CARROLLWOOD – The students in the Buchanan Middle School STEM program are known as “The Stemmies.”
It isn’t a derogatory term – STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, quite a load for kids who aren’t even old enough to drive. Students apply to enter the STEM program and go through a lot of hard work before entering the eighth-grade, which is when they finally get to work on some serious engineering projects.
The latest was a school competition among the Stemmies, where they formed teams to develop robots to perform tasks for a fictional organization. They had plenty of resources and, under the leadership of STEM director Bill Ganter, they got it done and were on to the next project, creating prosthetics. After that, they will do a project surrounding the Holocaust.
It may sound like a lot of work, and it is. The program itself started as part of the technological boom aimed at ensuring that the students of today are even more prepared for the future than their parents.
The Buchanan students who won team awards were more than willing to talk about the future. All said that robots and other things they are learning about from Ganter are the wave of the future.
“We had plenty of kits to work with and then we started to assemble and reassemble the robots,” Rachel Smith said. “We used bioengineering and the school provided us with a bunch of kits. It only took us about two months.”
Sydney Gavula, who teamed with Hannah Davenport, said that it wasn’t even that hard to build a robot.
“Once we got the hang of it we knew it was going to work,” she said. “It wasn’t easy because Hannah and I fought a lot over things and we missed some sleep, but it all worked out.”
Rachel said she changed her program for the project at least 50 times, but she and her partner, Sophie Cinippeaux, won the award for Best Robot.
“It just wasn’t working until the very end,” Sophie said. “It was stressful and we were sleep deprived. On the last day, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It just worked at the right time.”
And while most of the students had partners, Mehdi Rizk didn’t. Working alone, he started researching his project as soon as the challenge was issued.
“I started early,” Mehdi said. “I was focused on building instead of research, then I decided I needed to know what I was trying to do and then I decided to do it by myself.”
That might have been for the best. He didn’t have anybody to fight with.
“We couldn’t do anything together until it was almost too late,” Sydney said. “We kept at it and we’re friends so it all worked out.”
Sydney and Hannah ended up winning the award for Highest Grade.
Leigh Dittman and Sarah Knighton teamed up to win the award for High Grade.
“It was fun and Mr. Canter is fun to work with,” Leigh said. “It’s time to get started on the next project.’’