Early Project-Based Learning Experiences Pay Off Long-Term

While traveling, many people have a tendency to keep to themselves. We get lost in our devices or a good book, and often deliberately avoid random chit-chat with fellow travelers. Sometimes, though, engaging can lead to meaningful exchanges.

Recently, Paula Golden, the Executive Director of Broadcom Foundation and Director of Broadcom Corporation Community Affairs, met a man in his 20s named Josh as both were traveling cross country. Golden learned that he had begun working independently back in middle school on fractal art. Josh had become obsessed with it, but lacked the tools and computer programs he needed to delve as deeply as he wanted. Luckily, one of his teachers was willing and able to give him independent instruction on how to develop programs of his own, to give him a running start.

Golden’s conversation with Josh underscored the importance of project-based learning, in which kids are given individual guidance that allows them to engage on a practical level with STEM interests beyond books. With so many schools now hyper-focused on standardized testing, which does not typically allow for out-of-the-box projects within the classroom, Josh’s story exemplifies the value of inquiry-based learning. A little extra attention from the right teachers and support from family can lead to the development of advanced STEM skills and interests that have significant long-term potential to change the direction of a student’s education.

Read more about Golden’s observations after talking with Josh and learning about his background and endeavors.

Peer Pressure Impact on Girls and Minorities in STEM Tracks

Peer pressure is a force in all of our lives, and that’s especially so for school-aged kids. It’s been shown that the middle school years are when girls tend to start turning away from math and science. Psychology researcher Nilanjana Dasgupta from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is starting to investigate the factors contributing into that trend.

National Science FoundationDasgupta recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation which she will use to craft studies to examine both what keeps girls and minorities in, and what pulls them out of STEM studies. She plans to look at the impact of single-sex versus co-ed classrooms, and how peer pressure impacts kids as well.

Once she has accumulated that data, Dasqupta’s plan is to develop concrete tools and lesson plans that can be used to improve retention of girls in math and science tracks.

Read more about the proposed studies.

How Far Can STEM Take You? Jack Andraka on The Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report had a very special guest on his October 30, 2013 show: teen scientist Jack Andraka.

Grand Prize Winner of the 2012 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), at the age of just 16 years old, Andraka developed a simple and inexpensive test for pancreatic cancer. He talks about that test and his work in general in this fun little interview.

Watch the interview here, or at the original web page.

School District Partnership Aids STEM Education in Mansfield

Mansfield Education FoundationIt’s no secret, not breaking news, that school budgets are suffering. The result is a reduction of programs which can help students learn outside of the core curricula. In Mansfield, MA, an ‘outside’ organization called Mansfield Education Foundation was set up in 2010 to raise and find money to help support students in a variety of ways, including STEM related programs. Like many ancillary groups, it takes a multi-pronged approach to fundraising, like an upcoming Secret Shop (December 7), where businesses can sponsor tables, as well as working with businesses in general for other gifts and sponsorships. The result of this work thus far has been more than $30,000 in grants given to Mansfield schools. Read more about their efforts to support their schools.

Innovation for the classroom can happen outside of the classroom!



Public Event: Science in the Streets

Art by BanksyIf you’re in the Boston area and free on November 21, 2013 from 3-6pm, there’s an event at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center which will kick off the annual conference of the History of Science Society. Presented in conjunction with the Boston University Center for Philosophy and History of Science, two panels will examine how the history of science can inform modern and innovative ways of getting citizens engaged with science.  Titled “Science and Spectacle” and “Crowdsourcing: Science by the People?” the event will feature discussions covering both current engagement techniques, and how those stack up against historical examples of similar efforts. Expect a vigorous debate, as well!

Admission to this event itself is free. Details can be found on the History of Science Society’s site, and also on their Facebook event page.

Massachusetts Takes Top Marks Among US States in Scoring

United States Department of EducationThe United States Department of Education is today releasing the results of a study of 2011 scores from the National Assessment of Education Progress exam. Summarized by the department’s National Center of Education Statistics, the study shows both good news for students across the United States, but also where our students stack up to peers around the world.

Massachusetts took the top ranking of results within the US but not overall, coming in behind some other nations. In an era of global competitiveness, it is notable to see both gains that have been had, and benchmarks still to reach.

Read more here

Dedham High School’s Math and Science Success

Dedham High School has been taking part in the Mass Math and Science Initiative (MMSI), and the students are enjoying great success, creating a model for around the state of Massachusetts.

In kicking off the school’s 5th year of participation in this program, Mass Insight Education director Joe Mahoney laid out the reality of how much better students are doing in STEM curricula once they reach college as a result of having taken part in this program. Read more in the Daily News Transcript.


Girl Scouts + STEM = Geek is Glam

Geek is Glam event at WPI

While we’re generally accustomed to seeing STEM stories through activities in schools, encouragement and support can come from many corners. A great new example of this is a partnership between the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. On Saturday, they are presenting a day of Geek is Glam events aimed at showing more girls what the possibilities are for STEM related careers. There will be workshops on a variety of topics including how to use every day objects to do science, and speakers from astrophysics, meteorology, NASA, and more.

Read more on MassLive

MA State Science Fair Alum Honored with Fulbright Fellowship

Daniel W. Youngstrom, a graduate of Marlborough High School and former Massachusetts State High School Science Fair exhibitor, has achieved a rare honor: As a grad student at Virginia Tech, Dan has received a Fulbright fellowship.

A Ph.D. candidate in biomedical and veterinary science at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Dan helps develop stem cell treatments for horses.  Later this month, his Fulbright fellowship will take him to Riga, Latvia to pursue his work at the Cell Transplantation Center.  “The Cell Transplantation Center is similarly developing cell-based therapies to treat a variety of conditions in humans,” he said. I am excited to apply my experience in veterinary research to its work, and the collaboration should prove to be mutually beneficial.”

Dan was involved in the Marlborough High School Science Fair in 2004 and 2005.  He took his 2005 project  to the Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair and then all the way the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair.  Yet another science fair success story!

Congratulations, Dan!

Read more on Virginia Tech News

Check out the TEDx Talk by MSSEF Alum Rick Housley

Over the years, several participants in the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fairs have truly made a lasting impression.  Rick Housley is one of them.  Now a sophomore at Stevens Institute of Technology, Rick graduated from Boston University Academy in 2012.  A multi-award-winning exhibitor during his middle and high school years, Rick launched his science fair career with the development of a computer controlled robotic arm in 6th grade. Rick recalls that the complexity of his projects increased from year to year:

“As I matured my projects did too. They grew in complexity, depth, and real-world applicability. In 7th grade I made the robotic arm wireless. In 8th grade I developed a device capable of controlling electrical sockets via text message. In 9th grade I made my 8th grade project capable of controlling almost anything via text message, even those troublesome home appliances. In 10th grade I found my passion for biomedical devices and developed a wearable navigation system for blind users: a device that would announce to the user the location of ‘key objects’ within a room.”

Rick won the prestigious Frederick P. Fish Patent Award at the 2011 State High School Fair for his E-LERT device, which was also the basis of his first-place project in 2012′s state fair. At the beginning of his senior year, Rick told us, “I hope to make E-LERT a device that can really change lives.” He seems to be well on his way, having signed an assignment agreement with a medical device company for IP and technology related to the E-LERT project.

Rick recently gave a talk about his project on TEDx, a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. We can’t wait to see what else is in store for this amazing young man.  Congratulations, Rick!