Tech-savvy kids show their stuff

What was once a middle school science fair was expanded by Augusta County Schools two years ago to include six different science, technology, engineering and math categories including scientific inquiry, robotics and computer science and invention. Students combined on 172 projects.

“It’s more in-depth than just science,” Augusta County Schools Superintendent Eric Bond said of the STEM Expo. The projects test the critical thinking of students and emphasize the five C’s that are now a part of the profile of a Virginia high school graduate, he explained. Those five C’s include critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and citizenship.

Angela Deitz is the grades 6-12 instructional supervisor for STEM and gifted education in Augusta County Schools. She oversaw Tuesday’s program.

Deitz said it is important to tap the creativity of the students at a critical time of their development.

“These are the innovators of tomorrow,” she said. Students could do projects solo or in teams, and many were helped by their teachers, especially science teachers.

One of those students showing that innovative spirit was Stuarts Draft Middle School student Lauren Bryant, who is in the eighth grade. She captured first place in the eighth grade robotics and computer science category,

Her project was a small robot that swats a dog away when the dog gets near snacks. To show her project really works, Bryant provided a video of the robot doing just what it was programmed to do.  “Coding was the hardest part,” said Bryant, who said she learned computer coding when in the fourth grade. Her future career plans may involve computer coding for a hospital, she said.

Judges for the Tuesday’s STEM Expo came from Shenandoah Valley private industry, James Madison University and Augusta County Schools.

Derel Wright works as a lab technician at Hershey’s Chocolate in Stuarts Draft. He judged the reverse engineering competition. It was his second year doing so.

“The level of detail increased. The kids are more detail-oriented this year,” said Wright, a Bridgewater College biology graduate.

The number of students participating this year also increased by more than 60. Dietz said approximately 220 students participated a year ago in the STEM Expo.

Prizes given to those students recognized Tuesday were all STEM-related, Deitz said. The prizes included an Ipad, coding robots, virtual reality headsets and Rubik’s Cube.

The list of winners follow:

— Best in Show:  Joseph Pogoretskiy and Austin Paynter, Stewart Middle School for “The Dismantling of the Voltaic Hog.”

First place winners at each grade level and category:

— Environmental/Agricultural Innovation: Wyatt Marshall, 6th grade, Stewart Middle School;  Adriana Shields, 7th grade, Stewart Middle School; Britton Malcolm, 8th grade, Beverley Manor Middle School.

— Invention: Makarah Hollinger, 6th grade, Beverley Manor Middle School; Blake Rodgers, CJ Robinson, 7th grade, Wilson Middle School; Gabriel Baska and Joseph Campbell, 8th grade, Stuarts Draft Middle School.

— Reverse Engineering: Simone Marion and Marta Leslie, 6th grade, Stuarts Draft Middle School; Federico Bandoni, 7th grade, Wilson Middle School; Joseph Pogoretskiy and Austin Paynter, 8th grade, Stewart Middle School.

— Robotics and Computer Science:  Joseph Childress, 6th grade, Wilson Middle School; Summer Wallace, 7th grade, Beverley Manor Middle School; Lauren Bryant, 8th grade, Stuarts Draft Middle School.

 Rube Goldberg: Maggie Bryan, 6th grade, Stuarts Draft Middle School; Jude Forbus and Owen Baker, 7th gade, Wilson Middle School; Nicholas Jones, 8th grade, Stuarts Draft Middle School.

— Scientific Inquiry: Lily Harris, 6th grade, Beverley Manor Middle School; Olivia Wright, 8th grade, Stewart Middle School.

Source: Daily Progress


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