Academy Students Compete in Local Invention Convention

On March 1st, all the students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering competed in a local Invention Convention, a feeder competition for the Connecticut Invention Convention. Ms. Garavel and I assigned the initial task to our students in mid-December by kicking off with a presentation on the requirements for the competition. Each student was tasked to design, build, and present an original invention to a group of judges. To help give the students ideas and to help them understand what an inventor goes through to create an invention, we Skyped with Ayana Klein, a high school inventor in Fairfield, Connecticut. Ayana has started her own company, 3Dux Design, based on her invention of modular architectural kits. Through December, January, and February, we gave the students about one or two class periods per week to work on their inventions, test and refine them, and practice their presentations. Students brought in their complete inventions about a week before the competition so that they could practice presenting to many different audiences.

The competition finally came on March 1st when dozens of school staff, parents, family members, and friends came to see the inventors and their inventions. We also had a special guest, Dan Amarante of Fox 61, who did interviews for his special feature on innovation in education, Great State of Minds. We expect to see the story on television on Tuesday morning, March 6th. The main event for the competition was when each inventor presented his or her invention to the judges made up of a group of volunteers from two local aerospace firms, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures.  Bruce Fiedorowicz, Executive Director of the Aerospace Components Manufacturers (ACM) was also there as a long-time supporter of the academy, and he helped advise the judges and hand out the awards. The judges used the Connecticut Invention Convention criteria to select the top 15% of inventors, or eight out of a total of fifty-one competitors. These eight winners will go on to compete in the Connecticut Central Regional Invention Convention on March 24th. Winners from that event go on to the state Connecticut Invention Convention on April 28th at UCONN’s Gampell Pavilion. Here are the winning inventors and their inventions:

7th graders:
Ryan Claffey – Field Tripper – organizes materials for students on a field trip.
Eli Johnson – Solar Water Purifier – purifies water using just sunlight.
Julia Remiszewski – Bungee Buckle – holds swim goggles in place better than a strap.
Jack Stair – EZ Jacket – allows people with disability to put on and fasten a jacket easily.

8th graders:
Jasmine Barber – EasyClean – uses safe chemicals to thoroughly clean dirty pots & pans.
Alyse Karanian – SolarShade – uses solar cells on window shades to generate electricity.
Shiven Patel – Auto Jack – uses hydraulic assist to make jacking a car easier.
Vidhisha Thakkar – Flow Alert – provides a warning during a flood.

Here are photos of the competition and of all the competitors (a special thanks to Kaitlin Norton, Newington Public Schools Digital Content Specialist, who took most of the photos):



What do students think of all this? Here are some of the reflections they wrote today:

“What I liked about the whole invention convention process is that it is a good way to apply the EDP [engineering design process] to an invention. I think that it was a good friendly competition. I liked that it took a while and hard work to get the process done.”

“I’ve learned a lot over the past few months that I have been working on my invention. Firstly, I learned that I should be proud of everything that I have done, no matter what happens. I worked hard, brainstormed and came up with my invention and built it, that is what matters. It’s not about winning, or going to the next level, it’s about working hard and trying your best.”

“Invention Convention is a remarkable experience that has taught me many new things. Compared to last year I felt more prepared because of experience from the previous year. I was able to use the experience from last year to help me from building the invention to giving the presentation…I learned some new things such as how to work with a circuit and also about flooding. It is also a great opportunity to practice presentation skills which is a very important skill in life. Additionally, I have learned to listen to other peoples feedback and use it to benefit you rather than getting offended. Overall this is a great experience and I have learned a lot and hopefully, I can continue the journey to learn.”

“After participating in the Invention Convention, I was able to take a lot away from the experience. This is because it was another great way to practice the engineering design process, but unlike other EDPs, we also were able to choose essentially any topic to work on and could share our ideas with friends, family, and teachers other than Mr. Holmes and Mrs. Garavel. Because of this, I feel that this is the perfect project to really show others what we do here in the academy. Also, it really helped to practice public speaking, a skill that anybody could use, whether they go into STEM or not.”

Helping Students See Themselves in STEM Careers

Students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering get many opportunities to see themselves pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers later on in life. I frequently let them know that a STEM career may not have the word “science,” “technology,” “engineering,” or “math” in the job title — any career can involve STEM skills if you have to explore new topics, think critically, or solve problems. Nevertheless, by majoring in one or more of the STEM disciplines in college, students are more likely to be able to use these skills in whatever career they choose. Additionally, employers are saying there are not enough STEM graduates to fill available positions, so students who major in STEM fields are much more likely to get multiple job offers.

One way we help academy students understand college STEM programs is by inviting in the UCONN Engineering Ambassadors. These are undergraduate engineering students at UCONN in Storrs, Connecticut, who volunteer to reach out to middle and high school students to explain what STEM is and what it’s like being a STEM major. They came to the academy two years ago, and we had three of them come to the academy this past week. One ambassador gave a presentation on how SpaceX is planning a massive worldwide internet service, then he explained how he had grown up in Haiti and New York City before coming to UCONN. The other two ambassadors explained how the Hubble Space Telescope works, and they also described their personal backgrounds. Our students were full of questions, and in the reflection afterwards, they showed they learned a lot about college STEM programs from the Engineering Ambassadors. Here are photos of the visit:


We have follow on activities with the Engineering Ambassadors when we go to UCONN on a field trip later this month. They will give us tours, have a panel of students with whom our students can talk, and have some fun STEM activities for us. Overall, the Engineering Ambassadors do an outstanding job in helping students have a vision for STEM in college and beyond.

Another group that helps our students envision themselves in STEM careers are the UCONN engineering students in the local chapter of AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). These students came to the academy last year, and they will come later this month to help mentor the 8th graders who are doing an AIAA engineering challenge and to speak to all our students about engineering at UCONN.

Finally, we have mentors and speakers come from various aerospace firms to the academy. This year so far, we have had mentors from PCX Aerostructures come in and mentor the 8th graders in the AIAA engineering challenge, and we will have a guest speaker for all students come from PCX, GKN Aerospace, and Sikorsky Aircraft. Additionally, we plan to visit Pratt & Whitney in December on a field trip, and the students will get to learn about careers there. All of these companies demonstrate how STEM graduates can have challenging and fulfilling careers.


Academy Students Advance to State Finals in Connecticut Invention Convention

On Saturday, April 8th, eight students from Newington’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering competed in the Central Regional Connecticut Invention Convention at Goodwin College in East Hartford. These eight students (four academy 7th graders and four academy 8th graders) were the top inventors from our school district Invention Convention competition on March 16th. Seven of the eight (all four 8th graders and three out of the four 7th graders) earned top scores to advance to the Connecticut Invention Convention state finals on April 29th. Ms. Garavel and I are proud of all eight students, as they all prepared and competed well at the Central Regional event. These results also show that the volunteers from GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures who judged the inventors at our school district Invention Convention identified our strongest candidates, given that seven out of eight winners at our school district event will go on to the state finals. The state finalists’ names and their inventions are:


8th grade/Academy
Brandon Fiore – “Thermo Plate”
Tyler Frohock – “White Out Vest”
Alek Jorge – “Smart Helm”
Olivia Mullings – “Temp Safe”

7th grade/Academy
Jasmine Barber – “Sno-Away”
Shiven Patel – “Stop, Drop, and Spot”
Emmanuel Thomas – “Charger Clip”

Here are photos of these state finalists as they prepared to meet the judges on April 8th at the Central Regional Connecticut Invention Convention:


Host an Invention Convention & Promote STEM

On March 16, 2017, the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering hosted the Newington Invention Convention for all 50 academy students, plus six other students from the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Clubs at both John Wallace Middle School and Martin Kellogg Middle School in Newington. This competition was the local event leading up to the state-level Connecticut Invention Convention, a nationally recognized STEM competition that challenges elementary and middle school students to design, build, and present an original invention. Students began working after winter break on their inventions, following an engineering design process to research, brainstorm, design, build and test inventions that solved problems in their lives. The students also had to build a presentation board and practice explaining their invention. At the competition, each student inventor was interviewed by a pair of judges who scored each invention using a rubric developed by Connecticut Invention Convention. In the end, the judges picked the top 15% (9 total students) who now get to compete at the Central Regional Invention Convention on April 8, 2017 at Goodwin College in East Hartford, along with hundreds of other local winners from our part of the state. The winners from the regional competitions will get to compete at the state-level event on April 29, 2017 at UCONN’s Gampel Pavilion. The winners of the Newington Invention Convention and the names of their inventions were as follows:

6th grade / STEM Club
Zachary White – “Insta Crack Cam”

7th grade/Academy
Jasmine Barber – “Sno-Away”
Shiven Patel – “Stop, Drop, and Spot”
Vidhisha Thakkar – “Baby Safe”
Emmanuel Thomas – “Charger Clip”

8th grade/Academy
Brandon Fiore – “Thermo Plate”
Tyler Frohock – “White Out Vest”
Alek Jorge – “Smart Helm”
Olivia Mullings – “Temp Safe”

Getting judges for a competition like this one can be difficult, as it is recommended not to use teachers or parents so that there is no perception of any favoritism toward one student or another. Fortunately for us, we have built a great partnership with two outstanding aerospace firms in our community, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures, both of whom provided judges for the Newington Invention Convention. GKN judges were Bruce Fiedorowicz, Tiedah Evans, Reggie Gay, Ewelina Maselek, and Jon Ford. PCX judges were Chris Aldrich, Gerry Zimmerman, Louisa Triggs, and Nate Knowles. They worked in pairs, and each pair judged around 15 student inventors in about one hour’s time. Finally, Bruce Fiedorowicz and Chris Aldrich helped pass out awards and said a few words at our closing ceremony. We congratulate all the inventors at this event!


Photos of 8th grade inventors from the Academy:

Photos of 7th grade inventors from the Academy:

Photos of STEM Club inventors:

Photos of the competition and closing ceremony:

NOTE: Most photos were taken by Kate Norton of Newington Public Schools (thank you!).

Learning Real-World Skills through Invention Convention

All fifty students in the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering will be entering Invention Convention this year. Invention Convention is a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) competition where an elementary or middle school student designs, builds, and presents an original invention to a panel of judges. This process encourages student achievement in so many real-world skills–from using the engineering design process to communicating ideas clearly. Invention Convention has different levels of competition, beginning with a local event, then a regional event, then a state event, then finally a national event. Students who are scored in the top tier of competing inventors progress to the next higher level. For the Academy students, we will hold our local Newington Invention Convention on March 16th, 3:30 to 5:30 PM, in the Academy facility. Our generous corporate mentors at GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures will serve as judges. Families are welcome to come and watch. Here are some photos of the Academy 8th graders hard at work on their invention designs last week:



Mentoring is Key to a Good STEM Program

At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, the 8th graders just finished the second part of a three-part STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) competition called the Connecticut Aerospace Engineering Challenge. The competition has the students take on the role of an engineering team working for an airline company that is re-engining its fleet with new Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines. The first part of the competition required the students to research the airline’s aircraft and these new engines, then pick the appropriate models of new engines for the aircraft. The second part of the competition has the students respond to a CEO inquiry whether the old jet engines could be recycled as wind turbines or hydroelectric turbines. The students could do a lab experiment, a simulation, and/or a thought experiment to conduct this feasibility study. Now for the average 8th grader, this would be a tall task! My students are an exceptional group, but they needed help to get some perspective on how to approach this problem. That’s where mentors are invaluable. We have forged a partnership with two aerospace firms in our town, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures. Both companies have provided mentors to help the students in this competition. The students are in four teams, and two mentors from GKN and two from PCX come in about once per month to guide the students and give them feedback. Today the teams all presented their final plans to the mentors, and they got outstanding feedback. Additionally, GKN Aerospace’s team, led by Mr. Bruce Fiedorowicz, Director of Sales, gave our academy a large model of a GeeBee air racer, plus two classic air racing posters. Here are photos:

Bruce Fiedorowicz, GKN Aerospace, Mentors Team One
Chris Aldrich, PCX Aerostructures, Mentors Team Two
Gerry Zimmerman, PCX Aerostructures, Mentors Team Three
Tiedah Evans, GKN Aerospace, Mentors Team Four


GKN Aerospace Donates Model and Posters to Academy

Learning What Industry Wants from STEM Graduates

alphaqRecently, the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering hosted guest speakers from AlphaQ, a precision aerospace components manufacturer in Colchester, Connecticut. Mr. Tom Ferreira, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Mr. Sean Rivera, Junior Engineer, came to our school and talked about the aerospace industry in general, and AlphaQ’s products. Then they explained what the aerospace industry looks for in graduates from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs, from high schools or technicals schools to community colleges and universities.

They explained that the aerospace industry is a highly skilled workplace environment with clean, high tech shops with a strong demand for smart, hard working graduates. They also showed how the industry is centered in Connecticut, one of the world’s most concentrated areas for aerospace companies. For anyone pursuing a career in aerospace, the forecast is very good for the next few decades, based on current and projected contracts for airliners and aircraft engines. This message was consistent with what we heard earlier this year when we toured two Newington aerospace firms, GKN Aerospace and PCX Aerostructures.

We learned that the name, AlphaQ, means the company holds quality as its highest priority. They manufacture precision parts for many different aerospace companies, such as Sikorsky Aircraft. These parts are often in critical locations on the aircraft, such as the engine or power train. They brought some parts with them and explained the difference between forging and casting, as well as how parts can be manufactured using traditional grinding and cutting machines or with new 3D printers. Students got to handle some of these parts and see the work firsthand.

Finally, both speakers explained what it takes to succeed in the aerospace industry – and in life in general! The most important characteristics were a strong desire to learn and attention to detail. Both men gave examples of these characteristics and how they resulted in success. This message hit home for the academy students, as we emphasize the same principles everyday. By having a strong desire to learn, a student can progress and succeed through hard work, even when a subject seems too difficult at first. By having attention to detail, whether solving a math problem or writing up an engineering project, the student is less likely to make errors and more likely to complete his or her work with excellence. We appreciated the talk from AlphaQ and look forward to working with them more in the future!