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Last week, students from ACG Tauranga and across the Bay of Plenty came together to enjoy the inaugural STEM Curiosity Day.
Themed around the concept of ‘Resilient Innovators’, the day-long event provided Year 6 and 7 students with the opportunity to immerse themselves in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) challenges, activities and games in a fun and stimulating environment.
Headquartered at ACG Tauranga, the community-based event was organised by local charity STEM Wana. This year’s format was designed with Covid-19 considerations in mind, and the tasks were live-streamed to participating satellite locations around the region, allowing over 700 students from 12 different schools to take part.
ACG Tauranga personally hosted over 50 STEM enthusiasts under the guidance of specialist physics and science teacher, Brent Smith. With the help of STEM champions, students were encouraged to explore and experiment with eight different activities during the morning session.
Then, building on the skills learnt from their previous challenges, the eager STEMers were asked to create their own Rube Goldberg simple machine (an elaborate contraption designed to achieve a simple task such as popping a balloon or watering a plant) in the afternoon.
The STEM Wana judges were extremely impressed with the level of creativity seen in the Rube Goldberg competition, along with the unique approach and materials used in its production. After reviewing and evaluating the video submission of each school’s machine, they awarded first place to ACG Tauranga for the students’ marble-driven entry (featured in the NZ Herald video – link below).
“It was a huge success,” says Brent. “Students were constantly engaged in the immersive activities, and everyone went home exhausted, including the ambassadors in the satellite schools. The smiles and enthusiasm shown by every single participant were obvious to all involved.”
The dedicated teacher believes that this type of event is incredibly important to enable students to explore the world of STEM, and he is a firm proponent of the lessons learnt through exploration and experimentation.
“With the world expecting new graduates to be able to affect positive change in areas like climate change and alternative energy solutions, it is imperative that every student has opportunities to develop skills such as problem-solving and teamwork. Particularly in an environment like this, where the outcomes are time-dependent, and solution focussed.
“Collaboration and competition are important life skills, and the interactive experiments provided students with an opportunity to develop both, ensuring that they are a little bit more prepared to face some of the bigger worldly challenges one day.”
Requiring a high degree of student involvement and active participation, which are not always possible in a traditional classroom setting, the STEM projects offered a new and different experience for many young learners. And they clearly thrived in this dynamic learning environment.
For Brent, the highlight of an event filled with energy and animation, was the delighted smiles, and the increasing noise levels as students became more and more passionate about the tasks at hand.
“It was an assault on the senses, but it was because every single student was engaged and excited. It truly was something to see (and hear).
“The resource development was also out of this world and showed the resilience and determination of the whole team to ensure a successful outcome – I can’t wait to see what next year brings…”
In addition, the STEM Curiosity Day caught the attention of NZ Herald Video Journalist, Gavin Ogden as well – click here to see his report.