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Northern High physics students host elementary STEM program

Students at Central Woodlands participate in STEM activities created by Northern High school students as part of the Square One Education Network Ambassadorship Challenge

Forest Hills — A group of Northern High students visited the district’s three fifth- and sixth-grade buildings to help raise interest in the district’s STEM program and complete a requirement for an upcoming competition.

The students, who are part of teacher Elbert Yeh’s AP Physics 1 and 2, are participating in the Square One Education Network Innovative Vehicle Design competition. The competition includes the Ambassadorship Challenge, where participants must plan and implement a science, technology, engineering and math outreach program to at least 100 younger students to share their project and provide a STEM learning experience for those students. 

Senior Lea Zainea said the students wanted to reach a total of 400 students. They made plans to visit the district’s three fifth- and sixth-grade buildings to showcase their project and provide STEM activities and information about STEM Academy, housed at Northern High.

“We wanted to give the students an experience in STEM before they get into the high school,” Lea said. “I know I would not have taken STEM if I had not had the opportunity to experience something like this at the elementary level.”

Getting Hands-On with STEM

To showcase the STEM opportunities, the high-school students planned three activities: making structures with toothpicks and marshmallows, making a paper airplane and then having races with the planes, and building a catapult to launch a ball made of foil into a plastic cup to win a piece of candy.

Central Woodlands students entered the school’s gym and first watched a video about the Square One competition and the vehicles high-school students were building. Juniors are working on a remote-controlled underwater vehicle that must complete a variety of tasks in a given amount of time. The seniors are participating in a full-scale IVD challenge, where they are building an electric go-kart that runs off two 12-volt car batteries that needs to incorporate innovative features and demonstrate performance on two road tracks.

Elementary students visited each of the STEM stations, then headed outside to watch as a group of high-school students made elephant toothpaste, an exothermic reaction experiment that combines water, hydrogen peroxide, yeast and dish soap.

“I think it is a cool opportunity for the younger students to be able to learn from the older students and experience some hands-on STEM activities,” said Jessa Boles, a Central Woodlands sixth-grade teacher. 

Sixth-grader Soleil Walters said she enjoyed talking to the high-school students about the STEM projects.

Some of the high-school students said they were surprised at how creative some of the Central Woodlands students could be.

“Did you guys see the structure the students on the end were building?” said senior Matteo Adzic, who worked with the younger students on building with toothpicks and marshmallows. “They built a wider base so they could make the structure sturdier and taller.”

Lea said the students will put together a video of the program that will be entered into the running for Square One’s Ambassadorship Award.

The juniors are scheduled to compete with their underwater IVD on March 21 in Charlotte. The seniors will compete in the full-scale IVD on May 3 at Flint’s Kettering University.

Read more from Forest Hills: 
Look for the blue bandana
Project-based program serves lesson in sustainability

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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