PHOTO CAPTION; Blue Hills Electrical students Aidan McFadden, Matthew Bonner and Tim Walsh, left to right, put some final touches on their projects during STEM Week. (Photo by Judy Bass).
By Judy Bass
There was something exciting going on in the cafeteria at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton during the week of October 22-26.
Interactive student projects were displayed on the stage for Lunch & Learn, including a programmable robot named Oggy (Engineering); a tabletop electric roller coaster and maze (Electrical); a tabletop home model from Computer-Aided Design / Drafting in collaboration with Construction Technology for which students could try to calculate various components like its first-floor square footage; and races featuring gutter boats (Early Education and Care), which are miniature handmade vessels that can bob and float down a long, narrow, gutter-like container filled with water propelled by the force of someone puffing as hard as they can.
All this was done to commemorate the first Massachusetts STEM Week initiated by Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and the STEM Advisory Council, which is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Polito, US Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, and Jeffrey Leiden, Chairman, President and CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals. The students’ projects at Blue Hills and at schools across the Commonwealth highlighted the tremendous importance and value of science, technology engineering and math for all grade levels in education and in the dynamic professions of the 21st century.
According to www.massstemweek.org, the weeklong event particularly targeted “middle and high school students, who are on the verge of thinking about college and careers.”
“STEM Week is so important for Blue Hills Regional Technical School to participate in because that's a part of what we do,” said Principal Jill Rossetti. “At Blue Hills, our robust academics and Career Technical Education programs are engaging, relevant and encompass real-world learning. STEM education seamlessly integrates with our academic classes and many of the hands-on CTE programs at Blue Hills.”
“By participating in the STEM Week activities, we show our students what we value in our education system,” said Director of Vocational Programs Michelle Sylvia. “We prepare our students to work in an economy that challenges its workforce to be forward, critical thinkers. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics is infused in all areas of our academic and vocational programs. It's really special when students can articulate their projects to their peers in a way that is meaningful, and dare I say, fun!”
Blue Hills students in select Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs crafted their projects to showcase skills they mastered in the four STEM areas. They and their teachers then set them up on the stage for other students to admire, engage with, and learn about. Judging from the broad smiles and intense gazes as students came by and evaluated their classmates’ handiwork, the endeavor was a definite success.
The gutter boat project, which was selected on the basis of a group decision made by the Early Education students, exemplified S.T.E.A.M. instead of S.T.E.M. (the “A” stands for Art). It “integrated seniors and sophomores in a competitive manner to outrace the other team’s boats in speed, design and teamwork.” according to the girls involved – Qalah Hendricks (Randolph), Emily Faherty (Holbrook), Brianna Lynch (Dedham), Kaitlyn Cahill (Braintree) and Kaylie Silva (Canton). “This relates to Early Education because you can do this with preschoolers by letting them build boats and race them,” they added.
The Electrical project was done by Aidan McFadden (Holbrook), Matthew Bonner (Norwood) and Tim Walsh (Canton). “I would say they learned how voltage can safely be transformed from 120 volts to 16 volts in order to make electricity safe to handle,” explained Electrical instructor Richard Mascarenhas. “I would also say the students learned how a complete circuit, also known as a closed circuit, will activate a bell, buzzer or chime once a full path for electrical current is made. They did this in the form of a game to help them understand the circuitry.”
For Engineering, according to Lead Teacher Dan Hamill, the students, including Aidan Flaherty (Braintree), Joseph Grieco (Abington), Devlin Young (Randolph), Mya Leitao (Dedham) and Stenley Simon (Randolph), undertook various activities. One involved an NAO robot called Oggy. “He is an autonomous robot that students can learn how program. NAO is the world's leading and most widely used humanoid robot for education, healthcare and research. NAO is 58 centimeters tall (almost 23 inches), autonomous, and is a fully programmable robot that can walk, talk, listen to you, and even recognizes your face. It is equipped with a broad range of sensors.”
The students also worked with LEGO Mindstorms, which Mr. Hamill said is “a hands-on, cross-curricular STEM solution that engages students by providing the resources to design, build and program their creations while helping them develop essential skills such as creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.” Finally, they had a JD Humanoid Robot Kit. The realistic, WiFi-enabled humanoid has 16 motorized joints so it is capable of doing things lifelike actions such as walking or dancing.
The Computer-Aided Drafting and Construction Technology house model project was worked on by the entire Drafting/CAD sophomore class, said Drafting/CAD Lead Teacher Michael Sheehan. It was made by juniors Angela Vargas (Randolph) and Brianna Ramey (Randolph) along with Construction Technology juniors Nick Burnham (Avon) and Ryan Albergo (Randolph).
Students could put their well-honed math skills to use by seeing if they were able to figure out the perimeter of the house, square footage of the first floor, the number of floor joists needed for the first floor, and the number of sheets of plywood needed to cover the first floor.
In addition, seniors in Blue Hills’ Criminal Justice program attended a robotics seminar at the Burlington campus of Northeastern University. Brendan Welch, who is a teacher in that program, said, “The event was held at the research institute for Homeland Security. Blue Hills earned 4th place during the competition which had students working together with a drivable robot to take a mock explosive out of a mailbox and put it into a secure container. They also learned about the STEM jobs that are related to our field.”