Project Exploration connects student experiences through programs, field trips, STEM mentors and in some cases attending a ball! Madison participated in Summer of Science and shares her experience including attending the Museum of Science and Industry’s Columbian Ball!

Regardless of the STEM topic or discipline, the core of STEM education is about practical application and real-world problem-solving. According to Sanford, making direct connections between what’s taught inside the classroom and how to use that knowledge in potential everyday situations is crucial in gaining students’ interests in STEM courses.

Powered and Pumped Up!

Project Exploration offered Summer of Science this past summer which offered 65 students from K-8 with various hands-on STEM learning projects. One of those projects was NASA’s Powered and Pumped Up program that uses the engineering design process.  Students designed, built, and improved a stand-alone solar powered pumping system to move water as quickly as possible between two containers. Students used light-concentrating materials, shapes, and structures to maximize the collection of simulated solar energy. The energy will then be directed toward a solar cell that will power the system to move the water.

Madison Reflects on Her Experience

Madison was one of the students that participated in this summer program and took time to share her experience. She was interested in the NASA program because she expected to learn about the different parts of NASA and she expected to have all of my questions answered. She considered herself very curious so she was excited to ask all of my questions. Madison shared that the program exceeded her expectations and she felt it was a good experience to learn through the design challenge and to think about water and life on Mars. She stated that she definitely felt all my questions answered and it was such a great opportunity.

Madison shared that the most beneficial learning experience was in the classroom during the program. “I was with the different students from the different schools. It was easy to make connections with them. Everyone was nice and we connected on a lot of things.” –  Madison Students came from different schools but built connections and relationships as they worked on teams. Madison felt she improved her ability to listen to others and was able to learn about and worry about more people than herself. My most beneficial learning experience was through building these relationships with the other students, the program and our experiences together.

Student’s Meet Andy Weir at Argonne National Laboratory

As students learned through their design challenge their interest was peaked and they wanted to learn more about life on Mars. Our STEM Facilitator found additional activities to introduce to the students and then we were invited to meet Andy Weir, an American novelist whose debut novel, The Martian, was later adapted into a film of the same name directed by Ridley Scott in 2015. Students attended an event where they met Mr. Weir at Argonne National Laboratory and Ms. Madison was prepared with her questions!

Now it’s Time for the Ball!

On October 6, the Museum of Science and Industry hosted their annual Columbian Ball honoring the Apollo 8 mission and celebrated with its brave crew: Colonel Frank Borman, Captain James Lovell, and Major General William Anders. As well as eight Project Exploration students that participated in our Summer of Science Powered and Pumped Up program. Our students were able to attend because of the generosity of Gerald A. and Karen E. Kolschowsky Foundation. They learned about what students were doing and connected the opportunity to deepen the students’ experience and attend the Ball along with meet the Apollo 8 astronauts.

We were thrilled to take the eight students to the event and a special thanks to Tim/Foundation. Junior Board member Shnesa Wiggins who arranged for the boys to all have tuxedo’s donated by the Men’s Warehouse.

Madison’s Closing Thought

Madison on what she would tell next year’s students, “I would tell them to be yourself. Try to make friends who will help you with the project because it was a hard design challenge. The design challenge was really fun because it was something new for me. I was able to learn about outer space and solar power.”

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