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Third Annual Portland Public Schools’ STEM Expo ‘Fun,’ ‘Very Cool’

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Third Annual Portland Public Schools’ STEM Expo ‘Fun,’ ‘Very Cool’
Posted on 11/04/2016
This is the image for the news article titled Third Annual Portland Public Schools’ STEM Expo ‘Fun,’ ‘Very Cool’At the Third Annual Portland Public Schools’ STEM Exposition Nov. 4, Riverton Elementary School fifth-grader Theodore Burkhardt displayed a model of a ship he had designed to help deal with the Trash Vortex.

That’s a Texas-sized island of plastic and other garbage in the ocean that is harmful to aquatic life. Theodore’s proposed ship could recover and compact the garbage, turning it into energy on site.

“It’s very cool to be here,” he said of the Expo. “I like sharing my ideas with the world.” Theodore, who plans to become an engineer, hopes his ship will morph from a Lego model into reality one day and “we can save all the sea creatures.”

Theodore’s exhibit was one of approximately 50 exhibits at the University of Southern Maine’s Sullivan gymnasium in Portland. Roughly half of those exhibits were run by students like him from PPS elementary, middle and high schools, showcasing their learning in the areas of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math.

The remaining exhibits were put on the by the district’s valued community partners that help make the Expo a success each year. They included exhibitors from local colleges, universities and businesses.

Two key PPS Expo partners are USM and EnviroLogix, a Portland-based company that develops and manufactures innovative detection technology for every link in the worldwide food production chain.

Portland Superintendent Xavier Botana opened the 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. event by thanking the partners for “collaborating with us to show our students how important STEM is beyond high school – in college classrooms and research labs and working for businesses like EnviroLogix.”

Bill Welch, president of EnviroLogix, whose funding makes the Expo possible, said one reason the company participates each year to “identify talent.” He said the company, which also was an exhibitor at the Expo, is looking for future employees to expand its workforce.

James Graves, dean of USM's College of Science, Technology and Health, also spoke, saying how much fun for students the Expo is each year. USM not only had exhibits at the Expo, but also worked closely with PPS on the logistics of ensuring the event ran smoothly.

There were approximately 1,800 visitors to the Expo, most of them PPS students, who came by busloads to see the exciting displays of STEM possibilities put on by their fellow students and community partners.

The Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) had several exhibits. Among the most popular were the 3-D printers from the Manufacturing Technology program, which were busily making small plastic animals.

But also intriguing to Expo visitors was a Manufacturing Technology exhibit manned by PATHS students Arthur Thompson Johnson, a Casco Bay High School senior, and Kevin Segal, a Deering High School senior. They explained that they are actually manufacturing 3-D printers, with the goal of providing such a printer to every school in the district. They can build the printers at one-fourth the price of ones the schools could purchase elsewhere, they said.

The Manufacturing Technology program is also making some recumbent bicycles in the interest of creating sustainable transportation. “They’re easier than a bike to use because you don’t have to balance,” said PATHS student Arthur Gisel, a sophomore from Gray-New Gloucester High School, who was helping students try out riding the Trikes.

Even the PATHS Fashion Marketing program had an “Eco Fashion” exhibit at the STEM Expo.

PATHS students Zahra Abukar, a Portland High School senior, and Adara Bankhead, a CBHS junior, explained that 15.9 million tons of fabric are wasted each year, so their display featured beautiful clothing made out of recycled fabric, which included burlap bags and old jeans. In fact, the program is challenging the district’s elementary and middle school students to redesign one piece of denim clothing by Jan. 15 and win a chance to wear the outfit in the PATHS annual fashion show in April.

All three of the district’s middle schools had exhibits.

King Middle School students had a Windstorm Challenge display, for which they built miniature wind turbines. They experimented with miniature models to find out how many blades were most effective and also how much ballast they needed in the turbines’ flotation platforms. “It’s good to teach younger kids what we’re learning about,” said eighth-grader Riley Johnson. “Then they can know what to expect in the future.”

Lyman Moore Middle School students put on an exhibit called the “Sailboat Engineering Challenge.” They were showing visitors how differently sized and shaped boats performed differently in the water. “I learned a lot about the push and pull of the wind,” said eighth-grader Lucia Stone.

Safa Hussein, a Moore eighth-grader who wants to become a surgeon, said the Expo is fun because “it’s interesting to see what other schools are learning.”

A group of Lincoln Middle School Students had displays on thermal expansion and how that relates to climate change. Eighth-grader Sooki Davies and Sophia Tuchinsky were demonstrating the thermal expansion capabilities of water compared to rubbing alcohol.

Riverton Elementary School fifth-graders Pepito Girumugisha and Zacharia Sharif had a display on the invasive plant species bittersweet, and were exhibiting thick sections of the vine, which strangles trees and other plants. “It’s like an anaconda,” Pepito said.

Another popular exhibit was the Solar Powered Charging Stations display being run by Deering High School sophomores Bilan Mohamed and Gabby Bekoka.

Bilan said that a solar panel on the roof of DHS provides power to let students charge their cellphone and iPads. The panel they had on display at the Expo was providing power to iPads at the display table.

Hall Elementary School had an exhibit titled “Rocketry Is a Blast!” Fifth-grader Emma Murphy said students made cardboard rockets and fired them off, learning about Newton’s laws of motion in the process.

East End Community School students also explored Newton’s first law of motion by creating marble tracks – tubes along which marbles could roll along. Fourth-grader Jayden Montiro showed other students touring the displays how to use marble tracks he designed.

Peaks Island Elementary School students showed off the robots they made in their Lego Robotics Club. Annika Asbjornsen explained how students used computers to tell the robots what to do.

Other exhibitors included USM; the University of Maine and the university’s 4-H STEM Ambassadors; the Maine College of Art; the University of New England; and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC); EnviroLogix; Engineers Without Borders; Kepware Technologies; Learning Works; Challenger Learning Center of Maine; ACE Mentor Program; and the Portland Public Library.

The Portland Fire Department attended the event as well, and students took tours of the trucks parked in the gym’s parking lot.

Welch, the president of EnviroLogix, said funding for the Expo was provided by the EBI Foundation, which is financed by Ensign-Bickford Industries, EnviroLogix’s parent company.

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