Students and parents gathered for the annual STEM Night at Mead High School last week to learn more about what the district is doing in STEM and to hear from Dhruvik Parikh, a Washington native who received the 2018 Young Scientist award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
The Mead event has grown since it began several years ago, said Executive Director of Technology Services Doug Edmonson. “It’s evolved into a celebration of our CTE program – career and technical education,” he said.
Edmondson said he wants to encourage all students, girls in particular, to consider studying science, technology, engineering and math. “We’re trying to influence that,” he said.
During his talk, Parikh talked to students about ways to unleash their potential. His first experiments were done in his kitchen using his mom’s blender and her kitchen utensils. “Everybody has to start somewhere,” he said.
He said students shouldn’t wait until they “grow up” to attempt to make a difference when it’s possible to make a difference now. “As a society, we don’t really expect much from our youth,” he said.
Students also shouldn’t believe those who say they need a college degree to do STEM, Parikh said. “Honestly, that’s baloney,” he said.
Parikh graduated from Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington, last year and now attends Stanford University. He’s on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for energy and has given a TED Talk. His project for last year’s science fair involved making lower cost batteries used to store renewable energy. He was up against almost 2,000 high school students from 80 countries during the international science fair.
He said he didn’t get involved in STEM until he took an intro to science and engineering research class his freshman year in high school. His first ideas didn’t work, but that didn’t stop Parikh from trying.
“I was having a lot of fun working on these projects,” he said. “Always persevere and keep working.”
The cafeteria was full of local companies and institutions with a STEM focus. Students from the Spokane Community College brought an ultrasound machine that students could use to look at a realistic fetus. Other booths touted careers in radiology and dental assisting.
Students from Mead and Mt. Spokane high schools presented the results of their research on issues such as the effect of coloring before a test, the effect of cellphones on teen focus and how gender affects fear. ProStart students from each high school, who are learning culinary and restaurant management skills, served food samples they made.
One of the hits of STEM Night was the four Flexcarts the district is leasing from Spokane-based Flexhibit thanks to a STEM grant from the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The most popular by far was the one that allowed students to make a paper rocket and then launch it high into the air using air pressure.
Kids also delighted in running their hands through an augmented reality sand box made by Flexhibit that used colored light to make sand shimmer and seem to flow like water. The line for the computer science booth that featured computer games and virtual reality was also long.
Nichole Buckley said she and her husband and three children just moved here from Oregon after researching several school districts. “We actually moved to Spokane specifically for the Mead School District and the STEM programs they offer,” she said.
All three children were at the STEM Night getting some hands-on experience. “We wanted our kids to have advantages that we weren’t afforded,” Buckley said. “They need to be able to have the hands-on science.”
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