Cool STEM Stuff
I recently had the pleasure of peeking into the goings-on of a STEM class at Nimitz Middle School (the class happens to be on the Lee campus), and I walked away amazed at what I saw. The teacher, Sandra Geisbush, is doing some amazing things with her students! Where do I begin?
Sandra spoke to me about some of her students who will be aiming for top prize this summer in the national competition known as eCybermission. The competition is sponsored by the US Army, and is held in Washington DC. Here’s a description from the eCybermission web site:
eCYBERMISSION is a web-based Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) competition free for students in grades six through nine where teams can compete for State, Regional and National Awards while working to solve problems in their community.
Our hopes are high for them as they prepare for this wonderful opportunity to represent our district!
So the question arises…”What type of community problem is this group exploring?” The answer is very relevant to our times, and will likely grow in relevance as time passes. The group is interested in exploring the impact of battery disposal on plant growth, and thus the indirect impact on humans.
I was impressed with the lengths to which Sandra and her students have gone to to achieve their goal. They crushed up some batteries, and put them into the dirt surrounding seeds of the plants that they would study. Of course, they also prepared soil untainted by batteries as well. They then used a document camera to take time-lapse photos of the plants while they grew, so they could chart the growth and display the results with media. I am interested in hearing of their findings.
Another thing I enjoyed hearing about was a new tool that Geisbush and her students are using with their microscopes and their iPads. It’s an adapter that replaces the ocular lens on the microscope, and plugs into the iPad to allow for viewing of magnified slides on the iPad. In addition to this, there is an app that accompanies the adapter that allows for taking photos of the magnifications, as well as for measuring each image to scale. Pretty cool! The company who produces the adapter is called Exo Labs.
The last thing (I’m sure I’m missing something else, but this is all I saw) is that the class discovered a way to monitor the soil’s moisture level with a sensor that is usually used in conjunction with the NXT brick for a Lego Mindstorms Robot. They are using a humidity sensor to monitor the condition of the soil, so that they will know when to water.
I am amazed with the amount of real-world thinking going on in Geisbush’s class, and how they are using the technology tools that are available to them to get the job done. We wish them well in their competition.
Below I have included some points that Sandra wanted me to add to the post:
Please acknowledge Lorraine Bratcher and Clarissa Ruiz (NEISD Science Specialists). They facilitated an engineering session as the kids worked through designing and automating the watering system. It is programmed not only to sense the moisture levels but also to automatically turn the water off and on, as needed, robotically!Team I.O.N. stands for Improving Our Nation. This name is also appropriate because the team is comparing the regular runoff to the contaminated runoff for ionization and also for evidence of various substances that are known carcinogens (causing cancer) and teratogens (causing birth defects).For winning State, each member of Team I.O.N. won $1,000. For winning Pacific / Southwest Regionals each team member received an additional $2,000.00 and an all expenses paid trip for a week in Washington DC to compete in the e-Cybermission National Judging and Educational Event. If the team wins Nationals they will each receive an additional $5,000.00!The National Showcase will be streamed live from the e-Cybermission http://www.ecybermission.com site during the week of June 16th to 21st.