By Randi Jannette
On Friday, Nov. 8, students and teaching staff at Glenn W. Levey Middle School celebrated National STEM Day. The students participated in four different STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) stations led by The Marburger STEM Center’s Outreach Coordinator, Jaclyn Smith, and several Lawrence Technological University student ambassadors, specifically Ava Cole, Katie Hotchkiss, Nikhil Veerabhadrappa, Kelsey Catania, Faisal Akbar and Fayed Akbar.
The ambassadors seemed to enjoy the program just as much as the middle school students. When asked why they decided to participate in STEM Day, one of the ambassadors, Kelsey Catania responded, “I volunteer to give back to the community and to teach kids in a fun way that they will remember. Helping others makes me smile.”
The middle school students rotated through the four STEM stations in groups, spending eight minutes engaged in each activity. The STEM-based event was held in the middle school’s new STEAM Innovation Lab impacting approximately 60 middle school students (6th-8th grade). Each student received a “passport” to write down key concepts they learned during the STEM rotations.
Katie Hotchkiss led the first STEM station focused on a robotic arm she designed herself to teach the students’ concepts about hydraulics and engineering. The materials used to prepare the robotic arm were cardboard, toothpicks, super glue, syringes and tubes filled with water. By moving the syringes to change the pressure within the tubes, you can move the arm up or down and sideways and rotate the base of the robotic arm.
The second STEM station was led by 8th grade students and ambassadors Faisal Akbar and Fayed Akbar focusing on the elephant toothpaste reaction. The elephant toothpaste (also known as the giant toothpaste) chemical reaction occurs by combining hydrogen peroxide into a clear plastic bottle with food coloring and dishwashing liquid. Fast-acting yeast with water serves as the catalyst, which speeds up the chemical reaction. Oxygen gas is released from the hydrogen peroxide and is trapped in the bubbles of the soap, which provides a very colorful foamy display.
Catania and Nikhil Veerabhadrappa led the third STEM station focused on Magic Milk, where students can visually evaluate the amount of fat in different types of milk, namely whole, 2% and skim milk. The milk was placed into three separate petri dishes along with a drop of food coloring in the middle of the dish. Next, a cotton swab was dipped into soap and then in the middle of the petri dish causing the food coloring to scatter. Subsequently, the higher the percentage of milkfat, the more dramatic the scattering within the milk.
The last STEM station focusing on extracting DNA or Deoxyribonucleic Acid from strawberries was led by Ava Cole. The DNA was extracted from the strawberries using soap, isopropyl alcohol and sodium chloride (NaCl) salt. The soap helps to dissolve the cell membranes, while the NaCl helps in removing protein chains that hold nucleic acids together. The DNA does not dissolve in alcohol and is precipitated from the solution as a white cloudy substance.
The middle school students were very engaged throughout the STEM Day experience and excited about the chemical reactions. Several students volunteered to help the LTU ambassadors with parts of the experiments. One Levey Middle School student shared, “I thought it was fun to learn how milk, food coloring and detergent made the fat in the milk move to one side of the dish.”
Ms. Chrisondra Austin, a science teacher at Levey was very pleased with the STEM Day program. “STEM Day is important because it gives the kids opportunities to experience different fields of study, especially engineering. It shows them different careers that they could possibly go into within the STEM fields,” says Austin.
Overall, STEM Day at Glenn W. Levey Middle School was a success and hopefully encouraged some smart young minds to pursue careers in the STEM fields.