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:

Extending Learning through Field Trips

This week, students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. We started our tour of the museum by seeing the planetarium show, Dark Universe, narrated by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. This was a 4D show that gave an outstanding explanation of the origin of our universe, explaining the Big Bang theory and the role of dark matter and dark energy in making up the universe. After the show, the students went in six crews, or groups, and went through a cycle of six stations in the museum that Ms. Garavel and I had planned out. The stations were parts of the museum where the exhibits related to the middle school science curriculum. At each station, the students had 30 minutes to look at the exhibits, then answer an open ended question assigned to each grade level. The day after the trip, we went over their answers and discussed the trip. Students varied in what their favorite part of the museum was, but the planetarium show was a clear favorite.

Field trips provide an extension of what we learn in the classroom, and they especially help extend STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) lessons. While we can show videos and discuss topics such as the Big Bang or evolution in science class, only at a museum like this can students see a world-class show that explains the Big Bang theory or an extensive fossil collection that explains evolution.

We have three more field trips planned this school year, and all of them will provide extensions of our STEM lessons. In November, we will tour the UCONN campus with the Engineering Ambassadors, undergraduate engineering students who volunteer to show middle and high school students what engineering is all about. In December we will tour the New England Air Museum and Pratt&Whitney’s Customer Training Center, and at both locations we will see aircraft and engines that students have studied in the classroom. In April, we will attend a planetarium show and get a campus tour at Central Connecticut State University, learning about astronomy and learning about our closest four-year college. All of these field trips will extend student learning in STEM.

Here are some photos from the field trip to the American Museum of Natural History: