What is 'STEM' anyway?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Engineering a Solution

Mrs. Meyers’ students have been working on an engineering experiment to determine whether there are ways to prevent a mudslide, such as the one that occurred near Oso on March 22, 2014.  They designed and conducted their experiments and this week they are presenting their findings to their peers.

Some of the students have decided to install cement walls and others have experimented with placing a net over the hillside to prevent erosion.  Each group tested their hypothesis with a small scale model and recorded their results.  In many cases, the result was that they could slow down the erosion, but not prevent the soil from coming down the hillside.

The students fielded questions from others who were asking about the real world application from different perspectives, such as a logger, environmentalist, home owner, first responder, and city/county official.  The questions were genuine and thought provoking.  The home owners wanted to know if they would survive if they lived on the other side of a proposed wall, environmentalists were concerned about the animals getting caught in the netting and the loggers weren’t sure they were going to be able to get their equipment up the hill so that they could access the trees.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Science is All Around Us

There seems to be a general apathy toward science these days.  People seem to think that science is only important for a small fraction of the population.  Middle school students may think that science is boring and doesn’t affect them.  Contrary to this popular attitude, science is all around us and affects us all.  Science answers the questions such as “Why is the sky blue?”, “How do birds fly?” and “How do we get energy from the sun?”.  Science is working toward answering questions like, “How do we predict when the next earthquake is going to rock our world?” “How do we deal with the extra flooding and other severe weather events that are occurring due to climate change?”, “Does extraterrestrial life exist?” and “If we travel through a spinning black hole, do we end up in another universe?”

Speaking of astrophysics, Stephen Hawking is warning us that, as humans, our own technological advances will be our downfall during the next one hundred years or so.  He implores us to make good choices and control the dangers associated with the inevitable technological advances.

Even if you are not one of the people who will solve these problems, you still need a basic understanding of science and technology.  Most likely you will encounter STEM in your field of choice even if you don’t realize it now. It is also important for you to have a basic understanding of science and technology to be able to vote wisely.  A democracy is only as good as its constituency!

Let’s say you are into sports and not into science or voting.  Don’t forget that people who understand physics will excel in sports.  If you are a skateboarder, you will want to understand where your center of mass is and what forces are acting on you and your board.  If you’re a baseball or softball player, you may want to know why it’s important to find the sweet spot on the bat or how to improve your curveball and science can help you with that!

Or maybe you are into fashion design or want to be a make-up artist.  As a fashion designer, you will want to know how gabardine was made to be an untearable and weatherproof fabric and how silk is made.  Knowledge of science may inspire you to create a purse that will charge your phone using solar energy or a dress that is pink indoors but changes colors with sunshine or water.  As a make-up artist, you will need to know which type of product to use on oily skin versus dry skin and why.

Many students who participated in the STEM program at Haller last year found that STEM can be fun and interesting.  Here’s what they had to say…

“It is really cool to see your end result of the STEM project and the project is really fun.”

“I learned a lot about solar energy and how to manage my time wisely.”

When asked what they would change about the STEM project, one student replied, “NOTHING, I really enjoyed it!”

This month the students are working on solving some of our current issues and are starting to get excited about their projects.  Students are working on developing a prototype of an engineered solution to help solve a problem they found while researching their topic.
A couple of students are developing a better dike to protect against severe weather events.

One group of students is working on a water purification project and are trying to figure out a way to purify salt water.

This is the initial design for their project, but they have since made modifications to the heat source and the container.

Please don’t be apathetic about science.  It explains our world and gives us hope for our future generations.