a skilled workforce can be addressed. For too long, industry and education operated in separate silos, unaware and unconcerned about their common needs.

With the launch of the Finger Lakes STEM Hub, our region joins a statewide and national STEM learning network which enables all constituencies to acknowledge our common goals and work across sectors to address our nations most pressing technical and economic problems.

Over the next few weeks, participants in the Finger Lakes STEM Hub will share their perspective on how STEM education can address our most pressing problems and how the Finger Lakes STEM Hub can contribute to these solutions.


STEM Education Deemed Essential for National Defense

April 17, 2012

An independent study, sponsored and written by The Council on Foreign Relations, has recently been released claiming that the United States’ K-12 school systems are failing to prepare students to grow up and protect the country.  The report titled, U.S. Education Reform and National Security, notes that while the Unites States invests more in K-12 public education than many other developing countries, its students are unprepared to compete with their global peers.  A member of the Council’s task force, Margaret Spellings, comments that there are not enough people educated in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.  Being prepared in these fields ultimately helps our country with national defense as well as global competitiveness.   She also highlights the lack of people who know and understand foreign languages and how this affects the United States’ conflict resolution abilities and economic growth.

Members of The Council on Foreign Relations Task Force discuss the U.S.Educational System and its affect on national security.
(Photo taken from www.cfr.org)

 The Council on Foreign Relation’s task force is lead by former U.S. secretary of state, Condoleeza Rice, and former head of New York City public schools, Joel Klein.  The task force warns that unless the problems within public education are fixed, the United States will not be able to lead or even keep pace in the global economy. 

So what can our country do to fix these problems?  The reports recommend three main focus areas in order to improve the educational system and ultimately national defense. The first is to expand state standards to include STEM focused lessons and foreign languages that are vital to protecting national security.   The second is to give parents and students school choice, which includes access to charter schools and other options.  The third is to conduct national readiness audits in all schools and hold them accountable if they’re not meeting standards. 

 Members of the council adamantly encourage Americans to get involved and discuss educational issues with their local legislatures.  They believe that their message and recommendations can help to reshape education in the Unites States and put this country on track to be an educational, economic, military, and diplomatic global leader.

For more information on the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Education Reform and National Security Report CLICK HERE.


Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators

December 27, 2011

Are you a teacher, or do you know an outstanding teacher, who uses innovative approaches to teach about environmental education? The Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators (PIAEE) recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who apply innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for exploratory and integrated learning.

As discussed in the “America’s Great Outdoors: A Promise to Future Generations” report, in order to make environmental stewardship and conservation relevant to young Americans, environmental and place-based, experiential learning must be integrated into school curricula and facilities across the country.

This program recognizes outstanding kindergarten through grade 12 teachers who employ innovative approaches to environmental education and use the environment as a context for learning for their students.

“This awards program will highlight and encourage innovative ways to getter integrate environmental issues into our young people’s everyday learning experiences—helping to turn environmental education into environmental action,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe.

Two teachers from each of EPA’s 10 regional offices will be selected to receive this award.  Visit EPA’s teacher award website at http://www.epa.gov/education/teacheraward.

Applications for the PIAEE are due on January 31, 2012.


Last Minute Gift Giving Ideas

December 16, 2011

Still have some last minute shopping to do?  We’ve research and compiled several websites for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) focused gift giver.  These websites offer excellent gift giving ideas for everything from gadgets, “green” gifts, to educational toys and games for the kids.

Popular Science’s Top 12 new Gadgets for the Month of November – This site features the top 12 gadgets introduced in the month of November.  Perfect for finding a gift for the technology lover.

http://www.popsci.com/cars/gallery/2011-10/goods-november-2011?image=1

Treehugger.com’s Green Gift Guide –  Great ideas for the environmentally friendly people in your life.

http://www.treehugger.com/giftguide/

Education.com Gift guide – Tons of educational games and toys to give the little ones in your life.

http://www.education.com/gift-guide/

Radpid Refill’s Personal Technology and Gadget Round Up – This guide offers tons of cool new gadgets for everyone on your list.

http://www.rapidrefill.com/item/personal-technology-and-gadget-roundup.html?category_id=1

Good Housekeeping’s Great Gadget’s for under $100 –   A gift giving guide for the techy person in your family. 

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/gift-ideas/gadget-gifts#slide-1

Tecca.com’s Holiday Gift Giving Guide – Offers ideas for every type of person in your life.  From the music lover to the gamer and even offers ideas on how to make your own gifts. 

http://www.tecca.com/topic/holiday-gift-guide/

Home Training Tools Gift Guide –  offers great ideas for the science lover in your family.

http://www.hometrainingtools.com/2011-educational-christmas-gift-guide/a/1664/


Problem-based Learning at the Rochester STEM High School

October 26, 2011

Charles, Lway, Selena, Corrina and Kameron share their research on teen pregnancy

Yesterday I attended a poster symposium put on by students of the Academy of Health Science (AOHS) at the Rochester City School District STEM High School. Since I spent two weeks with the STEM faculty in a summer institute on teaching through Problem-based learning, I was excited to participate in the culminating activity of the first problem.

About 6 weeks ago, the students of AOHS were presented with a real life problem regarding teen pregnancy and STDs in the Rochester area.  Each Wednesday, students researched, participated in lab activities, and learned about different aspects of to this important topic.  As a culminating activity, students created a tri-fold displaying what they’ve learned and solutions to help teens with this current health crisis.

Students worked in groups of four or five and created posters to present their research. Most students found the topic deeply engaging and relevant. According to Charles Nash, a tenth grader at STEM,

“Having a baby changes your life. You lose your childhood when you become a parent..its really hard”.

I asked the students what was the most surprising information they learned though their research and learned some surprising statistics:

  • One-in-four U.S. teens get pregnant by age 18.
  • The US has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world.
  • 20% of US teens live in poverty.

Asked about their sources of information, students gave a range of responses, although clearly the internet is a primary source of information.  Several student groups cited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or told me they limited their online sources to those ending in  .gov, .org or .edu. Clearly, these students are learning not only the content, but also about the importance of distinguishing  credible from noncredible sources of online information.

In addition to asking about the research project itself, I also asked students how they felt about learning through Problem-Based Learning, as opposed to through traditional classroom instruction. All of the students I spoke with said they preferred it, believed they learned more and felt they were more likely to remember what they learned than through traditional instruction. Corrina Soto, a ninth grader at STEM summed it up nicely when she said,

“Its nice, you can teach yourself, instead of a boring lecture. It helps you know more when you teach yourself. When you put it in your own brain, it stays there”.

The research on learning backs up Corrina’s observation…active learning in context does indeed support longer-term memory. Bravo STEM HS!