Preparing for STEM Competitions

As we finish the second week of school at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School, students are learning the Engineering Design Process (borrowed from NASA), and how it compares to the Scientific Method (source: Both of these are problem solving methods, but each is more appropriate in certain situations. We reviewed the scientific method first, since students have learned that in the past. We did a lab using a computer simulation to determine the density of water, and we practiced writing a full lab report. Today, we focused on the engineering design process, and the students had a couple of engineering design challenges. One involved making a FPG-9 (foam plate glider, 9-inch) and experimenting with its control surfaces. Here are some photos:


These type of activities are a lot of fun for the students and me – but they also serve a purpose. Students learn to work in teams and quickly develop, test, and refine solutions. They also learn how to meet deadlines, as some design challenges have strict time constraints. Students must present their ideas, as well, and defend their choice of design. All of these are life skills.

We will be developing these life skills much more fully by participating in regional and state-level STEM competitions. Each competition will require the students to organize themselves, schedule practices, determine roles of team members, and then practice for the competition. Here are competitions I am planning to introduce to the students so that they can plan to compete:

I will be seeking mentors for many of these contests – please contact me if you can help. Practices will be every other Friday afternoon – see the Academy annual calendar for the dates.

Summer Work and Sikorsky’s “Helicopter 2050”

Sikorsky's Helicopter 2050 Contest Flyer
Sikorsky’s Helicopter 2050 Contest Flyer

For students of the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, or anyone else looking for a summer activity, Sikorsky Aircraft is sponsoring a contest to design a “green” helicopter. The contest runs from June 1 to October 15, 2015 and is open to 9 to 16 year olds. I will plan to give my students time to work on this contest this fall in our Innovations in Aerospace class, but you can get a head start by looking into it and researching and brainstorming ideas now. Good luck!

On a side note, for Academy students, remember to start your IXL summer prep for Algebra I (H) in Academy of Aerospace & Engineering summer math assignment in by the beginning of August. Remember that this assignment is in place of the one in your summer packet that was handed out to all students. You do need to complete the language arts assignment in the packet. Contact Mr. Holmes with any questions.