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Students learn about engineering process during STEM FEST

By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff Writer

Army Flyer
Fort Rucker, AL | March 22, 2018

Fort Rucker student using a catapult

Marshmallows flying through the air and buckets of water splashing to the ground were just a couple of ways Fort Rucker Schools’ students learned about the engineering process during STEM week.

The school system held its STEM FEST Tuesday, which celebrates lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, by providing activities that had the students utilizing critical-thinking skills while working together on projects to reach a certain goal. Although the schools have celebrated STEM FEST before, this year’s event was the first time both schools combined their efforts to work together, according to Dr. Vicki Gilmer, Fort Rucker Schools principal.

“Both schools are designated STEM schools … and these focus areas are critical for success in our highly evolving world,” said the principal. “Fort Rucker schools have weekly STEM classes that all students participate in.

“Richard Greybull is the STEM teacher for Fort Rucker Schools and he provides classes each week that help students expand their skills in problem solving, design, creativity and more,” she said. “One week each year is designated STEM week, and this year, Tuesday was dedicated STEM FEST day for a combined school event.”

Throughout the day, students were challenged with different activities, one of which included building a means to carry a bucket of water a set distance using only the tools provided.

During the bucket challenge, students had to use newspapers to create a device to deliver their designated bucket of water across a course without spilling. Although not all buckets made it across the course, the lessons learned were about more than just succeeding, but also about going through the process of trial and error to get the right design, said Gilmer.

For Hailey Henderson, fifth grade student, the bucket challenge was a way that she and her fellow students were able to work together to create a design that worked.

“We were thinking about rolling it up and keep on tying it to make a chain to hold the bucket up,” she said. “When we tied it, it made it strong and we could run with it.”

With their design, they were able to securely run with their bucket across the course without spilling a drop.

Another challenge the students had to work together on was designing and building a catapult, but through this challenge, the elementary school students were tasked with teaching and mentoring the primary school students on how to create their contraptions, which for Mea Salg-Rawls, fifth grade student, was the most difficult aspect of the challenge.

“We designed it and we thought about it, but it took forever because it was hard to get the (primary school students) to concentrate on one thing,” said Salg-Rawls. “Our first design didn’t work out well, so we had to redo it and redo it … until we asked for a little help and figured out how to do it together. Then our catapult actually turned out pretty (well).”

That trial and error was one of the main lessons for the students, and they quickly learned it was the best way to reach their goal. But another lesson they were able to take away was the advantage of working together, said James Schley, fifth grader.

“You have to think about what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it,” he said.

“I learned that if you’re going to be successful, you’ve got to keep trying,” added Caleb Bryant, fourth grader. “And I learned a lot about what teachers go through each day, too. It takes a lot to work with kids.”


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