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Wellesley STEM Expo a smashing success

By Rama K. Ramaswamy

According to Wellesley Education Foundation’s Co-Presidents Susan Ryan and Erica Recht, WEF’s STEM Expo 2017 “inspired over 3,000 attendees, featured 113 exhibits, produced 21 engaging workshops, had 14 incredibly generous sponsors, organized two amazing student challenges that led up to the big Expo day, rolled out five STEM experts on the STEM Professional Panel that addressed college readiness, [and] arranged for a keynote presentation on the collision of black holes and dark matter by MIT Professor of Physics, Dr. Edward Bertschinger.

“We owe an enormous thank you to the 80 plus volunteers who made it all work seamlessly,” continued Ryan and Recht.

The Wellesley STEM Expo 2017 planning committee included the following WEF Board Members: Katey Goehringer, Beth Anne Willett, Linda H. Chow, Melissa Johannes, Kristen Toffer, Rama K. Ramaswamy, Traci Battle, Anne Marie Cronin, Claudia Ticktin, Sheila Olsen, Julia de Peyster, Carol Almeda-Morrow, Marybeth Martello, Susan Ryan, Erica Recht, Phyllis Theermann and Jessica Stanton.

The two student challenges that lead up to Expo 17 were the Wellesley CreateAThon (coutsey of Wellesley Public Media: https://youtu.be/iAVR1vWl3mI) and Sustainabilty Challenge (courtesy of sustainablewellesley.com: https://youtu.be/93ROipeuZEI). As a result of CreateAthon, 70 percent of participants (comprised of middle and high school students) said they were more likely to explore computer science courses or take coding classes. As a result of the Sustainability Challenge, elementary and middle school students said they had a whole new appreciation for renewable energy and sustainability.

“As a first-time attendee, I noticed that attendees of all ages were delighted to be part of this event,” said Claudia Ticktin. “Elementary schoolers were fascinated by the exhibits in the Robot Zoo, middle schoolers were intent on solving coding challenges in the CreateAthon Event and at Expo’s Microsoft Coding Workshop, and high schoolers at the STEM Professional Panel for High Schoolers engaged in sophisticated dialogue with the panel’s distinguished participants, resulting in valuable access to information and thoughtful guidance for the pursuit of STEM courses and careers. Additionally, the keynote address, ‘Rocking Space Time,’ was engaging for all who attended.”

“I must say, I loved the event,” remarked Kathleen Dooley, WPS Technology Director. “Being in the robot zoo was a blast. The line-up was great too. The Kibo’s followed by the Roamers followed by the WMS robotics and the Wellesley Free Library … We had Lava from the library dancing amongst the kids and the Roamers. I have some great shots of a girl with her face painted, dancing with the robot! On a Roamer note, I think they are great for teaching math, angles, Pythagorean theorem, and more sophisticated math. It was a really good chance for me to try it out with a lot of grade levels … The middle school kids liked them as well.”

Katey Goehringer and Beth Anne Willet agreed that the depth and breath of all the exhibits, workshops and presentations by sponsors at Expo 17 was “incredible to watch in action.”

“STEM Expo is a feast for one’s scientific senses,” added Sheila Olsen. “You can sample or dig deeply into a variety of topics, from food science to black holes, all in a couple of hours. Wellesley is so lucky to host this event every two years.”

STEM2Based on survey responses from approximately two-thirds of STEM Expo 17’s attendees, 77 percent rated the event as “excellent,” 23 percent rated it as “good.” Eighty-one percent of attendees were from Wellesley (based on registration data); others came from Bellingham, Holliston, Hopkinton, Mansfield, Marlborough, Walpole, Woburn, Weston, Natick, Newton and Framingham. DNA-related exhibits, such as The Nature of You: Capture Your DNA in a Necklace, The Science Club for Girls, and MilliporeSigma’s DNA extraction, were among the most popular.

“The other events scheduled around the Expo received high praise, namely the CreateAthon, Sustainability Challenge, and especially the Career and College Readiness Panel discussion,” said Linda H. Chow.

If that wasn’t enough, the STEM Expo planning committee also organized a “College and Career Readiness Panel for high school students.” The Panel consisted of five experts in various STEM fields, Jim Cracraft, Dr. Jason Kim, Dr. Edmund Bertschinger, Liz Callanan, and Dr. Robert Martello, and ran about an hour and a half. Panelists were introduced by Sheila Olsen and Julia de Peyster.

“The room was packed, so I was thrilled,” said de Peyster. “Switching to lecture format with the four panelists and including parents made for a stronger, more relevant talk.”

“As an organizer of the College and Career Readiness Panel for high schoolers at Expo 17, I was extremely pleased by the large crowd of WHS students and parents that attended the event, and by the thoughtful discussion engaged in by all participants regarding course selection in high school and college,” added Sheila Olsen. “All panelists encouraged young students to ‘forge their own paths’ and ‘tell their own stories’ in college and graduate school applications. Two of the panelists - a medical school professor and physics professor - told assembled students that the college course that meant the most to them over the years was Introduction to Philosophy, because it taught them to ‘think deeply.’”

This STEM Panel discussion will eventually be aired on Wellesley TV and online, courtesy of Wellesley Public Media, on Channels 8, 9 or 39, 40 depending on carrier.

To hear the Keynote Speaker, Dr. Edward Bertschinger, Professor of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Keynote address on “Rocking Spacetime: The Discovery of Gravitational Waves from Colliding Black Holes,” visit https://youtu.be/tqAHE2-pNkM.

In conclusion, WEF Co-president Erica Recht said, “WEF was proud to have the opportunity to present the Third Wellesley STEM Expo 2017 to the community. WEF is dedicated to advancing innovation and excellence in the Wellesley Public Schools and has identified STEM as a high priority curriculum area. Through the generosity of our donors, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide needed resources to the district to advance STEM initiatives and to sponsor this wonderful event.”

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