After more than two years with few fields trips, Greater Hartford area students’ excitement was unmistakable as they crowded around peers’ science project displays and took part in hands-on science experiments on a gorgeous May day at Trinity Health Stadium. The STEM Day sponsored by the Hartford Athletic also included the opportunity to watch a United Soccer League exhibition game against the Boston Bolts, which Hartford Athletic resoundingly won 4-0.
Connecticut River Academy science teacher Jason Borger (pictured above right), the faculty advisor for a team of seven ninth graders who competed in the STEM project contest, commented on how hard this year has been, and how badly the day of fun was needed for both students and teachers.
“This is the uplifting moment I’ve needed all year,” he said. “This is why I teach.”
The Academy is a high school located on the banks of the Connecticut River at Goodwin College in East Hartford, and Borger’s students chose a project to showcase who they are as a school.
“Our school is connected to the river, our classrooms are only 25-30 feet from it, so students started conversations asking, ‘What would happen if a flood comes?'” said computer science teacher Priya Rajagopal.
The students learned about the 1936 flood that decimated Hartford and wanted to find out what would happen if a similar flood were to happen again and how its effects could be mitigated. They took pictures to help measure the size of the buildings on campus as well as nearby landmarks and created scale models using a 3D printer in Rajagopal’s computer-aided design (CAD) class. They then used a stream table to model how their different solutions played out.
“Teaching day-to-day in the classroom and managing students’ behaviors, sometimes it’s hard to see the bigger picture,” said Borger. “Out here, seeing how invested students are in their project and how well they present it to other students and adults, it really fills my tank. Our students were interviewed by Channel 8, which was a really cool experience for them. Giving kids something to be proud of like this is really special.”
“This experience is so important for them to know the different possibilities that are out there, we’re big on a career focus at our school,” said Rajagopal.
Rajagopal, a former software engineer, organized a Girls Who Code club at her school this year, and representatives from the club were also at STEM Day to demonstrate what is possible through coding and robotics.
“We have high school students teaching middle and elementary school students,” Rajagopal said. “It gives them extra support to think about pursuing technology careers.”
CREC Academy of Science and Innovation sixth grade STEM teacher Mike Kane said his students were well prepared for the challenges of their project. “The children already knew how to identify a problem and develop steps to solve it coming into my class. Now they’ve really taken it to the next level and are working to make the world a better place.”
Fellow teacher Rob Genuario said, “This STEM Day really helps students to see the possibilities of STEM. It’s great to see how excited the students are to show off their projects to kids from other schools.”
All students presenting projects for the STEM contest hoped to win, but the grand prize, awarded during the exhibition game’s half time, went to Kane’s students, Aaditya Sadhvani, Rithvik Suren, and Nehemiah Victor from the CREC Academy of Science and Innovation.
The $1,000 top prize from Hartford Athletic’s Green and Blue Foundation was awarded to the sixth graders for a project on climate change. The students used a solar cooker to simulate global warming and demonstrated how a thermoelectric plate can be used to create electricity from the heat.
Ongoing Support for STEM
Wallingford teacher Chris Stone and other staff from his CT STEM Academy enrichment program had stations set up throughout the morning with activities for students to try out hands-on experiences with STEM.
Stone’s station allowed students to launch paper tubes up into the air. “In the classroom, with this activity teachers can experiment with different variables, different materials,” he said.
In addition to supporting events like Hartford Athletic’s STEM Day, the Academy runs Family STEM Nights, summer camps, weekend and evening programs, and offers field trip opportunities for schools.
Stone is also holding workshops for interested educators this summer through his Connecticut Educator STEM Leadership Institute, which will highlight the importance of being culturally responsive in the field of STEM Education. Find out more.