By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides educational opportunities to engage students, teachers and parents in STEM. This spring, it is hosting two regional events that will bring hundreds of students from several states to the University to participate in STEM and present their research. They also offer opportunities for students to learn STEM through novel and innovative approaches.
The Botball Regional Challenge is open to teams of middle and high school students. The goal for this challenge is to design and build a robot that performs specific tasks using supplies that the students are given. This year’s challenge should draw approximately 200 spectators with teams from Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Kansas and Arkansas.
The STEM Center will also host its annual Science and Engineering Research Challenge where 300 middle and high school students from across 10 Southern Illinois counties will present their research projects. SIUE initiated this competition in 1984 to stimulate students’ interest in science and technology while simultaneously helping students develop important skills like communication, decision making, and scientific and critical thinking. Similar competitions are held all over the state.
“The students either conduct a scientific experiment or design an engineering project,” said Sharon Locke, PhD, an associate professor and director of the SIUE STEM Center. “They present their results in the same way researchers present their work at a scientific conference, so there’s really a lot of high-level learning that goes into it.”
Of the 300 students that participate at the STEM Center’s Challenge, 30 outstanding projects will be selected to compete at the Illinois State Science Exposition. One overall winner will go on to present his or her project at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
In January, the STEM Center held an essay contest for students in grades 3 through 8. They were tasked with answering the question, “Should Pluto be reclassified as a planet?” The winner, soon to be announced, will receive a free astronomy presentation that includes an inflatable planetarium for the entire class to enjoy. The SIUE STEM Center offers astronomy presentations with the inflatable planetarium for a modest fee.
“The SIUE STEM Center is proud to be a leader in transformative STEM education programming and community engagement,” Locke said. “We’re always looking for businesses who would like to partner with us to advance our outreach initiatives, such as the Science and Engineering Research Challenge, the Botball Regional Challenge, or the number of other ways we engage the public in STEM”.
By ALAN J. ORTBALS