Friday, May 31, 2013

Iridescent Gets Girls Involved in STEM with $10,000 Incentive

When Tara Chklovski immigrated to the United States from India when she was 21, she brought with her desires to be a pilot or aerospace engineer. Upon her arrival, one thing became very clear to Chklovski: women in the U.S. weren't as excited about STEM careers as women in India were. She told Ariel Schwartz of Co.EXIST, "It's more culturally accepted to have shopping as a hobby than to have tinkering as a hobby."

So in 2006, Chklovski started Iridescent, a science and engineering education non-profit that has been getting girls and young women excited about STEM careers. Just this month, the organization announced the winner of its four-year-old, $10,000 (yes, $10,000) Technovation Challenge, a twelve-week competition for middle and high school girls. This year, participants were asked to come up with an app that "solves a problem in their local community."

Applicants came from all over the world, including places like Brazil and Nigeria, but the majority of the finalists came from the U.S. There were 114 teams and 600 girls that entered.

The winning team were a group of six girls from Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City. The team came up with an Android app titled "Arrive" that enables students to "check-in" to school when they arrive. The app has potential and could be used as an option in addition to traditional check-in systems like ID cards.

Check out their pitch video:

Read Schwartz's full article on the competition, the winners and Chklovski's overall goals.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Idaho Students Get New Microscopes!

Morning News-submitted photo
Thanks to a grant money awarded life science teachers Eileen Huesits and Alan Southern, students at Mountain View Middle School (MVMS) are enjoying 30 brand new microscopes.

Huesits and Southern applied for the grant through the Summer of Innovation Program (part of the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium) right before the deadline earlier this year and were excited to receive the grant money just a few days later.

The Morning News reported that Huestis promptly ordered 10 Swift brand microscopes and that shortly after the scopes arrived, students were busy searching for microbes and observing paramecia and amoebas from samples of local pond water. 

"My students were so excited to be the very first ones to use the microscopes," Huestis told the Morning News. "They enjoyed seeing all the little crawly things from nice, heavy microscopes with good eyepieces and lenses."

Before replacing the microscopes with new Swift ones, the microscopes Huestis' students were using had been in use since the school opened in the 1970s. 

On Huestis' class agenda for the rest of the year: observing human cheek cells, yogurt cultures and mitosis in onion root tip cells.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fifth Grader Takes Home Top Prize in Build It Better Contest

Earlier this week, Raytheon's MathMovesU announced the winners of the Build it Better contest, a competition encouraging students to put on their engineering hats, pick anything (large or small) from school life and describe how it could be redesigned for a better school experience. The response was incredible. Across the United States, students were submitting videos and diagrams detailing their project ideas. From all of the submissions, just 10 finalists were selected. Their project ideas were posted to Facebook and open for public voting. The three winning teams reflect the creativity, ingenuity and innovation that MathMovesU is all about. 

Needham High School student Liam Walsh's proposal to redesign bike racks that would protect bicycles from vandalism and precipitation, and make the bikes more convenient to the school's entrance earned him third place honors. In second place were three high-schoolers from New Jersey - Lanre Danmola, Jordan Donald and Charles Dowd from Columbia High School. The trio came up with a "one-swipe whiteboard eraser" that would save time in the classroom for teachers and enable student's to have more learning time. 

In first place, though, was Ohio fifth-grader Jonathon Drawford from Tri-Village Elementary. The young student developed a plan to alleviate long lunch lines - an iPad app

The creators of the winning ideas took home classroom grants. The contest was run by Raytheon's MathMovesU, as part of their larger mission to engage students in STEM subjects through hands-on activities, educational outreach and social interaction.

Check out all of the finalist project videos - including the top three - here!

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Endangered Species Day!

Today is Endangered Species Day! Defined, an endangered species is any species that is in danger of extinction throughout all or significant portion of its range. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 400 animals listed as endangered and the list is growing. 

There are hot spots around the world with high numbers of endangered species. These hot spots include Indonesia, India, China, Columbia and Mexico. Check out this interactive map to learn more about these hot spots and the endangered animals that live in them.  In Indonesia it's the Sunda Clouded Leopard and in India it's the Asian Elephant.

A Federal Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. Learn more about it in this featured collection from Gooru Learning.

Keep up with STEMconnector's Gooru Corner for more information on endangered species.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Scientists Searching for Ways to Solve Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Mystery

Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This microscopic slice of former Cincinnati Bengals player
Chris Henry's bain, containing a few thousand brain cells,
shows the telltale signs of CTE damage.
The front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday had something you don't normally see on the top-third of the front page of one of America's greatest newspapers yesterday: a microscopic image.  The image was of former Cincinnati Bengals player Chris Henry's brain, contained a few thousand brain cells and showed the telltale signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

In 2002, Bennet Omalu was the first pathologist to detect CTE in a former football player. Former Steelers center Mike Webster, who died of a heart attack at the age of 50, also had CTE and a young Omalu found it. Though Omalu didn't know much about American football as a Nigerian native, he knew it was a rough contact sport. After getting wind of Webster's erratic right before his death, he thought his autopsy report might show visible evidence of brain damage. 

What Omalu found was the complete opposite. He explained in an interview earlier this year that when he opened up Webster's skull that his brain looked normal and that he thought he must be wrong. Omalu didn't give up. With permission from the Webster family, Omalu had a lab prepare the brain for microscopic examination and took a look at the slides.

Then it hit him. What he saw were smudges and tangles of tau deposits in the brain, similar to those that would be seen in Alzheimer's disease, but without the accompanying plaques of beta amyloid protein also seen in Alzheimer's. He gave the disorder the name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which means a long-developing brain injury. 

To learn more about CTE, the new tests scientists are developing, how to treat it and much more, read Mark Roth's full report.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Afterschool STEM Impact Award could earn you $10,000!

The Afterschool Alliance is teaming up with the Noyce Foundation to recognize exemplary afterschool STEM programs serving young people in grades 4-8. They need your help showcasing how afterschool STEM programs are helping young students get excited and engaged in STEM. 

Applicants will be judged by the impact of their program on participating youth. Winners and other notable applicants will be recognized in nationally-released issue briefs, invited to present at national conferences and will be highlighted as model programs.

The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce foundation are especially excited to discover programs that are having significant impact on youth, but may not have been recognized with awards before.

One award will be given in each of the two categories:
  1. Afterschool programs that are a strong partnership between an afterschool provider and a STEM-rich institution(s), which include science centers or museums, nature centers, universities, government labs, STEM-related businesses, or other similar institutions. Programs may focus on any STEM topic.
  2. Afterschool programs that have a strong computing and/or engineering component. Computing programs should focus on helping young people acquire skills and knowledge required to create technology, not just to use it. Engineering programs should be rooted in the engineering design process, and students should be developing and building a solution to a problem.
Applications are due May 15, so spread the word and apply today! For questions about the application process, please contact Melissa Ballard at

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Science Apps for Elementary Classrooms

Getting students to grasp science concepts isn't always easy - especially for younger students with a limited background of more complicated ideas. Sure, you can go out to a pond or visit a museum for some hands-on experiences, but since that isn't always an option, there are now apps available that bring the hands-on experience to you and your students in the classroom!

Edudemic selected five apps that help teach a variety of science concepts to younger learners.

  1. Video Science: Video Science is an app that is essentially a library of hands-on science lessons via video. The app is currently free and offers over 80 videos on topics ranging from chemical changes to aspects of engineering.
  2. NASA: The free NASA app allows users to explore the aspects of the agency and includes missions, images and videos.
  3. Geo Dash Wild Animal Adventure: Geo Dash Wild Animal Adventure is a free app distributed by National Geographic. The app is designed to be a game about animals. To move up in levels, you must learn interesting facts about animals.
  4. A Life Cycle App: This app follows a variety of things through their life cycles to help young students understand the various stages from how life starts to adulthood. It's $1.99, but will complement your elementary curricula well.
  5. Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History Collections: This app offers a mosaic of over 1,000 photos from the museums archive that have been woven together to tell the story of the t-rex! Even better, this interactive app is free.
To read more about these apps, check out the full Edudemic article.