by Lisa Tome
First graders at Cecil Manor Elementary School couldn't wait to get their hands on what Charity Baggett brought to their classroom recently.
Baggett had big boxes of all sorts of non-traditional building materials.
Baggett and Tomeika Dyer were visiting the school from Aberdeen Proving Ground. The pair were in classrooms teaching lessons. Cecil Manor hosted a U.S. Army research and development center to facilitate a hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) program from November 16-19. This was part of the STEM Superstar program.
STEM Superstar is an immersive program designed for elementary school students. Each class of first through fifth graders received a one hour lesson which included a STEM presentation and hands-on activity.
"I love it. I've worked with kids for a long time. It's great to have that informal interaction with them," said Dyer. "I wish they had this when I was in school."
Before the building began, Baggett explained Aberdeen Proving Ground. She also explained that many superheroes are also engineers. She worked to dispel the belief that STEM is to be feared. She listed movies for children that all have a STEM theme. She also said there is STEM in Minecraft, cooking, sports, and many other daily activities.
Engineers should be creative, experimental, creative, smart, hard working, and one of a kind. "You're all engineers," said Baggett.
The building materials were used for the students to build a space vehicle. The vehicle had to feature a power source, a way for passengers to breathe, and something to keep the riders from floating away.
Students first had to draw a model and then build the vehicle with dollar store items such as tubing, paper plate holders, and more.
"Children are natural engineers," said Erica Bertoli, educational outreach program manager at the Army's Communications - Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). The STEM Superstar program is also intended to give elementary students a view of engineering which take the fear and stigma of STEM subjects away and replaces it with the idea that engineering is fun.
CERDEC, which is headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, is taking STEM Superstar programming to each elementary school in Cecil and Harford counties.