RUSSIA — The imagination of Russia students was displayed during the second annual STEM night held at the school on Tuesday, April 16.
During the event, students were able to showcase the skills they’ve gained from participating in STEM classes, thanks in large part to technology coordinator and industrial arts teacher Marcus Petitjean, who assisted the school in acquiring a STEM lab activity center, which opened in 2018.
“We do various stem activities, so this highlights the whole year,” said Petitjean, who oversees much of the school’s STEM education, along with science teacher Mike Hart.
During Tuesday’s event, several stations were set up to display STEM projects, separated by grade.
This included pocket cars, painted and constructed by kindergarteners; magnet-assisted race cars and tracks, presented by first-graders; paper cars, constructed and decorated by second-graders; Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race-inspired dog sleds, constructed by third-graders; and electrical current-powered LED projects, constructed by fourth-graders using copper tape and watch batteries. Fourth-graders also displayed mini airplanes they created, which were able to be tested in the gymnasium during the event.
Other featured activities included the Oregon Trail, an educational, strategy-based computer game, and stations for STEM night attendees to create and play with blocks, LEGOs, and Tinker Toys, as well as a chain reaction station with a STEM-inspired activity kit for participants to test out.
Fifth-graders were able to show off their soapbox cars during Tuesday’s STEM event, and according to Petitjean, the entire Russia fifth grade class will have the opportunity to travel to Akron, in May, for the Gravity Racing Challenge STEM team soapbox derby competition.
Russia’s sixth-graders were responsible for creating and presenting Rube Goldberg machines, under the guidance of Hart.
“Rube Goldberg was an old cartoonist and he made really complicated contraptions to do a simple job,” Hart said. “The students had to take all of their own stuff they brought from home — junk around the house — and they had to make something with four simple machines in it, that has seven steps, to do something simple. So, they had to design and redesign and think about how the machines work; all while tearing my room up in the process.”
The sixth-graders were split into groups of three or four to complete this project. Some of the “simple” tasks completed by the constructed machines included putting a penny into a piggy bank, popping a balloon, buttering toast, filling a cup with water, and pulling a tissue out of a box, among others.
Seventh-graders presented a station to demonstrate their skills in bridge building, and held races between carbon dioxide-powered cars in the gymnasium. Projects from high school students were also on display.
One of these high school projects was a fully-constructed corner section of a building, completed by Petitjean’s career exploration class, in connection with the Workforce Partnership of Shelby County.
“The students framed it, plumbed it, and everything,” Petitjean said of the construction project. Ferguson Construction Company donated materials for the project, he added.
Also on display as part of the Workforce Partnership and career exploration class were several small-scale models of homes, and metal tool boxes, which were constructed with the help of Slagle Mechanical Contractors.
“We drew the tool box on the computer, I emailed it to (Slagle), and they cut it out with their plasma cutter,” Petitjean said. “They poked all the holes in it and we did the bending, so instead of us measuring it all out, I showed the relationship between what they’re learning in class and what’s going on in the industry.”
Superintendent Steve Rose shared his appreciation for the annual STEM night, and noted the importance of the event.
“I think it’s a great experience for our students,” he said. “Every student is getting hands on throughout our school, and I hope to see it continue and grow throughout the years.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.