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STEM Showcase highlights Carthage students’ science, technology knowledge

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WEST CARTHAGE — The Carthage Middle School library was home to robot battles, roller coasters and motorized Legos, all part of the school’s second annual STEM Showcase Wednesday.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Carthage has about 15 classes and programs that focus on STEM education.

“This year there was more diversity in the types of projects students did,” said Marilyn Bish, Carthage Central School District’s director of grants and projects. “Teachers are always exploring and developing new projects through project-based learning. Hands-on engagement is important for students in STEM education.”

Some projects were as simple as having first-graders demonstrate how to use a Smart Board. Others were advanced, such as developing a simple video game or building a robot arm that can lift marbles. Teachers, students and parents enjoyed the chance to learn and demonstrate their knowledge at the different stations.

“We can show what we’ve been working on for the last few quarters and how to express our technology and have fun,” 11-year-old Hailey Johnson said.

Hailey was one of several students who built a roller coaster on a computer through a program called Scratch. “I put a lot work in it,” the fifth-grader said. “I made it go 60 miles per hour.”

“The interesting thing about this program is that kids are actually practicing basic computer programming and they don’t realize it,” Mrs. Bish said.

Several middle-school students involved in the First Lego League built motorized Lego vehicles to the specifications of the league’s 2013 Nature’s Fury challenge. “They didn’t go to competition, but we acted like they were going to competition and did certain things they’d have to do if they competed,” said Paula Gallagher, First Lego League adviser.

Since no other schools have a team in the league, students cannot compete at the regional level. Students used Lego Mindstorms to develop their projects.

“We’ve been able to expand our offerings because of recent Department of Defense grants,” Mrs. Bish said. “They have supported increasing technology throughout our school district, especially instructional technology in the classroom.”

One display that used a recent technological addition to the school was presented by students and teachers with the school’s inaugural CASEWorks college and career-preparation program.

“Kids do production runs using the PlasmaCAM (cutting system) to learn about prototype and design using a 3-D printer and then creating a business design for an individual business model they are interested in,” said Mitchell A. McCormick, an instructor from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

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