July 28, 2014 at 11:08 AM
Westfield Public School District’s second annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Camp took off with a bang this summer as student-engineered rockets were launched outdoors and robots were programmed to traverse indoor obstacle courses in the science labs at Westfield High School.
Taught by Westfield teachers, the first week’s session from July 7- 11 was repeated July 14 – 18 in order to accommodate the growing number of interested students. Tailored for Westfield students entering grades 3 through 8 in September, a total of 200 students – a 33 percent increase from last year -- participated in hands-on Robotics, Rocketry, Scratch Programming, Science Lab, Computer-Aided Design, and LEGO Engineering and Animation, Stop Action Filming, and Forensics.
David Parke, who during the school year is a 7th grade science teacher at Edison Intermediate School, explained the planning that went into the grade selection. "We chose this age group in part because for some reason around 4th grade the interest in science kind of dips. By starting with 3rd grade we get them before interest normally wears off. I had someone say to me the other day: ‘I didn't realize that science was this fun!’ and it is, and it should be. And it is best that is fun right around this age so they are hooked on such great things!"
STEM Camper Giulia Giannetta, who completed elementary school in June, described the fun she had: "My favorite part about STEM camp is Science because we do all these awesome experiments with dry ice. In flight class we get to build our own rockets and launch them off an air compressor and it shoots across the high school fields. It’s so cool."
New this year to Westfield’s STEM Camp was a field trip topping off each week, which was held on Friday at Kean University’s STEM center. Kean's Science Education majors prepared lessons for the Westfield students and taught these classes which were all designed within a superheroes theme. “We were so very appreciative of Kean President Dr. Dawood Farahi and his team for providing our students with exposure to a university setting in a state-of-the-art STEM facility,” stated Westfield Superintendent of Schools Dr. Margaret Dolan. “"I was invited earlier in the year for a tour of Kean's STEM Center facility and was impressed by the brand new labs and available science technology. It was a great opportunity for our campers to put on lab coats and goggles and have access to these facilities and resources,” she added.
Edison Intermediate School Computer Technology teacher Laura Paiva, who taught Robotics at STEM camp, added, "I think STEM is great because it exposes students to different types of learning. They are learning about Science, they are learning about Math, they are learning about technology and bringing them all together and learning about how those skills interface in the real world."
Other teachers who were instrumental in developing and instructing the camp activities included: Craig Adams, Julianne Doto, Andrew Bausch, James Shabazz, Willa Schaeffer, Wendy Hahn, and Susan Marie Terra. Sean Bonasera, Technology teacher at Edison Intermediate School and this year’s recipient of the Excellence Award from the New Jersey Technology Educators Association, continued as Westfield STEM Camp coordinator.
Other integral members of STEM Camp were the following Westfield High School students who each volunteered an average of 80 hours of their summer to assist the campers and teachers: Spencer Fishman, Andrew Malacrea, Hannah Goldring, Jennifer Rogers, Michael Carides, Joseph Detrano, Nick Youssef, Vivek Sreenivasan, Natalie Karter, Mark Fico, Jack Mulvanerty, and Evan Binder, as well as Nicholas Paiva, son of Edison Technology teacher, Laura Paiva. During the Friday visits to Kean, Fishman, Goldring and Malacrea provided entertaining presentations on physics, chemistry and engineering and spoke to the campers about how STEM education has influenced their lives.