Tuesday, November 29, 2016

eCYBERMISSION, Volunteering, and Music: A Perfect STEM Formula

Lisa Benson is what we consider a veteran with the eCYBERMISSION volunteer program. After four years volunteering as a Virtual Judge and one National Judging & Educational Event (NJ&EE) under her belt, Lisa has proven her time and effort in inspiring youth to STEM excellence nationwide.

A college degree in astronomy later turned in to a career as a quality and test engineer. If Lisa hadn’t gone into the engineering field, she probably would have become a teacher.

“This is my way of reaching out and educating, and sharing my enthusiasm for the sciences, without actually having to be in a school every day,’ said Lisa. “I don’t think I’d have the stamina of a teacher full-time.”

Volunteering as an eCYBERMISSION Virtual Judge, Lisa draws on her experiences in college, especially when a team is really close but missing a point or a variable in their experiment. Participating in NJ&EE helped put things in perspective for Lisa. She participated in STEM workshops and was able to talk with the kids about her jobs technology.

“To actually see the teams’ projects and hear their thought process was amazing,” said Lisa. “I make sure not to discourage anyone, but let students know that mistakes are a part of science and the
overall experimentation process.”

In her free time, Lisa continues to lend her time. Lisa plays the tenor saxophone for the local community band where she lives in Virginia. The band plays all genres of music but more recently has tried to play show tunes and movie soundtracks. Traditional and classical tunes are favorites amongst the community.  

 Just as in music, Lisa feels there’s always opportunity for STEM but it’s not always communicated appropriately.

“I see the STEM opportunity locally but I just don’t see a lot of people taking advantage,” said Lisa. “I definitely find myself looking forward to being a virtual judge with eCYBERMISSION each year.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Look at STEM-in-Action Grant Teams.....In Action!

eCYBERMISSION's STEM-in-Action Grant program provides an opportunity for up to five student teams each year to receive a grant up to $5,000. Teams that receive this U.S. Army funded grant have an additional year to further implement their Mission Folder projects submitted for the competition.

Let's take a look at the 2015-16 eCYBERMISSION STEM-in-Action Grant recipients!

For more information, visit us at www.ecybermission.com/STEMinActionGrant

Team: Baby cAir
Location: Shanghai, China
Baby cAir realized one of the most pressing issues facing the Chinese community was air pollution. The team has proven links to short and long term respiratory illness, which is increased when looking at the effects on infants. Currently, they are working on a newer version that will fully implement a working feedback loop with high quality sensors, along with a newer, more aesthetically appealing design that will allow the baby to see outside more.  

Team: Power Play
Location: Belfast, ME
Team Power Play’s community has been making efforts to become more eco-friendly over the past few years because of the negative impact of burning fossil fuels. With their STEM-In- Action Grant, they are building a local park or playground in the near future. Power Play will be collaborating with a team of senior engineering students from the University of Maine to build a more efficient model and successfully build a merry-go-round that generates power as it's being used.

Team: Envo
Location: Farmington, AR
Team Envo’s community has grown fast and now has more problems with flooding following any heavy rain. Envo plans to work with local officials and their county extension agent to select plants such as shrubs and grasses that will be planted along the banks of a local stream in their community. Team Envo’s goal is to establish plants with root systems that would anchor the soil along the stream, reducing the amount of soil runoff.

Team: Rocky Run
Location: Chantilly, VA

A tragedy occurred, affecting someone Rocky Run team members knew personally, in which their house had burned down due to a stove fire. To address this issue, Rocky Run created created a device using a Raspberry Pi microcomputer to detect dangerous stovetop temperature levels that will alert the homeowner. Rocky Run's short term goals begin with soldering all of the device’s components together and packaging it neatly and aesthetically.

Team: Styro-Filter
Location: Gahanna, OH
Styro-Filter's project addressed the growing problem of Styrofoam trash, which consumes 25% of US landfills and takes thousands of years to degrade. Unfortunately, almost all of their attempts to convert Styrofoam into carbon failed. Many of their samples completely vaporized, which was very discouraging and they almost gave up. But finally, they experimented with a lower temperature and achieved success! With the STEM-in-Action Grant, Styro-Filter plans to continue improving their process and to apply for a full patent.   

Stay tuned as we follow these five STEM-in-Action Grant teams as they make progress on their projects!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Puerto Rico Point of View: STEM Solutions in our Community!

 Our journey started with one question.  
How can we solve a local problem to help people in our community? 

Team Las Chicas, 6th Grade Winners

FREEDOM  - "Having freedom with our topic was powerful. It encouraged us to put our effort into something that was personal and important to us."

This made our work exciting and interesting because it related to our daily lives.  Although having the freedom of choice did benefit us in many ways, it also required us to be responsible to select an issue that was not only interesting, but something that could be addressed to make a difference in our community. 
As a group, we explored what it would be like as a real scientist to analyze current Saharan dust levels and study satellite readings provided by NOAA’s Saharan Air Layer Tracking Product. Going into the field interviewing experts along with conducting research allowed us to question statements we read in textbooks. Saharan dust is not just connected to asthma attacks.  It also impacts our coral reefs and our local Coast Guard Search and Rescue missions.
TECHNOLOGY - "Technology invited us to take our project further than we imagined and played a large part in the creation of our product." 
After conducting interviews and analyzing interest surveys, we created an interactive website that served as a warning system to those who suffer with respiratory issues. We were able to create online graphs, type essays, develop online surveys, and track and review the effects of Saharan dust in our community.  We were also given the opportunity to observe and analyze the current Saharan dust-levels through satellite data or imagery. This information was updated daily through NOAA and gave us information to present to our visitors.  We embraced technology that allowed us to communicate with each other, connect with experts, and be anywhere we chose.  

MOTIVATION  "It was important to encourage people in our community that improving something isn’t impossible, even though it may seem untouchable."
Reaction after being named national winners
When we started this challenge, we never imagined we would make it to the state level, let alone become a national winning team! We were motivated to inspire our peers and fellow community members that staying before school, after school, and even vacations was worth all the hard work!  Anything is possible and learning something new is a great experience! 
This program encouraged us to make a difference in our community.     

The freedom to select a meaningful problem and create a unique solution was amazing.  Technology connected our passion to valuable resources and ultimately connected our ideas to many people in need.  We are motivated to continue on our journey of questioning and learning to hopefully inspire others to do the same.
                                                                   -Team Las Chicas
                                                                     Puerto Rico
                                                                     2016 6th Grade National Winners