STEM Month Stories 2021

NJ STEM Month 2021
Mini-Grant Stories

Thanks to the generosity of the Overdeck Family Foundation, NJ STEM Month mini grants of up to $500 were awarded to several organizations with the purpose of enhancing their STEM Month events. 

A short summary of each event is featured below.

Hidden Figures: Women in STEAM
(A NJ Maker's Day Virtual Event)

Hosting Organization(s): Appel Farm Arts & Music Campus

Date: March 20
 
Learners Impacted: 700
 
Hidden Figures: Women in STEAM was held on March 20, 2021 as a virtual NJ Maker’s Day and STEM Month event to honor the contributions of women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. Families received supply packets, which included all of the materials needed to participate, as well as pizza donated by Little Caesar’s. Event activities included: Making paper lanterns Building a robotic crab Jewelry Making Building and painting a birdhouse and catapult. Learning to take a family portrait at home with their own devices. Families were able to attend via Zoom or watch on Facebook livestream. Overall, this was a great event and touched many families in Cumberland and Salem Counties.

STEMulating Literacy

Hosting Organization(s): The Greenway Family Success Center/ The Parent Academy/ New Jersey City University

Date: March 6
 
Learners Impacted: 25
 
This webinar examined and discussed the intersection of literature and storytelling with mathematics and science as an incredible opportunity to make connections to our everyday life. All the participants had opportunity to experience engineering design process through a fairytale of Goldilocks and three bears. Students built comfortable beds for goldilocks and bears using variety of household items. All the participating families received an autographed copy of the book entitled ‘The Boy who Dreamed of Infinity’, a biography of famous mathematician Ramanujan. We gave surprise to our families by asking an author of the book, Amy Alznauer to join us at the meeting. Each family received a bag with STEM and literacy resources.

New Jersey Makers Day

Hosting Organization(s): Hunterdon County Library

Date: March 20

Learners Impacted: 150

In this strange, virtual year, Hunterdon County Library only reached a fraction of the learners we would normally serve on NJ Makers Day. 150 patrons were able to choose among 12 different STEM activities ranging from solar powered paper circuits to embroidery to hacked origami. However, thanks to the NJ Stem Month mini-grant, we were able to purchase video equipment so that instructional videos for these, and other STEM activities, will always be available on our YouTube channel.

STEM 4-Her

Hosting Organization(s): WeMake 4-H

Date: March 14, 21, 28
 

Learners Impacted: 30

This program taught girls E-Textiles. This all-girls program aims to introduce students to real-world hands-on STEM projects in a fun way. The girls made wearables with Lilypad electronics and light-up picture frames, backpacks, ear warmers, and scarves. All the materials were shipped prior to the event, and the workshop was hosted via Zoom. A guest speaker from Rutgers University was invited. She is a strong supporter of females in STEM fields and shared the importance of STEM education with all our participants. The organization’s vision is to nurture, grow, and sustain a more diverse technology workforce. WeMake 4-H hopes to help young girls discover the world of tech and innovation and then build the skills they need to thrive in that space. They also held a Java coding camp this month with a goal to popularize computer programming culture among students. This was a four class long workshop, in which students learned to program in the Java language.

STEMfest Jr.

Hosting Organization(s): Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey

Date: March 6, 20
 

Learners Impacted: 85

Girls learn best by doing. STEMfest Jr. is a fantastic day of STEM exploration for Girl Scout Juniors (grades 4-5), where they venture into a variety of engineering fields. They design and test a paddle boat, work on a bridge and stress the structure, and even extract and isolate strawberry DNA so it can be seen by the human eye. It’s a full day of exploration and fun at our beautiful Jockey Hollow Camp in Mendham Township.

Light-Up Martian Landers

Hosting Organization(s): Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey

Date: March 20
 

Learners Impacted: 37

On March 20th, thirty-seven Girl Scout Brownies and Juniors in grades 2nd-5th gathered virtually to reach for the stars and explore! Girls learned how robotics can be used to go where humans cannot, from the co-president of the GSHNJ Astronomy club, Miss Ava Bertolotti. During the presentation, she shared news from NASA on the Mars Perseverance Rover, a spacecraft recently sent to collect data from Mars. After the presentation, girls stepped up as engineers to assemble their very own landers using materials sent to them earlier in the month. They thought like engineers to design, assemble, and test light up landers with real circuitry. Girls also learned about how currents flow, and how the current flow stops when interrupted. Once the rovers were done, girls played a virtual game led by the GSHNJ facilitator. They worked as a launch team for NASA, challenged with designing the best lander to solve an imaginary problem on Mars. With cards representing real-life NASA equipment used on landers and rovers, the team practiced critical thinking skills to choose the best parts for the mission.

Inventor’s Workshop

Hosting Organization(s): Museum of Early Trades & Crafts

Date: March 19-20
 

Learners Impacted: 60

For the 2021 Maker’s Day and STEM Month, The Museum of Early Trades & Crafts (METC) hosted Inventor’s Workshop, a multi-part virtual event where participants became inventors and engaged in hands-on making and creating. Challenged by COVID limitations, we were still able to reach 32 children through live-virtual sessions, aged 3 to 12, who arranged to pick up supply kits from as far away as 45 miles. Additionally, up to 30 more participants were engaged via our online link. Once supplied, they joined one of two live virtual sessions to brainstorm what it means to be an inventor, drawing inspiration from some less “famous” New Jersey inventors, such as John Stanard and Alice H. Parker. We explored several objects in METC’s collection that represented innovation and ingenuity by ordinary people, such as a modified seed drill to make holes and plant seeds without having to bend down. We ended the session by discussing how the children might follow the likely steps of an inventor: Create a plan, sketch a design, build a simple prototype, experiment, and modify that prototype as needed. Participants independently designed and created a prototype for a brand-new or improved tool, machine or device using the simple materials provided in the supply kits. Most children returned to the museum to present their invention in a second live virtual session, and some sent in a video of their project. These creative inventions displayed incredible imagination and innovative spirit and included such diverse creations as simple robots; solar ovens; a survival kit; a working claw to help a grandmother pick things up; a delivery box that becomes a purse; a watch-controlled floor for heating, cooling, and dancing; a candy store; a combined kiln and potter’s wheel; and an improved three-part serving tray. The Inventor’s Workshop provided these eager learners with a hands-on opportunity to create, engage and collaborate with others virtually on their design for this event. Maker’s Day and STEM month are opportunities for the METC Education staff to truly fulfill our mission to inspire a connection with New Jersey’s history culture, trades, and crafts. Using interpretive exhibits and programming, we explore the innovations of the early New Jersyans, examining how they used problem-solving and other STEM concepts to improve their lives and to make their work easier. METC is grateful to the support of the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network and Overdeck Family Foundation for making the Inventor’s Workshop possible.

Makers Day 2-Go!

Hosting Organization(s): Spotswood Public Library

Date: March 1-31
 

Learners Impacted: 70

Due to COVID-19 restrictions the library tried something different this year for Makers Day- Makers Day 2-Go! During the month of March 2021, the library offered take home makers kits to support STEM/STEAM learning and to introduce both kids and adults to the thrill and pride of making things by hand. This provided children, families, and adults with fun, hands-on activities in a safe way. Each kit contained three projects focusing on some aspect of STEAM (Science – Technology – Engineering – Arts – Mathematics) and included basic supplies, instructions and book lists for further reading. Participants learned about the life cycle of a bee, developed their engineering skills while building a marble maze using an old CD case, learned about the persistence of vision through early animation projects creating thaumatropes and zoetropes, plus discovered other scientific concepts like gravity, light refraction/reflections, and chemical reactions that occur with a salt painting project. Kits were available for Preschoolers, Kids, Tweens, and Teens/Adults.

Virtual Brain Fair

Hosting Organization(s): The Brain Bunch

Date: March 3-4, 9, 11-12, 15-19, 25, 27
 

Learners Impacted: 450

Helping Young Brainiacs Explore the Brain. The Brain Bunch coordinated with libraries across the state, from Bogota Public Library to Montvale Public Library, in order to host virtual Brain Fair events. As part of these programs, students from Grades 2-8 had the opportunity to get their hands involved in neural circuit demonstrations, brain anatomy models, and more in order to explore how the brain works. Specifically, the session encompassed a discussion on different parts of the brain, neurons, optical illusions, distractions, and reasoning. Within each of these lessons, students had the opportunity to learn about the brain with creative animations and slides followed by engaging activities in which students applied their understandings towards a meaningful task. In addition, for one of the programs at Jersey City Free Public Library, The Brain Bunch conducted a live stream of the event so that viewers could tune into the program at any point in time. You can visit the live session 1 at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/JCFPLnj/videos/1819006674943720
 
Additionally, you can tune into live session 2 by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/v=273546950994279&ref=watch_permalink

School No. 3 Makers Week

Hosting Organization(s): Cliffside Park School No. 3

Date: March 15-19
 

Learners Impacted: 400

The Students at Cliffside Park School No. 3 were able to participate in a week long NJ Makers Day Activities. Over 400 students in grades K-4 ( general and special ed) participated in a variety of STEM/MAKER activities that were geared for each grade level. All students were able to design their own face masks. Kindergartners and 1st graders became gardening experts by growing seedlings and creating a mini greenhouse. 2nd graders built stem challenges. 3rd and 4th grade students created paper circuits, learning how electricity is conducted to make a light work. The 4th graders were able to create mini Scribble bots using mini motors, batteries and electrical wiring. The students in our school were very fortunate to have the mini grant and materials individually packed for them to be able to use from home. Although the event was all virtual this year, many of the students are excited to participate in activities again next year. They want STEM Makers Week every week!

NJMD LIVE!

Hosting Organization(s): New Jersey Makers Day

Date: March 19-20
 

Learners Impacted: 1300

NJMD LIVE! was live streamed statewide March 19th & 20th. Innovative speakers and creative makers presented on topics and projects on a wide range of subjects to inspire the audience to think about STEM careers and take part in hands-on making. One of our featured speakers, Joylette Hylick, described the challenges faced by her mother Katharine Johnson. Johnson was a groundbreaking computer mathematician at NASA, best known for her calculations that made the first moon landing possible. Hylick answered questions posed by students whose teachers were live streaming the event for their classes. She also provided video for viewers to see the launch of the recent NASA shuttle named after her mother. Families were encouraged to participate in several hands-on workshops along with our presenters using materials commonly found at home. Projects included origami lightening bugs created using foil, a battery and hacked tea-light candle, bee abodes that help protect native pollinators, engineering with paper, game design and more. The event continues to be enjoyed by viewers on the NJMD’s YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/NJMDLive2021.

FTC NJ "STEM Girls Month"

Hosting Organization(s): FIRST Tech Challenge New Jersey

Date: March 9, 23, 30-31
 

Learners Impacted: 200

Five virtual events were conducted during the month of March. NJ STEM Month was cited as the sponsor of these events. The Mini-Grant funds have been applied, and are continuing to be applied, in support of promotional items that help to engage more and more young ladies in this inspirational STEM program. There is much to offer and they are working hard to get the word out to their female FIRST Tech Challenge female robotics team members. The five virtual events included:
 
1. STEM Girls provided a Tech-Talk on the use of Linear Slides to increase the reach of a robot attempting to score an object during a robotics tournaments. Zoom was utilized in lieu of the traditional approach of delivering these “talks” near the competition field at events.
 
2. An “All-Girls Mixer” was held later in the month. Topics included successful pursuit of scholarships and college selection advice from several returning alumni. The “Jamboard” app was used to queue the questions and help to facilitate the spirited discussion.
 
3. Later in the month, a second Tech-Talk was delivered. It started with a “recap” (photo provided) and built upon the material which was presented earlier. In fact, the second Tech-Talk included a step-by-step hands-on demonstration of a Linear Slide assembly. (2 more photos from the virtual Tech-Talk provided.)
 
4. While STEM Girls regularly have monthly (virtual) visits by female role models from the STEM industry and academia, for STEM Girls Month, the guest speakers were former FTC NJ robotics team members. These young ladies spoke about the first years of their STEM career, the successes, the challenges and the lessons-learned. 
 
5. Their final STEM Girls Month initiative was a (virtual) class on “Outstanding Logo Design”, delivered by two professional Art Directors. Creating the logos and markings for their team and their robots is just one more of the many engaging activities of the STEM Girls. This one had a particular tie-in to NJ STEM Month in that logos being created were added to the promotional items, discussed earlier, that are being funded by the mini-grant. 

Bubble Magic

Hosting Organization(s): Delran STEM Ecosystem Alliance

Date: March 15
 

Learners Impacted: 900

Parents and students collaborated with STEMbassadors in a challenge called Bubble Magic. This event was a virtual offering, including premade STEM@Home kits, provided by the STEMbassadors, who worked with the students to explore and experiment with the phenomena of bubble making. Related to the story The Wizard of Oz, the students explored the life of the story’s author, L. Frank Baum, both a success and a failure in his life, despite many challenges. By connecting the literature, to the phenomena, they engaged the students in exploring STEM as a challenge that can be overcome, just as L. Frank Baum did, to become a legend! 

Invention Education

Hosting Organization(s): Mindbytes

Date: March 10-28
 
Learners Impacted: 27
 
Mindbytes introduced Literacy based Invention Education for early learners. Students read a book on invention and went through the process of discussing what an invention is. They started to create sketches and prototypes of their idea. Middle school students participated in an activity – “Engineer for a week” from Facebook.
 

Project Impact STEM

Hosting Organization(s): HSMC STEM Ecosystem in partnership with the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District

Date: All of March
 
Learners Impacted: 150
 
Project Impact: STEM was an overwhelming success in the Flemington-Raritan Regional School District. Students in grades 5-8 were invited to participate in this hands-on, yet virtual, experience. There were six phenomenal teachers who hosted a total of eight clubs, each with almost twenty students per club. The groups consisted of grades 5-6 students or grades 7-8 students, to allow for multi-age conversations and discussions. The Flemington-Raritan Regional School District is extremely grateful for the generosity of the NJ STEM Mini-grant program to help fund the materials for the program. They utilized the Pitsco Education STEM kits, and these were a fantastic success. They look forward to continuing the partnership with Pitso Education to use the kits with additional learners in the future.