Team Building as Part of STEM

Students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering work in collaborative teams of three to five students, or “crews,” every day in class as they learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We emphasize working in teams as a 21st century skill. Sometimes we also give the 7th and 8th graders opportunities to work together in team building activities, usually doing something fun. On Wednesday, after the majority of academy students had a mathematics mid-term exam for most of the morning, we gave them an opportunity to do some team building by playing the games they had designed earlier in the school year, or other team games they brought in. Some also flew the flight simulator together. All in all, the students were given the period to have some fun while forming bonds of teamwork. Here are photos of the activities:

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Focusing on the M in STEM: Preparing for Math Exams

Most students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering are studying for either Algebra I (Honors) or Geometry (Honors) exams to be taken this Wednesday. These mid-term exams will test their knowledge on all the content covered since the start of the school year. While the academy students are in middle school, which does not have exams, because the math classes are for high school credit, they require exams. To prepare for the exams, we have used a thick review guide provided by the math department in each class, and we had IXL strands for each unit. My approach has been to show the students how to break down this review into two or three day units, each of which is checked and covered before we move on to the next unit. The responsibility is mainly on the students, as I post my solutions to each unit of the review and let the students check their work against mine. Today we covered the last unit, and I am very proud of the students’ efforts to keep up with work and do a thorough job of review.

Focusing on math means that our usual approach of integrating all STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) classes has not been as strong as usual. Therefore, I have used this time instead to focus on how to apply what we have done for the math exam review as a model for other, future big projects. Big projects usually can be broken into smaller parts, each of which is easier to tackle and manage than the project as a whole. After we finish exams, I will ask the students to reflect on what they learned throughout this process so that they can get the maximum benefit from the experience. Here are photos of both 7th graders in Algebra and 8th graders in Geometry as they study and review in class:

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Retrospective of STEM Activities

Students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering have completed about half the school year, and as 2017 ends, here are some of the accomplishments and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities of these students so far this school year:

  • The 7th graders have achieved basic proficiency in science inquiry, engineering design, and researching and presenting topics, while the 8th graders have achieved advanced proficiency in these areas.
  • Here are the major engineering design projects the students have done so far:
    • 7th grade:
      • Rube Goldberg project – design and build a Rube Goldberg machine that demonstrates several simple machines.
      • Glider challenge – design, build, and fly a hand launched glider that flies the farthest.
      • Propeller challenge – design, 3D print, and fly an improved propeller to make a Guillow rubber band powered airplane fly the farthest.
      • Aerospace board game project – design, build, and play a board game that teaches and tests players in their aerospace knowledge.
    • 8th grade:
      • Model rocket challenge – design, build, and launch a model rocket that climbs the fastest and highest.
      • Re-engine/Re-imagine challenge – design and present a plan to re-engine a fleet of airliners with Pratt&Whitney geared turbofan engines, and a plan to re-imagine the use of the old jet engines — both plans were presented to and judged by Mr. Dias, school principal,┬áin a business presentation format.
      • Electric cargo airplane challenge – based on a high school/college challenge sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) – design, build, and fly a model airplane powered by two 6-volt motors to lift the highest possible amount of cargo weight (in pennies).
      • Amusement park challenge – design and present an amusement park ride that demonstrates the principles of circular motion and accounts for centripetal acceleration.
      • Aerospace arcade game – design, build, and play an aerospace themed arcade game that teaches and tests knowledge of aerospace and physical science.
  • Academy students have taken three major field trips:
  • The academy has hosted a series of speakers and mentors:
    • Two computer science professionals, Ryan Darge and Emily Failla, have given a presentation on cyber security to all students and mentored our CyberPatriot teams.
    • Engineering professionals from GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures have visited several times to mentor students in engineering projects, and Mr. Bruce Fiedorowicz of GKN gave a presentation on GKN and the aerospace industry.
    • UCONN Engineering Ambassadors, undergraduate students at UCONN who major in engineering and do outreach to middle and high schools, came and spoke to our students and did workshops with them.
    • UCONN students in AIAA came and mentored students in engineering projects and spoke about the engineering program, especially in aerospace.
    • Teenage inventor and entrepreneur, Ayana Klein of 3Dux/Design, gave a Skype presentation to our students about how she started her company.
    • Several former academy students have visited to share their experiences at Newington High School.
  • Our two CyberPatriot teams have completed two rounds of the competition and are currently #2 and #3 out of eight active middle school teams in Connecticut.

This is not a complete list, but it shows the depth and breadth of experiences our students have gotten so far. Ms. Garavel and I look forward to a productive spring semester with these students!

Here is a photo collage from the past semester: