PIQUA — Approximately 120 fifth graders engaged in hands-on activities related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics during STEM Day on Tuesday at Piqua Central Intermediate School.
The event, which spanned the day at PCIS, was hosted by graduate students and representatives from the college of engineering at Ohio Northern University.
STEM Day began in the district in 2011, and was the brainchild of PCIS educator Sarah Jane Magoteaux, who at the time taught mathematics for Piqua City Schools.
“At the time, the concept of STEM was newer,” Magoteaux said. “I was trying to figure out ways to bring the concept into the school, and my father worked at Ohio Northern University in the engineering department. I told him, ‘I want to put this day together, but I’ll need more hands. Do you think you can get me some students?’
“We developed some lessons based on what was trending at the time, like the Mars rovers and things like that. Ohio Northern came and set up stations for the first STEM Day, and it was fantastic.”
The first STEM Day was covered by a grant from the United States Air Force Association, out of Dayton. Support has come in years since from the Piqua Community Foundation, United Way Teens Taking Charge, and Piqua City Schools. According to Magoteaux, who now teaches social studies at PCIS, STEM Day has transformed into a tradition not only for Piqua City Schools, but also for students at Ohio Northern.
“Since 2011, it’s almost become a staple for Ohio Northern’s engineering education program to put on STEM Days,” Magoteaux said. “It started in Piqua, but now they’re going to four different schools each year to do the program.”
Graduates in the ONU student chapter of the American Society of Engineering Education graduate with a bachelor’s degree in general engineering as well as a teaching certificate to instruct high school math.
“There’s really nobody else in the country that’s doing Ohio Northern’s program at an undergraduate level,” said Thomas Zechman, assistant dean at the Ohio Northern college of engineering. “The goal is to put teachers into classrooms who understand the fundamentals of engineering, and it’s really become a brand at Ohio Northern.”
At this year’s STEM Day, participating fifth-graders engaged in four hands-on, STEM-related projects. Stations included snap circuits, in which students programmed circuit boards to perform tasks such as lighting up a bulb or turning on a buzzer, and pasta bridge trusses, in which students built bridges and structures out of tape and raw spaghetti.
Students also engaged in sailboat construction, which were sailed in the classroom using guttering and a fan, as well as foam-core hovercraft building, which were raced by fan and battery power on a ramp.
The four stations were overseen by 14 visiting students from Ohio Northern, with each station designed to introduce fifth graders to possible careers in STEM-related fields.
“We try to do projects that detail electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering,” Zechman said. “It gets kids to brainstorm, and allows them to engage in engineering, construction, design, and through that process, allows them to think through development and re-working.”
Fifth graders were also treated to a presentation by City of Piqua engineer and Ohio Northern graduate Amy Havenar, who detailed recent projects she has worked on locally, such as the re-painting of the CSX railroad bridge, the construction of the new water tower on Fox Drive, bike trail additions on East Ash Street, and the current construction of the new wastewater management plant.
“It gives us a great opportunity to share engineering with the kids,” Zechman said. “We tell our students the goal for the program is three-fold — we want kids to have fun, we want them to be exposed to engineering in ways they never have before, and we want to introduce them to college life.
“We’ll take 10 minutes at the end of the period just to answer questions about college because many kids have never been exposed to college life before, so on many levels, it’s very rewarding.”