Recently, several teachers and an IPEI member have been planning a STEM fair to take place at IHS after school on May 15. The fair is planned as a continuation of events focused on making middle-school students more aware of the STEM opportunities available in the district.
These events have all been fairly similar in the past. Code Red would often show up and drive around one or two of their large robots. IHS’s Technology Student Association (TSA) chapter would bring a sometimes-operational catapult, a few CO2 dragsters, and many of its past trophies. Other STEM-oriented clubs at IHS, as well as DeWitt Middle School’s TSA chapter, were also frequent participants. The gatherings drew mostly parents and younger kids.
In this vein, a major motivation for IHS’s upcoming STEM exhibition—called “Growing STEM in ICSD”—is “to strengthen understanding and vision of STEM possibilities for middle-school students so that students see the range and richness of possibilities available to them as they head into high school, college, and beyond,” according to Ms. Wilkie, a teacher working on a special assignment to promote interdisciplinary curriculum. Wilkie is a primary organizer of the exhibition.
However, Growing STEM in ICSD is planned to be far more ambitious than its predecessors. “We are broadening our outreach to high-school students this year, in order to get more of them exposed to the local college organizations and businesses that are engaged in STEM work,” Wilke said.
In addition to the regular crowd of IHS clubs, Wilkie is expecting a slew of local businesses such as MiTeGen, which designs and builds devices used in seeing on the molecular scale through crystallography and X-ray diffraction; GrammaTech, which creates cybersecurity products; and Quinn Energy, which according to its website performs “optimization of distributed energy resources at the microgrid scale and nanogrid scale.” Cornell University’s Biomedical Engineering Society and Xraise, which promotes science for pre-college students, as well as Ithaca College’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Computer Science, all plan to make an appearance, among many other organizations. All told, Wilkie expects at least 20 organizations to come.
Past STEM events have been about more than just showing off Ithaca’s STEM resources. “Having all of the folks in one place for an afternoon last year allowed some terrific connections to take place; people came to know each other and those conversations led to new understandings and possibilities among all of us,” Wilkie said.
It was also evident that an exceptional amount of work is going into Growing STEM in ICSD. In addition to Wilkie, Ms. Gray, who heads IHS’s Science department, Ms. Kiechle, who co-advises IHS’s TSA chapter, and Illa Burbank of IPEI’s Ithaca STEM Advocates were all involved. Wilkie said that “we also depend on local organizations to support this event with… snack food donations,” and that “ICSD transportation is helping make it possible for all students to have transportation home after the event.”
Growing STEM in ICSD will be held at IHS on Monday, May 15, from after school until 5:15 p.m. “We are working on a comprehensive plan to improve and grow the opportunities for kids, and this is part of that effort,” Wilkie said.