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City School students shine at STEM showcase

Capstone project culminates with students identifying solutions to community problems

Ruth Young Tyler | 6/30/2017, 6 a.m.
Arlington Elementary School students Tyreek Brown, Kaylen Randall, Aubrey Smith, Keith Stevenson, and their classmates identified a problem in their ...
Councilman Leon F. Pinkett III (D. 7th district) –( center) congratulates fourth graders (l. to r.) Keith Stevenson, Tyreek Brown, Aubrey Smith and Kaylen Randall from Arlington Elementary School for their participation in the spring STEM Showcase at Johns Hopkins University’s Newton White Athletic Center. The students designed the inner workings of an electric rattrap using the engineering design process. Ruth Young Tyler

Arlington Elementary School students Tyreek Brown, Kaylen Randall, Aubrey Smith, Keith Stevenson, and their classmates identified a problem in their community and saw the evidence of it: Rats! To address the problem, they designed the inner workings of an electric rattrap.

To help them along the process, the 4th graders participated in an after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at their school, which met twice a week, three hours each day. The group participated in a six-month student-driven project to identify problems in their community – and came up with a solution. After months of learning, researching and understanding the engineering design process, the students presented their findings.

Students from 10 public schools participated in a STEM showcase at Johns Hopkins University’s Newton White Athletic Center, during the 4th quarter of the 2017-2018 school year. With over 60 different projects and nearly 600 attendees, the event celebrated the educational STEM achievements and student-driven projects during in-school lessons and after-school programs.

Baltimore City Councilman Leon F. Pinkett III (D. 7th district) was among the supporters at the event to see each invention.

Many of the students, including those at Arlington Elementary attended a previous STEM showcase and said they looked forward to participating in more events. In addition to developing the inner workings of an electric rattrap, students designed a poop-scooping robot, a portable shelter for the homeless and a trash truck with mechanical arms.

With the advancements of overlapping disciplines, STEM has opened up exciting career fields for elementary school students that were not around 15-20 years ago.

“We recognize the amount of time and support that’s required to spotlight the STEM projects of our SABES students and we applaud their achievements,” said Alisha N. Sparks, elementary school SABES program manager at Johns Hopkin University Whiting School of Engineering.

The National Science Foundation awarded a $7.4 million grant to Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering and Education in 2012. Sponsored by STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES), a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University, SABES is a five-year grant funded program that culminated this year. Program organizers hope to bridge the gap and improve educational outcomes for nine targeted schools: Arlington Elementary/Middle School, Barclay Elementary/Middle School, Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary/School, Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#215), Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#237), John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School, Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School and Pimlico Elementary/Middle School.

The program has impacted more than 2,200 Baltimore students and trained 147 STEM facilitators and teachers. Research suggests students who've participated in the STEM program display more confidence, greater analytical thinking and an increase interest in a STEM career. The number of students interested in becoming an engineer has increased by 27 percent as a result of the program.

“Watching the children develop into critical thinkers and asking thought-provoking questions proved they are engaged and interested in STEM careers,” said Martha Syed, a three-year STEM facilitator at John Ruhrah Elementary School and Arlington Elementary School. “Students become self-aware when they understand that STEM impacts their home life, school and community.”

The end-of year SABES STEM Showcase which incorporated the nine partner schools from three communities— Greater Homewood, Park Heights and Greektown/Highlandtown, according to Sparks. One of the organization’s goals is to expose the students to STEM careers so that they are globally competitive, be solution-oriented and have a greater understanding of the world.

“The SABES STEM Showcase is a visual reminder to our students that they can do anything they put their minds to,” said Sparks. “[And] shows students that everyone can succeed in STEM and bring innovative solutions to solve problems in their local communities.”

Sparks says the STEM Showcase dispelled the myth that it’s ‘uncool’ to be smart.