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PPS’ Second STEM Expo Even Bigger, Better than First

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PPS’ Second STEM Expo Even Bigger, Better than First
Posted on 11/12/2015
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Portland Public Schools’ students were both teachers and learners at the Second Annual Portland Public Schools’ STEM Expo on Nov. 10. Students from elementary school through high school shared their learning in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – alongside representatives from local businesses and post-secondary schools. And more than 1,500 other PPS students visited the more than 60 exhibits at the Expo to learn about the exciting world of STEM possibilities.

Sadie Rhinehardt, a Deering High School senior at a DHS science booth at the Expo, who was encouraging young visitors to try out some computer games she and other DHS computer science students had programmed, said the Expo is an exciting chance to “show off what we can do.”

Nolan Cyr, a DHS junior at the same booth, was demonstrating some circuit boards he described as “kid-friendly” and also exhibiting a drone. He said that after students toured the Expo, they were more likely to want to join a robotics club or get more STEM learning. “It gets them more motivated,” he said.

The Expo was put on in partnership with EnviroLogix, a Portland-based company that develops and manufactures innovative detection technology for every link in the worldwide food production chain.

Dean Layton, EnviroLogix senior vice president of marketing, sales and business development, spoke during the Expo’s brief opening ceremony, saying it was a “special experience” for the science and technology company to participate in the event. EnviroLogix, which also sponsored last year’s first STEM Expo, considers the event an investment in the community and also potential future employees.

Another event partner was the University of Southern Maine – the Expo took place in USM’s Sullivan gymnasium. James Graves, dean of USM’s College of Science, Technology and Health, also spoke at the Expo. He said he tells everyone “there’s a major for everybody” when it comes to science, technology and health and added, “I’m expecting 2,000 more students” in the future, as the result of the Expo.

Portland Public Schools Interim Superintendent Jeanne Crocker said her role at the event was to be the “thanking person.” In addition to EnviroLogix and USM, Crocker thanked PPS staff, including communications coordinators such as Tina Mikkelsen, teachers and transportation staff, who transported students to the event. Crocker also thanked the numerous business and post-secondary institution partners involved in the event and all the students who participated.

Among students displaying their work at the event were Hall Elementary School fifth-graders Lauren Gerber, James Tedder, Remijo Wani and Ben Diyenno, who were eagerly revving up the miniature electric cars they’d made to show visitors. Their teacher, Jenna Quimby, said the STEM lesson taught students everything from how to follow directions – if they didn’t their cars wouldn’t work – to the pros and cons of electric vehicles.

Riverton Elementary School fifth-graders had on display the materials they’re using to build a greenhouse at the school made out of recycled plastic bottles. Aidan Wood demonstrated how the plastic bottles, with the bottoms cut off, could be fitted together along a dowel. Classmates helping him were Issak Muse, Haney Haidari, Ramkel Luak and Andrew Theriault.

Peaks Island Elementary School fourth- and fifth-graders showcased their Lego Mindstorm Robots, which had frames made from Legos and computers plugged into their parts and limbs. The students built the robots in their school’s new After School Academy and used the software that came with them to program them do certain things, such as turns and spins, and even make tones, like a musical instrument.

East End Community School students were exhibiting various ways to harness the wind as their exhibit. For example, fifth-graders Boyana Mata-Rodriguez, Aleah Thuotte and Trinity Flaherty showed how students had created weather vanes to determine wind direction and anemometers to measure wind speed – all made out of simple items such as paper plates and cups, straws and pencils.

Lyman Moore Middle School eighth-graders were demonstrating how they used simple materials – aluminum foil, straws and plastic bags – to create miniature sailing boats that they placed in water-filled tanks to hold fan-driven races. The demonstrations taught the students about the forces involved in sailing, such as the push and pull of wind propulsion, friction through water, gravity and buoyancy, according to science teacher Naomi Marthai.

Earlier in the fall, the Moore eighth-graders also experienced sailing on Casco Bay on a sloop, getting to haul lines to raise the mainsail and jibs, coiling lines to neaten the deck, and then rotating through three stations: knot tying; navigation and chart reading; and the physics of sail.

Moore Eighth-grader Jessica Ross, showing Expo visitors how the miniature sailing vessels worked, said she really enjoyed learning the physics behind sailing because “I really love boats” and wanted to understand how sailing works. Joining her at the Expo display were classmates Domingos Nzuzi, Reid Myhaver, Sophia Olore, Kaitlyn Currie and Sean Dunn.

Exhibits from Lincoln Middle School included a Maker Space Exhibit, a Green Team Exhibit and an exhibit on the pros and cons of using polystyrene, one of the most widely-used plastics, which can be found in everything from plastic cutlery to foam packaging materials.

LMS eighth-grader Hannah Duston said the polystyrene exhibit included information from pro, con and neutral points of view, based on extensive student research.

At the LMS Maker Space exhibit, eighth-graders William Jordan and William Jorgensen were displaying a switch they’d created to turn on a light in a miniature house; eight-grader Ben Corwin was tinkering with experiments that showed the conductivity of graphite and Playdough; and sixth-grader Willem Van Oosterum was connecting some wires to get a homemade robot to walk across the floor.

King Middle School seventh-graders were displaying some ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) they had created. The students put the ROVs in water-filled aquariums to show how they can move through water. Throughout the fall, the students have been investigating invasive plant species in Maine through a technologically innovative expedition called R.E.D. (research, engineering and deployment) Rovers.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) asked Windsor 7 students if they'd be willing to help the agency see if and how can help identify aquatic invasive species in Maine and play a role in remediating their spread. The students eagerly pitched in and plan to hold a culminating presentation of their work in December for the DEP, engineers who have assisted them and the public, said their teacher, Pamela Otunnu Porensky.

Seventh-grader Iman Abdi said the project has been fun and eye opening for her. “I never heard anything about invasive species before,” she said. Presenting with her at the Expo were classmates Kieran Elliott, Johnny Sylvain, Oscar McNally, Tyra Pranger and Caroline Lerch.

The Casco Bay High School booth at the STEM Expo showcased the junior chemistry classes’ "Cougar Chronicles" episodes, said science teacher Brooke Teller. CBHS students also had visitors to the table saying the "Climate Warrior" pledge, vowing to help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The “Cougar Chronicles” were created during the CBHS juniors’ expedition "The Air Up There,” which focused on atmospheric chemistry, Teller said. Pairs of students created short informational newscasts about a gas in the atmosphere. These were joined together to create four episodes of the "Cougar Chronicles.” These episodes were shared with fourth and fifth grade classes at Riverton Elementary school in October, Teller said. The juniors’ goal was to teach the students what is in the air and why that matters. The juniors worked one-on-one with the students to help them understand the video segments and teach about the impact of these gases on the planet. The presentation ended with all students reciting the "Climate Warrior" pledge.

The Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) had a 3-D printer exhibit, as it did last year. However, this year it had three printers instead of just one. They were manned by Kevin Segal, a DHS junior, and Dylan Trovo, a senior at Cape Elizabeth High School, both students in PATHS’ manufacturing technology program. The students said that some of the parts of the 3-D printers were actually made by a 3-D printer.

Outside the gym, students from PATHS’ automotive technology program had a hydraulic brakes exhibit, complete with a car.

And the Expo had live music, thanks to students in PATHS’ music program. PATHS students, who included Ben Rupert of Scarborough High School and Alex Riker of Westbrook High School, were helping visiting students play instruments using headphones and jam hubs and also use a microphone to rap and make other sounds.

Students touring the Expo also got to see the exhibits of such post-secondary participants as St. Joseph’s College, which offered a “fallen log activity,” in which students got to pick out the insects living in a rotting log and put them in test tubes. The University of New England’s Neuroscience Department let student dissect sheep brains and also provided information on protecting their own brains by wearing bicycle helmets. USM education and math students were helping students learn geometry by encouraging them to manipulate colorful plastic shapes.

Other exhibitors included the University of Maine and the university’s 4-H STEM Ambassadors; the Maine College of Art; Engineers Without Borders; Kepware Technologies; Learning Works; Microsoft; and the Portland Public Library, which had a table with books that had titles as varied as “The Mystery of Life,” “Origami” and “How to Build a Hovercraft.”

STEM Hall School STEM Lincoln Middle School STEM 2015 Lyman Moore Sailboat project STEM 2015 Deering exhibit