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


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