ASU Prep students present STEM projects at Arizona Science Center

Students and family members look over the ASU Prep STEM projects on display at the Arizona Science Center on Nov. 30, 2017. (Kaylee Woodward/DD)

Students from Arizona State University Preparatory Academy presented their STEM Projects and explored the Arizona Science Center at the fourth annual STEM Expo Thursday.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Expo is a partnership between ASU Prep and the Arizona Science Center, allowing students to spend the night showcasing their STEM projects and exploring the Science Center.

Chief Executive Officer of ASU Prep, Beatriz Rendón, opened the night welcoming everyone to the event.

“What we have here is incredibly exciting, not just because it’s STEM, not just because we’re here with our gracious hosts at the Arizona Science Center…We’re especially grateful that all of our campuses are represented here today,” Rendón said.

Students, parents, teachers and employees from all five ASU prep locations participated in the event.

Around the room, students’ projects were on display for attendees to see, as well as interactive activities for students to partake in, including a virtual reality showcase where students could put on VR goggles and complete various activities.

The projects on display included everything from kindergarten and first grader students’ towers built from paper cups to wind-up toys built by third and fourth graders.

The night allowed for parents to see what their children have been working on in the classroom this year. Sheli McFarland, a mother of two ASU Prep students on the Polytechnic campus, spent the beginning of her night looking at the mousetrap car her fifth-grade daughter spent the last semester making before going to check out the rest of the Science Center.

“I like the way that they’re teaching them how to research and discover,” said McFarland.

Parents at the event agreed that seeing their children learn about the STEM field is great to see, and many of them noted when they were growing up there was barely an emphasis on the STEM field.

Faculty members at ASU Prep hope the growing STEM program, and events like the STEM Expo, will inspire students to get more involved in STEM.

“I hope it does [get them interested in the STEM field],” said ASU Prep Instructional Assistant Jessica Beam. “There’s a lot you can do with STEM, and a lot you can do with science.”

According a 2017 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.6 million STEM jobs in May 2015. The report also said STEM related fields grew at a rate twice as fast as non-STEM related fields between May 2009 and May 2015.

Each grade level focuses on a different aspect of STEM education, ASU Prep K-5 teacher Jennifer Beam said. Kindergarteners and first graders focus on cooperation and teamwork, while second and third graders address problem solving in their activities. Fourth and fifth graders look at real-world problems and find creative solutions to them.

“Hopefully this can show them at an early age how fun it is to engineer and be creative, and how that action has an impact on everything we see in our life,” said Jessica Beam. “From bridges to robotics to towers, it’s not just building. There’s a science behind it, there’s a math behind it, it’s all incorporated.”

In the classroom, STEM teachers spend the year incorporating all aspects of the field in their education. Not all students are interested in science, but teachers said students learn important problem solving skills in STEM that are useful in a variety of activities and careers.

“I tell my students all the time ‘This is just the beginning,’” Jennifer Beam said. “Whatever they do or choose to do later on, they’re going to use what we do in the classroom.”

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