The STEM Expo, put on annually by the Portland Public Schools in partnership with EnviroLogix, will mark some firsts in 2023. This year’s Ninth Annual STEM Expo will be held in person for the first time since November 2019. The Expo has taken place virtually since that time, due to the pandemic.
Also, instead of being held on one day as a large event at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan Gymnasium as it was pre-pandemic, this year’s Expo will consist of smaller events taking place on three separate days at the district’s high schools – on March 31, April 6 and April 13. The change makes it easier for high school students to attend without disrupting their regular classes.
Each year, the STEM Expo features exhibits put on by Portland Public Schools students, local businesses, postsecondary schools and other organizations. It’s a way to showcase the STEM learning occurring in Portland Public Schools’ classrooms. The Expo also expands students’ STEM knowledge and exposes them to exciting career opportunities in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.
This year, the Expo will kick off on Friday, March 31 at Portland High School; the next event will be on Thursday, April 6, at Casco Bay High/Portland Arts and Technology High School; and the final Expo event will be on Thursday, April 13, at Deering High School. Each event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will have about 16 exhibits per building. Elementary and middle school students have been invited to attend the event closest to them.
EnviroLogix President and CEO Bill Welch said, “EnviroLogix looks forward each year to playing a role in making students aware of all the STEM opportunities that exist right here in their backyard. Also, as a technology company, our participation is a way for us to not only invest in the community but also in potential future employees.” EnviroLogix, a Portland-based company that develops and manufactures innovative detection technology for every link in the worldwide food production chain, partners with the Portland Public Schools in putting on the Expo. PPS community coordinators Kathy Cole and Tina Mikkelsen work with EnviroLogix to plan and organize the event each year.
Another feature new this year is that each pre-K through grade 2 classroom across the district will receive a STEM-related book funded by Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company, and a recording of Welch reading the book.
Students from the district’s high schools and middle schools will put on about a quarter of the approximately 50 exhibits at this year’s Expo events. Community partners will present the remaining exhibits. Those exhibitors include USM; the University of Maine and their 4-H STEM Ambassadors; the University of New England; EnviroLogix; Engineers Without Borders; ecomaine; Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; General Dynamics Bath Iron Works; Wright-Pierce; Woodard & Curran; The Roux Institute; MedRhythms; Sargent; Pratt & Whitney; Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company; and Central Maine Power.
Interim Co-Superintendents Aaron Townsend and Melea Nalli said: “We’re glad that the Expo is back to being hands-on and in person this year. The Portland Public Schools is very thankful to EnviroLogix for being a steadfast partner with PPS in putting on this yearly tradition. It is an important way for our students to expand their knowledge of STEM, which is essential to many 21st century careers.”
The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 49.8 percent of the district’s students are white and 50.2 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.