Archive for the ‘STEM Alliance Larchmont-Mamaroneck’ Tag

STEM Education and Building the New Bridge

Rebar sample is much heavier than it looks/NNYB Outreach

Eastchester parent Beryn Corham’s son came home excited from school. “He couldn’t wait to tell me what happened that day at assembly,” she says. And teachers are thrilled too. According to Westchester teachers, nothing makes a kid’s eyes open wider than holding a piece of rebar (reinforcing steel) like that used in the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge or a strand from one of the stay cables that support the main span roadway.

Educational Outreach

Magic definitely happens when the New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team brings the state’s largest infrastructure into classrooms. During the past five years, the team has visited more than 60,000 students in the tri-state region and made hundreds of presentations to Westchester students, providing opportunities to see and feel construction materials and safety equipment and get them thinking about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

Each year the educational outreach program focused on specific aspects of the project.

• Year One (2013-14): Discovery/Geo-tech of the Hudson River
• Year Two (2014-15): Building a Strong Foundation
• Year Three (2015-16): Teamwork and Innovation
• Year Four (2016-17): Bridge Rising

“Looking back, whether it was explaining bridges to a kindergartener or answering complex questions from a high schooler, the real joy was seeing students make the connection between information and understanding,” Public Outreach Coordinator Andrew P. O’Rourke, Jr., says.

With Groups and Clubs

The New NY Bridge Project’s educational outreach team can tailor presentations to specific groups and clubs as they did at the WizGirls conference hosted by American Association of University Woman Westchester (AAUW) that encourages girls to explore engineering and computer science.

NNYB Project Director Jamey Barbas and WizGirls/NYSTA

“WizGirls is an offshoot of AAUW Westchester’s Explore Your Opportunities conference for seventh-graders at the College of Mount St. Vincent in Riverdale that explores all four STEM fields,” program leader Diona Koerner says.

Female scientists lead hands-on workshops and serve as role models for the students. “We chose this [age] group to attract the girls early when they’re still interested, and they’re excited about it,” Koerner continues. “Last year we had a huge response.”

New NY Bridge Project Director Jamey Barbas explained tension and compression to a group of sixth- and seventh-grade girls during a fall 2016 WizGirls conference, after which they applied their new knowledge by assembling mini LEGO® bridges. “Events like [these] are unique opportunities to bring awareness to young women of careers in engineering,” she says.

Combining Fun and Education

During the project’s early years, White Plains Public Library (WPPL) had a Build With K’NEX! program, in which kids built models of the I Lift NY super crane and the new bridge with the colorful plastic pieces.

“It’s an opportunity for kids, while they’re doing something fun, to gain math and engineering skills, to learn how things fit together – shapes, sizes,” says former WPPL children’s librarian Terry Rabideau. “It’s an opportunity to have fun and be creative.”

When the bridge’s main span towers were being built, the project’s Tarrytown and Nyack Outreach Centers added a mini tower crane challenge: participants had to place the tiny construction crew member on a target below using the crane’s controls.

Dan Marcy, who leads presentations with O’Rourke, notes, “Educators are often looking for real-world applications for what they teach in the classroom. Over the years, it has been remarkable to witness how enthusiastic students have been about this project and how they’ve embraced complicated engineering principles, construction components and problem solving.”

Excitement About Local STEM Events

“Learning doesn’t take place in a bubble, and the various components of STEM overlap,” Chairperson and President of STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck, Meg Käufer, explains.

Julpiter Joe’s Astronomy activity allows kids to control a robtic arm at Larchmont’s Hommocks Middle School STEM event. Photo Credit: Alison Mäertins, 2018

The Alliance’s annual festival at Hommocks Middle School in March drew more than 1,200 kids, teens and adults into three hours of fun and learning. Throughout the free Friday night event, attendees could choose activity stations and pre-registration workshops with STEM challenges including a physics lesson in bridge building from O’Rourke, plus marshmallow launchers and a chess master playing multiple games at once.

The annual Lower Hudson Valley Engineering Expo, which held its 15th Expo on April 15, brings more than 100 engineering firms, engineering colleges and public agencies together to introduce students to engineering and technology careers, according to McLaren Engineering Group President and CEO Malcolm G. McLaren, PE.

This West Nyack-based firm is a major benefactor and organizer of the event that incorporates numerous engineering fields whereas it once focused primarily on civil engineering, according to McLaren.

Attendance has grown, attracting students, colleges and corporations from a large geographic area. One typical and interesting observation was of a student who, initially hesitant to walk through the door, became so absorbed he was reluctant to leave when his mother called to him.

In the Classroom

More than 200 students attended Heathcote School’s March HExpo workshops. “It was hands-on, daylong and feedback was positive,” fifth-grade teacher Christine Boyer says. “The kids loved it and saw it as having fun, digging deeper and learning.” When they were using screwdrivers to take appliances apart, “the wheels were turning, and the learning was happening.”

Teamwork building a LEGO® bridge/C Boyer

“One of the greatest joys was seeing students’ eyes light up after answering their questions because it unlocked the door to knowledge, ignited their curiosity and gave them a personal connection to the project as they watched history rising in their own backyards,” says O’Rourke who participated in the event.

In the STEM program that Claremont Elementary School teacher Micki Lockwood designed for her third- and fourth-grade students at Ossining Union Free School District, the younger grade studies electricity, and the older one studies bridges.

Samantha, a Claremont student, loves stem “because I get to experience science, technology, and engineering and math projects at a very young age,” while her classmate Sienna enjoys the variety of activities. “We have a chance to ask questions, imagine and plan and then we create things and talk about how we can improve them.”

Lockwood’s students used K’NEX and LEGO® bricks to study and build bridges with a special emphasis on the new bridge. “We spent a lot of time focusing on cable-stayed bridges since this amazing project is happening one town away from us,” Lockwood says.

Combining Imagination and Concepts

Technology teacher Anthony Rich introduced 3D design to his students at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson Schools in the Eastchester Union Free School District by using a web-based program called TinkerCAD about three years ago.

“The fourth- and fifth-graders get a half-year of Coding with a program called Scratch and a half-year of 3D design and printing,” Rich explains. While the older children create their own designs, the younger students are learning program basics and concepts.

Ducky, a fourth-grade student at Anne Hutchinson School in Eastchester, likes 3D printing “because I can create anything I can imagine and I can invent and print new things. It lets you have the ability to imagine, plan, then build anything you want.”
Käufer sums it up nicely. “STEM is important because it gets kids thinking in new ways and changes their thought processes. There’s no minor league for STEM.”

Night before new bridge’s westbound span opened/NYSTA

A Work of Art!

ArtsWestchester celebrated the new bridge as a work of art at its gala 2017 fundraiser last November as CEO Janet Langsam feels STEAM education (adding the arts to STEM) is crucial to educating the next generation of creative thinkers. “Art increases motivation, enhances communication and expression and, like science, it helps inspire innovation and critical thinking,” she says.

For information about outreach presentations, contact Andy O’Rourke at andrew.orourke@newnybridge.com or 845-918-2516 or visit newnybridge.com.

My article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Westchester Family.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2018

STEM-tastic 2016: Exploration, Curiosity, Learning

Mini EinsteinsTwo young scientists in a white laboratory coat smiled broadly as an assistant took their picture. The Mini Einsteins activity was one of many hands-on events at last week’s STEM-tastic Saturday that drew more than 2,000 attendees.

As with last year’s successful event, the day featured exhibits, games, experiments and workshops like building a replica of our new bridge with LEGO® bricks, coding, sciences labs, soldering, computer animation and shark dissections.

The day mobilized more than 340 participants and 170 volunteers, STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck President Meg Käufer said. “We don’t apologize for it being overwhelming. This speaks to the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) disciplines.”

Rube Goldberg chain reaction machine components were engineered by 11 teams of six members each/Jill Bock

Rube Goldberg chain reaction machine components were engineered by 11 teams of six members each/Jill Bock

STEM Alliance activities continue throughout the year, and “we want them to leave here eager to do more of this on the other 364 days,” Kaufer said.

A big hit was KEVA plank building zone, a block-building experience based on a single unit with all blocks being identical. “Kids can create incredibly strong and geometrically-shaped structures,” she said.

“The young kids tend to build flat, and what they build has a story behind it — this is where the train runs or this is what my house looks like — and as the kids get older, their designs get more abstract.” One child built a double helix from KEVA planks, an example of the beauty of the material.

Wind TunnelWestchester Children’s Museum Wind Tunnels in the library had kids create objects that are aerodynamic enough to rise and not to fall, was aided by a fan at the tunnel base. A new activity was The Chain Reaction Challenge, where 11 teams of six each had to build chains that connected to each other into one long chain reaction.

“The ball flowed from one end to the other,” she said of the engineering challenge. “Each team’s segment was unique.”

Beach Physics by Curious-on-Hudson was a sneaky way for kids to learn about cohesion and buoyancy while having fun with sand and a tiny pool filled with water.

“I thought that was really well-crafted, making castles from sand and adding various degrees of water, and seeing how paper cup boats float, depending upon how many pennies are added,” Käufer said.

NNYB Educational Outreach Administrator Andy O’Rourke explains the state’s twin-spanned, cable-stayed project.

NNYB Educational Outreach Administrator Andy O’Rourke explains the state’s twin-spanned, cable-stayed project.

Now in its third year of educating students and the community, the New NY Bridge project continues to fascinate and ignite interest in STEM careers. Kids had a chance to make their own mini bridges at a hands-on LEGO® Bricks 4 Kidz workshop in another part of the building.

STEM educator Aisha Arenas’ concept of creating a dress-up area and engaging kids in active role-modeling play as Mini Einsteins was new this year and popular with the kids who eagerly donned white lab coats to have their pictures taken.

“This goes beyond being a fairy or a fireman (for Halloween).” Käufer said, speaking to the heart of STEM. “What about being a scientist? What about creating those goals to do other things?”

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Ongoing Work, More Views from the NNYB Gallery

Early on we heard the new bridge would not preclude (prevent) light rail, which would be added when funding becomes available. Here's the location of that eventual rail./NYSTA

Early on we heard the new bridge would not preclude (prevent) light rail, which would be added when funding becomes available. Here’s the location of that eventual rail./NYSTA

Worth repeating: last month crews placed the final pier cap for the northern span — one year ago the first of 59 pier caps was placed near Tarrytown — since last October installed the 1,000th road deck panel; each can weigh up to 37 tons.

Securely fastened with safety equipment and working on main span tower crane/NYSTA

Securely fastened with safety equipment and working on main span tower crane/NYSTA

According to the National Safety Council, tower cranes were first used in the United States in 1957. Test your knowledge with a quiz about them I found online.

What we missed driving by: final 200-ton pier cap was set in place by giant crane/NYSTA

What we missed driving by: final 200-ton pier cap was set in place by giant crane/NYSTA

Earlier this month Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC (TZC) was commended for its safety rating when the construction industry kicked off National Safety Week.

Close-up of a main span crossbeam installed last month and reinforcing steel cages/NYSTA

Close-up of a main span crossbeam installed last month and reinforcing steel cages/NYSTA

The project’s Outreach Team was among the 340 participants and 170 volunteers at last week’s STEM-tastic event in Larchmont. I’m sure many young minds were positively influenced and intrigued by the day’s events, speakers and activities. Stay tuned for story in a subsequent post.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

STEM-tastic 2016: Learning, Doing, Educating

Everyone & everything has DNA; here, a strawberry’s is extracted/© Janie Rosman 2016

Everyone & everything has DNA; here, a strawberry’s is extracted/© Janie Rosman 2016

STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck President Meg Käufer organized so many fascinating and educational vendors, puzzles, contests, presentations,

Using combinations of sand and water to learn about consistencies/© Janie Rosman 2016

Using combinations of sand and water to learn about consistencies/© Janie Rosman 2016

games, experiments, and displays, including the New NY Bridge project, for yesterday’s STEM-tastic 2016 event that I need another day to assimilate all I saw and heard.

A close look at centipedes, caterpillars & other creatures, habitats/© Janie Rosman 2016

A close look at centipedes, caterpillars & other creatures, habitats/© Janie Rosman 2016

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2016

Successful STEM-tastic Saturday: Ready for 2016

sculptureThe day after STEM-tastic Saturday, STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck President Meg Käufer began gearing up for next year. The event was created by the all-volunteer STEM Alliance with advice from the national Science Festival Alliance.

The MHS Talks event was awesome: “65 STEM experts at the high school at 19 roundtables talking about the disciplines,” Käufer said. STEM Alliance focuses on the arts in addition to science, technology, engineering and math, integrating art and performing arts.

“Our Alliance connects applied learning opportunities for youth by leveraging the experts in our community whether they’re institutions or individual experts,” she explained. “We know that great learning goes on but sometimes it’s hard to integrate it.”

Kids examine a mini drone before it attempts to maneuver its way around an obstacle course/Photo by Amanda Lai

Kids examine a mini drone before it attempts to maneuver its way around an obstacle course/Photo by Amanda Lai

The idea, she said, is to engage STEM experts in conversations and experiences with district youth in order to create more applied learning opportunities for students in the STEAM (A for art) disciplines. “We are a networking group that serves as a liaison between schools and these experts to enrich the educational offerings in our schools.”

This year the Alliance supported a Robotics Club at the middle school, Hour of Code (all students in the school district learn for at least one hour) during the annual worldwide celebration in December 2014, and an Explore Your Opportunities conference for 7th-grade girls hosted by the American Association of University Women.

“We did Hour of Code at the schools and in libraries and local businesses, tinkering nights at each of the local elementary schools for parents and youth together,” Käufer said.

NASA Astronaut Capt. Kathryn Hire speaks with students about her experiences in space/Photo by Krystel Perez

NASA Astronaut Capt. Kathryn Hire speaks with students about her experiences in space/Photo by Krystel Perez

The idea behind MHS Talks was roundtables with small student-to-expert ratios that put students in conversation with STEAM experts to hear not only their current work but also their life path to that work (education, career, other influences), she explained.

“Brian (Conybeare) was at those conversations to show the diversity of backgrounds and people (even public relations and politicians) who are needed for a major infrastructure project,” she said.

Rockets were launched, drones were demoed, microscopes were peered into, and motors became circuits. Participants made glass from sand; one local 5th-grade student built a hovercraft from “bouncy castle” motors, and the New NY Bridge display drew interest and questions.

experimentThe Expo featured keynote speaker and NASA astronaut Captain Kathleen Hire plus hands-on exhibits and interactive experiences.

“It’s getting kids exposed to disciplines they might not know were of interest to them, leveraging curiosity and creativity,” Käufer said. “People like to have fun, and when you create an atmosphere where people can have fun and learn through that, they’re going to be exposed to things that they would not naturally gravitate toward.”

The Intrepid Museum demonstrated a vacuum effect on different materials, Mad Science experts helped attendees grow their own crystals. There was a garden of locally-grown vegetables. Professionals ranged from firefighters to physical therapists to mathematicians.

Plans are underway for next year’s event. For information or to volunteer, contact the STEM Alliance of Larchmont-Mamaroneck at info@lmstemalliance.org or visit http://www.lmstemalliance.org.

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2015

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