Florida Students Wrap Up School Year With STEM Projects

More than 200 middle-school students in Sarasota County, FL wrapped up their school year by designing drinkware, developing a space capsule prototype and vying against teams in a robot competition.

The 2015 STEMsmart Middle School Summit was the culmination of the STEMsmart science and math education initiative sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and held at the Ringling College of Art and Design.

About 120 students broke up into teams of 10 students and each took a different phase of the product development cycle, coming up with a new drinkware product. They were helped by product development executives with Tervis, eventually pitching a prototype design and marketing plan for a product aimed at 12- to 14-year olds.

"And you did it in four hours," said Tervis executive Agnes Lauwagie. "It takes us months, even years sometimes, and we're really amazed at what you came up with."

About 60 students divided up into four-person teams that each used a graphing calculator to design and assess a spacecraft and its components, creating a small capsule with a protective heat shield and a working parachute. As part of their work, they analyzed a simulated fluid sample to select the healthiest astronaut for their mission.

"I get excited when I think about the amazing contributions these kids will make to our society," said Texas Instruments Education Technology President Peter Balyta. "Whether it's discovering cures for diseases or next-generation engineering, these students will go on to change lives and make our world a better place."

And about 20 students worked on teams that had designed and built robots that then went head to head in a game-based engineering contest.

In each case, the student teams were advised by mentors from companies like Tervis, PGT Industries, Sun Hydraulics and Texas Instruments.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.