Published: July 10, 2012
SHENANDOAH - A group of Shenandoah Valley Elementary School students had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in April to display their science projects to visitors from around the world in Washington, D.C.
They were in good company, as they presented their projects at a national event that included Nobel Prize-winning scientists and other celebrities.
The students visited the second USA Science and Engineering Festival on April 28-29 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
The largest science festival in the nation, it was developed to increase public awareness of the importance of science and to encourage youth to pursue careers in science and engineering by celebrating science in much the same way as Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and pop stars are celebrated.
The festival is a grassroots collaboration of more than 500 of the nation's leading science and engineering organizations. For the second year, Lockheed Martin was the presenting host and was joined by many sponsors and partners.
"The students were among a highly select group of student programs invited from across the U.S. to exhibit and show their project," said Jeanne Yoho Miller, program director for Lehigh Carbon Community College, Carbon and Schuylkill schools, and Homes In Education 21st Century After School Program.
SHINE is partially funded through the Luzerne-Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board Inc. and the state Department of Education 21st Century After-School Program.
"Our program has really been getting some positive feedback from Washington and the national Afterschool Alliance on our STEM effort," Miller said. "We were one of nine programs highlighted on a congressional briefing in the fall. I think we're doing innovative programs."
The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics component is one part of the SHINE program. STEM education is an important component in preparing students for occupations which are available now and in the future.
The group of students - Melissa Chinchay, Johnny Chinchay, Devin Andrewsky, Isaac Garcia, Angelina Tovar, Kimberly Craig, Heather Maurer and Kathy Selbi - had the opportunity to visit hundreds of STEM exhibits during the day in Washington.
"At Shenandoah Valley, the students' STEM experience, led by Gary MacCready of the ReDCo Group, featured the solar car assembly, a visit from an engineer and energy science education," Miller said. "The Afterschool Alliance has been observing us and they asked only two organizations to come to their booth.
"Mr. MacCready did the project with the students, and after that the kids took their project to Washington. It was incredible."
Miller said the celebrities included Mythbusters hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, Mayim Bialik, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and plays Amy Farrah Fowler on "The Big Bang Theory," Bill Nye the Science Guy and authors Homer Hickman ("Rocket Boys," the basis for the movie "October Sky") and Robin Cook ("Coma").
Miller said the trip to the science festival was not just to observe, but to be part of it.
"The kids were part of the festival," she said. "They got to show their solar car and their work.
"Another group from Carbon County (Carbon County SHINE Career Academy) â¦ worked on a project where they built a solar car from scratch. The older students from the five Carbon County school districts built a car of aluminum and steel. The precision-machined it and computer-aided drafted it. There was a myriad of people there and the students got to explain their cars. It was an awesome opportunity for our kids to be invited."
Miller accompanied the students to Washington, as did SV elementary teachers Brooke Kehler, Sheena Micklo and Angie Brayford.
"I think the students had a very exciting experience in D.C.," Brayford said. "They were able to see all of the different avenues that STEM has to offer. They were able to see first hand how much our STEM curriculum encompasses and were also very fortunate to experience what it is like to brainstorm, create and present their own projects to their peers at the convention."
- Improve academic performance
- Improve student behavior and school day attendance
- Increase knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
- Facilitate family involvement in student learning and improve family literacy
Linking schools and homes in education to build a strong academic & social foundation
For more information on SHINE, visit: www.shineafterschool.com
For more information about STEM, visit: www.stemedcoalition.org