First STEM Class at Golda Och Academy Inspires Students to Tackle Real-World Problems

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Golda Och Academy (GOA) recently held a STEM symposium at the Eric F. Ross Upper School campus, celebrating the achievements of high school students in the Dr. Lynne B. Harrison STEM program and the award-winning robotics team, the CodeRunners, as well as showcasing middle school projects including robots built for the FIRST Tech Challenge. 

Attendees at the symposium had the opportunity to explore and learn about the capstone projects from students in the four-year STEM program, who were challenged to solve a real-world problem. Projects included a fingerprint-activated garage door opener, a system that automatically detects water level and turns off a bath tub faucet, and a bracelet that detects UVA and UVB exposure and alerts users when to reapply sunscreen.

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In previous years, students have devised an EpiPen that would automatically alert 911 with GPS location when used as well as a car seat that alerted a parent when a baby was left inside after the vehicle stopped and became too hot.

One of the guiding principles of STEM education at GOA is to use science, technology, engineering and math to make the world a better place. Each year, small groups create a capstone project where they receive a small budget to tackle a problem and find a solution, develop a prototype and devise a marketing plan.

This past year, faculty members were invited to submit a request for a problem that needed a tech solution. As a result, one of the senior STEM class groups devised a solution to automate the student attendance system at school.

Each student was given a unique QR code that they used to sign in with in the morning. An excel spreadsheet was then generated with a sorted list of absent and present students, including the time they arrived. The attendance system was piloted at school.

In addition to taking pride in these innovative projects, GOA was proud to celebrate the first graduating class of the four-year intensive engineering program. The current graduates were the first to participate under the direction of Dr. Shira Kelmanovich, who holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University.

“I believe the high school STEM program has exposed our students to careers in engineering and technology and, as a result, has encouraged them to pursue these fields as they move on to college,” said Dr. Kelmanovich.

Graduates from the first cohort are continuing their involvement in STEM, attending such institutions as the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering, Tufts University, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and the Technion in Israel.

 “Through the STEM program we learned that we have the power to solve real-life problems,” said Alex Beigelman, a graduate of the Class of 2018. “And above all else, we learned not to be afraid to fail and make mistakes.”

As the interest in STEM continues to grow, GOA also welcomed Paul-Michael Huseman as its new Science Department Chair and STEM Instructor. Huseman lent his unique expertise to the program and will continue to do so in the fall when GOA will expand its offerings, running two sections for the 9th grade STEM class.

“We are extremely happy that students and parents see the value of the program and hope to continue to engage as many students as we can in STEM,” said Huseman.   

This program has been made possible through the generous support of community philanthropist Dr. Lynne Harrison. The school’s 4,500-square-foot Dr. Lynne B Harrison STEM Center has two outfitted maker spaces—a STEM Lab and a Robotics Labs—that include a 3D printing lab, laser cutter and CNC Router, enabling students to tackle challenging projects that demonstrate principles such as electricity, circuits and coding.

The school also has received support from Center for Innovation in Jewish Education and The Gottesman Fund. For more information on GOA, visit www.goldaochacademy.org or contact Micah Gottlieb, Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management, at mgottlieb@goldaochacademy.org.