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STEMposium - Fort Campbell students find fun in engineering the future

by Heather Huber • Courier staff

The Courier
Fort Campbell | April 13, 2017

Flies were smashed. Bells were rung. Barbies flew over the moon and gumdrops were eaten as students flooded the Fort Campbell High School gym Friday morning to build, shape and launch various objects to solve problems.

Students from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classes and club joined forces Friday to host the school’s sixth annual STEMposium. The event is designed to highlight STEM concepts and expose their classmates to what exactly students in STEM classes and STEM club do.

The theme for this year’s STEMposium was “Civil Engineering: Building our Future,” and the topic was Rube Goldberg machines.

“[They are] basically simple machines all put together to complete one simple task,” said senior Thomas Fogg, STEM club member. “We came up with that out of a couple of different ideas all kind of combined.”

Thomas said the STEM club and each of the STEM classes built their own Rube Goldberg machines that were on display at the STEMposium. Each group picked a simple task for their machine to perform and then spent a week building.

“It took us a day to get everyone to agree on the idea – there was a whole bunch of ideas. Then to come up with the design was another day and to build it was like a week,” said Kyera Grace, 11th grade STEM class student.

Kyera is in the first period STEM class, which designed a machine to launch a marshmallow into the air.

The finished machine starts with a small marble rolling down a tube “rollercoaster,” hitting a larger marble, which turns on a surge protector, which turns on a fan, which releases a boat, which pushes over a textbook, which falls onto a lever and launches the marshmallow into the air.

“It was a lot of test and trials, so it took until like today to make it work,” Kyera said.

She said her team and all the students coming to the fair were thrilled every time it actually launched the marshmallow straight up into the air.

Also at the fair were simple tasks for the students to solve problems, including building a marshmallow tower, a gumdrop bridge to hold dominoes, an aluminum boat for beans, catapulting a Barbie doll past the moon and swatting a fly without touching the fly swatter. “It’s a lot of hands-on activities,” Thomas said.

Thomas was in charge of making paper airplane launchers using cardboard tubes, straws, rubber bands, string and tape.

“I’m going to be honest, I can’t wait to see what they do, because I can hardly come up with any ideas at the moment,” he said.

Skylar Oliver, ninth grade, went to a STEM academy in middle school so when he transferred to Fort Campbell he was immediately invited to join the STEM club.

“I went there and I actually enjoyed it,” Skylar said. “It’s basically all the fields … I have interests that go with all those categories.”

Skylar said the STEMposium was a good way to show off just what all STEM covers.

“It’s basically to see how you can connect STEM with the real world,” he said. “We’re trying to get everybody exposed to it. To show people how their interests connect with science and all the rest of the fields.”

Skylar said the Rube Goldberg machines let the students show off just how much creativity can be put into a simple task.

In addition to the STEM students, Michelle Hunter and Mary Gulin’s special education students helped put on the fair by creating the signs for each station.

“Our students made all of the posters for all of the different activities and the guests who came,” Gulin said. “This is an activity we do every year for the STEMposium and it’s a way to get our students involved with the whole school by partnering.”

Gulin’s students used mixed media for the signs, drawing as well as writing and cutting out pictures, to get the names of each activity across in a unique way. Catapult the Barbie was expressed with a drawing of a catapult, the word “the” and a cutout of a Barbie doll.

“They really enjoyed it and it works on their language skills and their social interaction, so it’s great,” Gulin said. “Also it’s really important for the general population to interact with people who are a little different from themselves and it kind of helps to break down barriers.”

There were also colleges present to inform students about their different programs and scholarships available. New this year were representatives from STEM jobs around Fort Campbell, including the Qualified Recycling Program and energy conservation.

“There’s a lot of careers within the technology field,” Thomas said. “STEM is a big work field that almost anyone can try and work in.”

Thomas said he prefers hands-on jobs, so he is looking into construction and architecture for after he graduates.

Fort Campbell High School offers several STEM-career oriented curriculums, such as engineering and technology or interactive media, to help students get an edge when applying for colleges.

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