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Students inspired by Barbie, Harry Potter in STEM projects

Kenowa Hills — Several Kenowa Middle School STEM Academy students’ hydraulics projects were inspired by popular movies and shown at an end-of-semester showcase in December. 

STEM Academy teacher Steven Feutz said within 15 minutes of assigning the project, one group of students had a plan to construct a hydraulic-powered dream house. 

“Welcome to Barbie’s dream house,” eighth-grader Anthony Taylor said to spectators at the showcase.

“Our projects had to have two separate controls, demonstrate mechanical advantage somehow and it had to accomplish a task,” Anthony explained. 

Eighth-grader Emma Hardin explained how Barbie wakes up in the morning and moves around her house, with help from an elevator, powered up and down by a push-and-pull syringe system. 

When Barbie needs to go to the grocery store for apples, Emma explained, she opens her hydraulics-powered garage doors and drives there in her pink car.

Eighth-grader Emma Hardin explains how systems of syringes power Barbie’s dream house

The students’ projects could also have included 3D-printed elements to aid in their design or add flair. 

One group took inspiration from the “Harry Potter” series with a syringe system that moved a train toward a 3D-printed replica of the Hogwarts castle. 

“We used a force divider, one larger syringe and one smaller one to make the train go farther along the tracks,” eighth-grader Colton Rogalski said. 

Launched in 2019, the STEM Academy gives middle- and high-school students project-based educational and real-life experiences in science, technology, engineering and math to prepare them with skills to enter the workforce. 

The end-of-semester showcase provided current students the space to share their work with their peers, teachers and district leaders. 

Feutz said the showcase was also an opportunity for seventh-graders to see what STEM Academy is all about before potentially applying. 

“The projects turned out really great this year,” he said. “It was also the first time we had all of the 3D printing machines working at the same time.”

Read more from Kenowa Hills: 
Egg pilots teach aerodynamics on football field
Powered by hydraulics

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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