by Lisa Tome
It doesn't take much to build a beacon that can rescue stranded explorers from outer space.
All you really need are some paper plate holders, plastic tubes, and assorted items all readily available at the local dollar store.
At least that's how second graders at Conowingo Elementary envisioned it.
"Children are natural engineers," said Erica Bertoli, educational outreach program manager at the Army's Commuications - Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC). Bertoli and others spent last week at Conowingo Elementary teaching students to embrace STEM.
The school hosted staff from an Army research and development center to facilitate hands-on Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education programs from April 21-24. The outreach was for students in grades one through five.
STEM Superstar is a one week program designed for elementary students. Short lessons outline STEM learning. Students are then presented with a problem and given a box of arts and craft supplies to build a solution.
"STEM Superstar is intended to give elementary school students a view of engineering that takes the fear and stigma of STEM subjects away and replaces it with the idea that engineering is creative and fun," said Bertoli.
"The kids are enjoying it," said Karen Adair, Conowingo's assistant principal.
Bertoli said that the "missions" provided to students varied and became more challenging according to grade level. "By fifth grade, you have to have a budget," said Bertoli. "Their imagination is limitless. This teaches them an abbreviated version of the design process. There is a huge focus on the teamwork element that is so much a part of engineering now."
CERDEC, which is headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, will take STEM Superstar programming to each elementary school in Cecil and Harford counties.