Upper St. Clair School District

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Summer STEAM Academy 2015 - Patterns and Chaos

The STEAM Academy completed its fourth year this summer during the week of June 22-28. This year’s theme, Patterns and Chaos, was selected based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that encompass both science and engineering. Each course was related to the theme, finding patterns within the context of the class. Fifty Upper St. Clair students entering grades 9-12 participated in the program which ran from 9:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M daily. Each student selected to participate in one of the four courses which included:
FabLab—Forms and Fluctuations
Model Rocketry—Design and Variance
Chemistry—Entropy and Symmetry
Sculpture—Exceptional Arrangements Through Erratic Motions

Dr. Dominic Frollini, High School AP and Honors Chemistry Teacher, was the instructor for the chemistry course. Students had a busy week learning about crystal structures and actually growing crystals of copper sulfate, alum, and magnesium sulfate. Students prepared forms to grow the crystals creating a synthetic “geode” structure to take home at the end of the week. Students also experimented growing crystals on various other surfaces including paper and rocks. Students also made paper and Styrofoam models or the various types of crystal structures.

Mr. Steve Stroyne, High School Technology Education Teacher, was the instructor for the FabLab course. The students learned how to use the Autodesk Inventor program to design and create a keychain that was then printed using the 3-D printer. They next explored CorelDraw X6 to design and create a decorative wooden box using the laser engraver. Students spent the remainder of the week creating personal projects ranging from an engraved plaque of an older sibling’s graduation speech to a set of full size chairs (made using the CNC cutting machine).

Mr. Russ Hoburg, a new High School Science Teacher, was the instructor for the model rocketry course. The students explored the factors that affect the flight of rockets including propulsion, aerodynamics, and safe landing. Working on teams, students were challenged to build a rocket, using recycled materials, that would hold an egg and protect it upon landing. They began with water rockets, tested parachute landing systems, and then advanced to rockets with chemical propulsion. The weather held up nicely and allowed the students many opportunities to test their rockets outside. Students also had the opportunity to visit via phone with former USC graduate Matt Vernacchia who graduated this May from MIT with degrees in aeronautics and astronautics. Matt shared his experiences both from high school and college with the USC students and offered his support as they continue their academic careers.

Ms. Erika Valentine, our new High School Art Teacher, returned for a second year to the STEAM program to lead the sculpture class. Students were supported in designing and creating a 3-dimensional sculpture made of recycled metal and then mounted in concrete. Students began by learning about the use of repetitive patterns or fractals, and their role in art design. They then moved into the Innovation Hub lab and learned how to use metal cutting and grinding tools along with the proper use of welding tools. By the end of the week, each student had created a unique and amazing sculpture!

The students were in class from 9-11:30 A.M. each day and then had lunch together as a group in the LGI from 11:30 A.M. - Noon. They enjoyed the summer weather on Wednesday with a picnic by the Athletic entrance. Following lunch each day, Ms. Lynn Kistler, High School Science Curriculum Leader and head of the STEAM Academy, supervised students through a variety of STEAM design challenges. Students were challenged on Monday to build a Lego figure by listening and following directions given by their partner. On Tuesday, teams had to build towers made of spaghetti and marshmallows. Wednesday, the challenge grew to building a tower made of aluminum foil and straws to support a golf ball. On Thursday (during the Duquesne Light mandated power outage), students used scissors and construction paper to make a cut-out of a fractal pattern. After lunch on Friday, each group gave a presentation explaining to the other classes the activities throughout the week. The presentations were followed by the presentation of certificates to each student along with a STEAM t-shirt.

Overall, the week was a great success and the dedication of the students to summer learning opportunities was phenomenal. We look forward to an exciting STEAM Academy 2016.
 
 
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