STEM sensations: students present at seventh maker faire

Connor Fondrevay-Bedell, Staff Writer

After weeks of planning and building, South students presented their innovative science projects at South’s seventh STEM Maker Faire on May 19, Michael Sinde, career and technology education teacher said. The faire allows students to use the skills they learned throughout the semester and apply them to a unique project, Sinde explained.

“The idea [behind the faire] was to give students an opportunity to choose their own project and an opportunity to explore something they’re passionate about,” Sinde said. “[The] first semester you learn about the information. And then [the] second semester is applying that through the project.”

Sinde noted that although students choose their topic, each grade learns a certain curriculum that they then tailor their projects to. Freshmen work on projects relating to engineering and physics, sophomores create projects focused on engineering and chemistry, and juniors focus on digital technology and biology. Seniors, however, have more freedom in what their project highlights, Sinde said.

Junior Kaya Owczarek explained that the process of creating the projects is extensive. Involving formal presentations and collaboration, it took multiple steps to reach their final products.

“First, you come up with multiple concepts that you want to look into,” Owczarek said. “[Next] you narrow it down [and use] something called the design matrix, which helps you select the best project and solution.”

However, because of the pandemic and the split between in-person and remote learning, the process leading up to the faire has been more difficult, Owczarek explained. This year, they do not had the same access to resources such as the Maker Space, which contains tools, equipment and materials that help with construction, and it has made it more challenging having to balance working with those who are remote learning.

“This year we weren’t in-person for a very long time and then we started coming in person very late,” Owczarek said. “We couldn’t work on [projects] together in the same space and now that we’re [in-person], there’s more of that collaboration and we can look over each other’s shoulders, we can figure out what’s working, what might be a good improvement. With physically working together, it’s been a good improvement.”

In order to safely host the fair amid Covid-19, the school had to consider numerous changes that resulted in the schedule and planning time changing, Sinde said.“In the past we typically [plan for the faire] right before winter break,” Sinde said. “That gives us winter break to go through the proposals and find supplies and order, [but] this year [planning] was right before spring break. Once they had decided to host the faire, the school then had to overcome numerous obstacles, Sinde said. Such hurdles included how students might access materials, how to be safe working together while following Covid-19 restrictions, how to access supplies and if students were remote learning, how they would make use of the Maker Space.

“This year has been a bit of a challenge because kids are at home [and] they may need something printed [or] cut.” Sinde said, “As teachers, we’re helping to do that and then they’re picking parts up from the main office. It’s a little more challenging this year, but hopefully it’s rewarding and the students are learning.”

Seeing the passion behind students’ ideas is an important part of the project, Principal Dr. Lauren Fagel said. The faire helps to publicize the program, showcase the benefit of the Science and Engineering Learning Community (SELC) to the local area and allow students to display their interests, Fagel said. At the faire, Fagel appreciates interacting with students and hearing about their work.

“I’m so impressed with the process and the ability of kids to be able to come up with this idea and this problem they want to fix,” Fagel said. “So much about the maker movement and engineering is failing, repeatedly, and learning from that. I love walking around and asking students what they’re working on and they just run with it.”