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, in 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:

Using Games to Learn STEM

Recently, the 7th graders at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering got an assignment to design a board game or computer game related to the aerospace and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics they had learned. Ms. Garavel gave them a class period to plan out their games, then the students did most of the work at home. The 25 students ended up producing about 12 different games, all of which were creative designs. Following a standard engineering design process, the students then needed to test their games–so they invited the 8th graders to play them. We set up six stations for our six 8th grade crews, and each crew spent about 10 minutes playing one or two games and talking with the creators. After each round, the 8th graders wrote constructive comments about each game. The 7th graders are using these comments as feedback to refine their game designs. It was a great project, and it gave the two classes a chance to bond and have fun learning together. Here are photos of the students playing the games, and some of the 8th graders’ feedback:


“I really liked the games that the seventh graders made, they were very fun and enjoyable to play. It helped me brush up on some of the things that we did last year. My two favorites were the one that was like monopoly and the one that was like sorry. I would recommend improving the wording of the questions but overall it was great. This was a very good assignment.”

“Overall I thought everyone in 7th grade put so much effort into these projects and they were great! I would also like to do something similar to this as I believe that it will help my understanding of the topic and I will receive more lessons than I would in class. But overall I really think it’s a great idea.”

“Overall, after playing all of the games that the 7th graders made I thought that all of them were great. I loved that all of them were both fun and were informational at the same time. My favorite was the two jeopardy games and also the one crew 3 did with a “Head to Head” question game. I liked how they were also competitive and creative. It wasn’t like you just sat there and answered questions. There was always a twist to it. I thought it was also good to review information from last year…I think we could make projects about all of the topics we have covered so far in all of aerospace. I think each crew could pick a different topic, so that we get a review out of it as well.”

“Overall, the games were fun, simple, and educational. A few did not meet the same standards as the majority, but they were good for the amount of time allowed. All of the games I played were fun. They kept me intrigued and anticipating the winner. Some were simple and some were more complex. Even the “harder” games weren’t terrible. None were so complicated that I simply didn’t get them. Finally, from an educational standpoint, all were different levels of complexity. A handful of games required lot’s of background knowledge but some could be done by a beginner with limited prior knowledge…Overall, for the time given, I think they did an awesome job and I would enjoy doing a project like this sometime.”

“I really liked the games the 7th grader it was fun to play and it wasn’t really wasn’t that hard to play instead it was a fun way to relearn some on the facts. The 7th graders put a lot of effort into it one of the games I like most was jeopardy and the bord games where you had to move the figures. it was all fun overall the 7th grader did a great job and it would be fun to do this too.”

“To begin, I would like to say that all the games were really fun and informational. In addition, I thought the the games had really good and strong information. They also, had information that was not easy, but correct which kept the game intrigue. Also, if i was a person who knew nothing about flight I think that I would be able to understand the information for the most part because some of the information was a little complex, but most made sense and was reasonable. To continue, I think that the 7th, graders really did a great job on these and they made learning about flight really fun. Overall, I think this was a great assignment because you get to have fun while learning.”

Academy of Aerospace and Engineering parent/student orientation night – May 28, 2015

We had a great evening last night at the parent/student orientation for the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School. These photos show an engineering design challenge we did where families were given a few supplies and told to make an airplane that could glide the farthest – the longest flight was almost 15 meters!