Courtesy of PGCPS
Courtesy of PGCPS

At Pepco, an investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is an investment in the workforce of tomorrow. Pepco’s STEM initiatives are designed to foster interest and engagement in critical STEM skills inside and outside the classroom. Recently, a group of 40 students from Oxon Hill Middle School and Thomas Johnson Middle School participated in a challenge sponsored by Pepco.

What happens at a Pepco STEM All Stars event? Last month, students attended a field trip to the Howard B. Owens Science Center in Lanham to learn the science behind football. While having fun and working in teams, students worked through activity stations where they learned about the chemistry behind sports drinks, the importance of measurement by watching instant replays, the math necessary to crunch a complicated football score and the principles of velocity by crafting and testing their own paper footballs.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson attended the STEM All Stars event. A self-described “math lover,” Dr. Goldson said she was pleased to see students’ reactions.

“It’s really exciting to see the looks on their faces when they know how to use mathematics to make decisions, like how to create a paper football that might make a field goal or touchdown,” she said.

Griany Cruz, a student at Thomas Johnson, said the challenge helped get him excited for a career in STEM.

“I want to become a video game designer and STEM is something that would actually help me pursue my dream because it has technology, engineering and math,” Cruz said. “I could use those three things to start coding and to design everything I want.”

Events like these help students to see STEM as a way of life, said Felicia Martin-Latief, a STEM instructional specialist for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

“STEM is everywhere,” she said. “If we can get our students to start seeing STEM outside of school as much as we’re showing it to them inside of school, then that’s how we create lifelong learners.”

After students completed their “Science of Football” exercises, Mellanie Lassiter, senior manager of corporate relations at Pepco, made a surprise announcement that Pepco would be sending the students and their parents to a Washington Redskins game.

“We’re really excited about STEM in Prince George’s County,” said Lassiter, who studied math and economics in college. “I just want to encourage and inspire all of the young folks out there to learn all that you can. STEM is exciting, it’s fun, it’s innovative, it’s creative and it’s the new wave of the future.”

This year, Oxon Hill and Thomas Johnson joined 12 other schools and districts in receiving a Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) grant to develop and expand their robotics programs. Oxon Hill has had a robotics program for the past seven years. An estimated 400 students enjoy robotics through the school’s STEM Integrations II course. Students have designed and built underwater robots, prosthetic arms and a duck chaser to keep ducks off their school’s soccer field.

“I just love to see them collaborate, try their ideas and get excited when their projects work,” said Oxon Hill STEM Coordinator Ava Martin. “It develops the grit that’s needed to try and try again.”

Thomas Johnson started its robotics program in 2014. All seventh-graders have robotics classes for nine weeks, and 20 students participate in the robotics club.

“Robotics builds critical thinking and collaboration skills that help improve students’ confidence,” said Daisy Rayela, STEM Coordinator. “As a result, our students are winning in various STEM competitions throughout the region.”

The school will use MSDE grant funds to purchase enough EV3 robotics kits so all students can participate in robotics programming at the same time.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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