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Inquiry First.

Last week, thousands gathered to hear about the wonders of science and engineering from hundreds of Massachusetts organizations.  Tables filled with activities lit up children's faces and intrigued their parents.  For four hours, these activities took over the Cambridge Public Library and the surrounding lawn and field house.

In addition to all of the hands-on activities, students of all ages also enjoyed a robot zoo featuring water robots, rolling robots, sniffing robots and every other kind of robot in between.  Stage performances featuring fanciful chemistry demonstrations, science comedy, and much more entertained visitors throughout the event.

~Shannon Morey

For the past year a group of 10 East Boston High School (EBHS) students with the guidance of two EBHS teachers have been learning science and helping their community.  The students have been reading and creating science non-fiction stories for elementary students at Umana Academy in East Boston.  They have also been mentoring 6th graders leading and environmental initiative at Umana.

During all of this, the students were also fundraising for their biggest service learning project - a trip to Arizona to volunteer at the Navajo Nation reservation.  The students completed their trip last week and chronicled their activities on a... Read More

Many feel that when people refer to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) they are really just talking about science and math. Technology and engineering often get put aside in K-12 classrooms to focus on the fundamentals of science and mathematics.  However, things are starting to change.  As the need for students with engineering and technology skills increases the need to teach students these skills before they reach college has become apparent.

EdWeek mentions a number of initiatives to bring the T and E in STEM that are gaining momentum in classrooms across the country.  Tens of thousands of classrooms are now using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum materials developed by Boston's own Museum of Science.  The new common standards also have a greater focus on engineering skills and an engineering based Advanced Placement (AP) course may be... Read More

The Boston-based non-profit Citizen Schools has long been working with corporate partners to bring exciting STEM experiences into the classroom and give students access to STEM professionals.  Now, Citizen Schools will working with corporations on the US2020 project with the goal of having 1 million STEM professionals mentoring K12, college, and graduate students throughout their careers by the year 2020.  In addition to changing the landscape of STEM education by giving students these opportunities, they also hope to change the workplace for those in STEM careers by making volunteering a common occurrence. Citizen Schools will be incubating this project until June 2014.  Cisco, Cognizant, and SanDisk are the founding corporate partners.... Read More

MSSEF received notification of an opportunity through the UMass STEM Ed Institute that we thought we’d share with "Inquiry First" readers.  Mohawk Trail High School has been a long-time participant in the Massachusetts State Science Fair program.

The UMass STEM Ed Institute Tuesday Seminar Series presents:
Wayne Kermenski
Science Teacher, Mohawk Trail Regional School District
Project Based Learning, the Fifth Academic Class

A few years back, Mohawk Trail Regional Middle School created a course entitled, Project Based Learning or PBL.  It became one of five academic classes for middle school students.  The goals for this course included inquiry-based projects that enforced skills students learned in their other courses.  In addition, the course was responsible for implementing social curriculum, math and reading literacy remediation, and authentic learning opportunities.  The benefits from this course included an increase in student attendance, a well-rounded education for our students, and a letter of acknowledgement from the Governor for our achievement in our MCAS math scores.  ... Read More

Samidha Sane, 8th grade science teacher and science fair coordinator at the Locke Middle School in Billerica, received the Aerospace Teacher of the Year award from the Massachusetts Wing Civil Air Patrol (the auxiliary wing of the US Air Force).   Samidha is now Massachusetts' aerospace teacher of the year nominee for the entire Northeast region.  Depending on the results of the Northeast competition, she could move to the national level.

Samidha's school, the Locke Middle School, is one of 30 "GEMS" schools that received multi-year grants to expand or start science fair programs and to enable more students to engage in hands-on experience with real-world science practices.  As a result, for the last three years, top student researchers at the Locke Middle School have earned a... Read More

After collecting ticks for her originally intended science fair project, Braintree High School sophomore Jacqueline Flynn decided to pursue a topic on ticks with a different spin (or rather, spin cycle).

Worried about keeping her clothing tick free after collecting the parasitic arachnids, Flynn researched methods of killing them in the laundry. She found a large lack of data on the subject, with recommendations while washing machines were ineffective, that a full hour in a dryer would kill them. However, after her own extensive testing, she found that five minutes on a low-heat cycle would be sufficient.

Soon Flynn's project results garnered attention from the state parks and forestry services as well as officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who said they were willing to help her expand on her research. "It just spread very fast," Flynn told the School Committee.

... Read More

As a sixth grader, Nathan Han of Boston received first-place honors at MSSEF's 2011 Middle School Science Fair for his project, "A Study of Somatic Sensory Receptive Fields in Human Skin." From there, he went on to the Broadcom MASTERS -- a prestigious national STEM competition for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

This spring, Nathan has another honor to add to the list.  He has been named one of 30 semifinalists in Disney's Iron Man 3 Inventor and Innovator Fair. Held in conjunction with the release of Marvel’s “Iron Man 3,” starring Robert Downey Jr., the competition asked students from across the United... Read More

Cora Beth Abel, Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, recently shared her perspective on the value and challenges of science fairs with Heather Goldstone of WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

During the nearly half-hour-long interview, Abel emphasized the importance of mentors in the science fair process.  "Scientists can really help a student experience and understand how 'real' science gets accomplished," she said.  "The student gets to 'own' the research project and will probably have to overcome some obstacles, which demands curiosity.  Science fair projects are more relevant than ever before given our high-stakes innovation economy."  MSSEF's Curious Minds initiative takes a multi-pronged approach to... Read More

While most of his peers likely slept late and played video games, Jagath Jai Kumar, a freshman at Hopedale Jr-Sr. High School, took the opportunity presented by Tuesday's snow day to put a few finishing touches on his award-winning science fair project.

Having taken second place at the March 9 Worcester Regional Science & Engineering Fair at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Jagath has his sites set on the Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair, scheduled for May 2-4 at MIT.

Jagath's project explores the question of whether infrared or ultrasonic sensors do a better job at helping robots detect objects. "I found that infrared sensors were better, both with getting faster times and seeing more objects," Jagath said. "It completely contradicted my original hypothesis."

Althought he's only 14, Jagath has a career path in mind: biotechnology. "I know I want to get into that and I have a lot of ideas," he said.

Read more on Milford... Read More

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