SFSD Celebrates Science, Technology Engineering and Math in a big way

This month, Silverton High School students and staff teamed up with community members to celebrate all things Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
STEM Week Oregon (May 1-7) is a statewide effort to inspire people of all ages to explore the wonders of STEM.

“STEM Night is a fantastic opportunity for the whole community—and I mean the whole community, from age 2 to age 92—to come out to the school campus and experience STEM in all of its forms,” said SHS astronomy teacher Creighton Helms. “There was an incredible amount of effort to make the displays, activities and hands-on projects for attendees as diverse as possible, so that the widest audience had a chance to learn about what ‘STEM’ means and what STEM can help us achieve in the world.”

OMSI, NASA and other experts “take up space”
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry was also on hand with a mobile planetarium to show off the wonders of the universe. Silverton Middle School students demonstrated school science projects and participants launched rockets with an all-girls rocket club and the local robotics team (which did very well in recent state competitions).

Special guest Dan Adamo, an expert in human space flight trajectory design and operations who worked for NASA for over thirty years and on over 60 Space Shuttle missions, was also on hand to educate the crowd about space and the solar eclipse.

According to Helms, thanks to funding from NASA, Silverton High School is one of only a few high schools in the country to be deploying a high-altitude weather balloon during this summer’s solar eclipse, equipped with cameras and sensors to collect data on the event.

Local business partners step up to share
Helms said that more than 12 industry partners joined in the STEM Week activities with informational stations and booth activities showing how integral STEM fields are to many different types of businesses and workforce skills.

SFSD team brings STEM Week together
SFSD staff members from the high school and middle school helped make STEM week possible including: Emily Perttu (High School Physics and Chemistry); Clarissa Bay (High School Biology, Geology, and Forensic Science); Nicole Guyer (Mark Twain 2nd grade); Donna Becker (Mark Twain, 2nd grade); and Maureen Powell (Middle School Science).

“We want everyone, from little kids to adults, can see that they can personally engage with STEM, adopt STEM-inspired thinking and participate in STEM activities. It’s not just for students; it’s not just for people at work. It can be a lifelong passion,” said Helms. “We want to break up stereotypes and encourage hands-on engagement. STEM isn’t just for boys; it’s not just about designing a bridge or doing a math problem. The skills that one acquires through STEM activities, like creative problem-solving, interest in finding out how and why things work, and the ability to analyze information are applicable to any work situation, in a STEM field or not.”

Falcons take robotics by storm
After taking a year off from robotics, the Silverton Middle School robotics program is back in business. Thanks to Maureen Powell and Zeb Schweickert, SMS is now offering both introductory level VEX IQ and advanced level VEX robotics programs.

Thirteen SMS Falcons on three teams recently had a chance to build remote-controlled robots and were able to test their designs at multiple tournaments throughout the 2016-2017 season. SMS also hosted the VEX IQ State Championship on March 4.

According to SMS science teacher Maureen Powell, twenty-five teams from seven different schools came to compete, some traveled from as far away as Marcolla and Siletz.

SMS robotics teams take home awards
Throughout the season, the Falcon’s VEX IQ team earned one Judges award and two STEM research project awards, one of which was at the State championship. One of the VEX teams also earned a Middle School Excellence award and ended the season with first place in the bronze division at the State championship. The other VEX team earned a Design award and a Judges award during.

“This was an outstanding achievement considering the VEX teams were competing alongside high school teams,” said Powell.