By Hayley M. Cook
TOLER – South Side Elementary students were treated to a visit Friday from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by mobile education productions inc.
“It’s exciting!” said Principal Jill Maynard. “It has been amazing today.”
“Our goal is to become a STEM school,” Maynard said. “Our leadership team has graciously agreed to try STEM, and will begin training soon, as well as applying for grants. We are excited to integrate this into our curriculum.”
The STEM exhibit featured different “hands-on experience stations” which allowed students to have the freedom to try any activities they were interested in.
The different stations included: a “connects” station, which allowed student to piece together blocks and build their own creations,; an arch building stations, using large padded blocks; a friction station, where students could discover the way fabric and textures influence friction and speed; and a hologram station, where students could learn how holographic images are created.
Secretary Debbie Hylton said her favorite aspect of the exhibit was the 3-D printing station.
“It honestly amazes me,” said Hylton, referencing the 3-D printer. “I am honestly fascinated by that thing. The kids have been watching it create toys, and I think they all were interested in seeing how that station works. I know I was!”
Out of all of the stations, the robotics station seemed to be a favorite among both teachers and students, including Family Resource Coordinator Vanessa Gillispie, who said the humanoid robot was her favorite part.
“It’s all amazing, but I loved the humanoid robot,” Gillispie said. “The kids were truly excited about seeing the robot. The more excited we can get the kids about science and technology, the more they will want to study this. This could be their future.”
The robot, named Nao, was able to sing and dance, and even showcase his daily workout routine for the students.
Bo Wolford, a second-grader at South Side, said his favorite part of the exhibit was seeing Nao move.
“The robot was my favorite part,” Bo said. “He talked and he danced. He was funny. He also fell down on his face, so that was a funny part.”
Bo said he learned a lot from the STEM exhibit, particularly how friction works, which he said was a fun experience.
“I think this makes me want to become a science teacher,” Bo said. “Either that or work with robots, of course. I don’t know. Maybe I could do both.”
Isabella Moore, also a second-grader at South Side, said she enjoyed the 3-D printer and Nao, the robot. Her mother, Kelly Moore, who was a parent volunteer at the event, said the day had gone well for all of the children and she was happy to take part.
“I think the older kids were more drawn to the 3-D printer,” Moore said. “The younger kids seemed to like the robot more. They all enjoyed the entire thing, though. It was fun watching them be so hands-on.”
Mark Bishop, who set up the exhibits and coordinated the event, said teaching children about science, math, engineering and technology has never been more important than it is right now.
“The very best, most high-paying jobs are in these fields,” said Bishop, who has traveled all across the country promoting STEM at different school locations. “My job is to make sure everything here is running, really. The experiments are hands-on and allow these kids to become exposed to STEM which, in turn, could propel many of these kids to choose careers in STEM-related fields.”
Bishop said it is difficult for him to select a favorite station, but he admitted there is one that stands out.
“I would say I’m really interested in the robot, because I’m learning about him along with everyone else,” he said. “With 25 motions and the ability to complete human tasks, Nao is really fascinating. I will say the most impressive thing about the robot is his ability to pick himself up every time he falls down.”
South Side has been implementing several activities for their students, thanks to the Family Resource Center, which helped recruit Spider-Man from Heroes 4 Higher last week for South Side, Bevins and Blackberry elementary schools; and also helped provide a summer art program for several Pike County schools over the students’ vacation.