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STEM projects are teaching students through hands on experiences

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Contributing Writer – Diane Peltz 

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) community has been running full speed ahead with activities this past month. The fifth grade class at Mountain View Intermediate School (MVI) was able to watch and interact with a heart dissection, live from a Denver Hospital. Students in Mrs. View’s class prepared for the procedure by analyzing several different body parts during science class last week. Students were able to touch deer and pig hearts, kidneys, and lungs from various animals. There were even skeletal parts from a deer that students could put back together to form a spine and cranium.  

A member of the fire department was on hand to help students inflate and deflate the lungs. As air was pumped into the lungs students noticed that the right side inflated fuller than the left. This led to a discussion on whether the animal might have had a disease of the lungs. It was determined that the animal did actually have some lung issues and that was why only one side inflated to its full capacity. They also took note that the right side was softer than the left, also indicating a medical problem. Two hearts were examined and students were able to investigate the chambers and inner arteries and veins of the hearts.

A Denver hospital comes to MVI

After learning about these body parts the students were ready to help with a live heart dissection the following week.  The class assembled in the library where the interactive dissection would take place, via a live feed from the hospital. A medical technologist greeted the students and she explained that they could ask questions as the procedure took place. Students were given a packet of questions with diagrams to help them understand the procedure in more detail.  

As the technologist showed the students the heart she explained about how a heart works. She spoke about the four chambers, the separation of CO2 from oxygen and how the respiratory system and heart interact. The heart they were working with was from a sheep. Students were amazed that the heart was a bit larger than the human heart. As students raised their hands to ask questions the technologist was able to answer some of their questions by showing the heart to the students and pointing out the areas in question. She began to cut the heart in sections to see the inner workings of each chamber. She also pointed out how rubbery the veins inside were and how much larger the aorta and valves were compared to the veins.  Students asked questions about why one would have a heart attack and why parts of the heart were deeper red and other parts appeared white. 

The culminating activity for the students was to take their pulse for one minute while sitting quietly and then compare it to their pulse after running in place for one minute. They discovered that their pulse was much faster after exercising. The majority of the class agreed that this was a cool activity and they would like more “hands on” activities in the future. 

When the students returned to their classroom they had a discussion regarding the experience they had with the live dissection and the examination of the organs in class earlier in the month. Here are some of their thoughts about what they learned this past month.

 “It is a gross and amazing thing to smell and touch a real heart” — Emily Rubio

 “It is gross but I like the hands on.” — Caiden Hardeman

 “It is enjoyable because the veins and arteries are different textures, so it is cool.” — Lily Powell

 “You  get to see it and touch it which helps you understand it better.” “It was really cool asking questions to someone across the country and get to see a real sheep’s heart. I learned a lot!” — Jessica Keefer

 “We learned about the human body and how it works. We got to look, hold, and touch deer and pig organs. I think that Ms. View has really helped me learn more about the human body.” — Madison Harris

“It was fantastic to be able to see real organs! In school we learned about the human body system. I think it’s so fun to learn about how they work and what they do to keep us alive.”  — Nalaa Butler

“I thought it was amazing because most 5th graders don’t get this experience.” — Amy Mendoza

“I love Science because we get to do a lot of hands on activities. It was cool to see and do a dissection with someone who is across the United States.” –Jesse Holden

“It was an amazing opportunity to study about the heart and get to touch an animal heart.” — Alexis Romero

Science Olympiad 

Samantha Bullis, science teacher at MVI has been preparing her students for a competition on March 23, in Asheville. Fifth grade students had to choose their project from 19 categories allowed in the event. Teams of two to four students worked together to build, study and perfect their entry. 

“Work it Out” is a relay race but instead of passing batons, they passed questions to teammates. Gracie Riddle, Lydia Cabe, Charlotte McSwain, MaggieShields, and Eve Hoffman will be competing in this event, working on science and math questions regarding force, motion and temperature. 

“Energy Matters” is another category involving physical and chemical changes. Anna Noel and Penelope West were diligently working on their project on physical properties of matter and the behavior of solids, liquids and gasses before and after undergoing changes or interactions. 

“Rock Star” involves identifying the rock cycle. Clara Stork, Abigail Brenner and Kaden Kopp decided on this category. They had many different rocks to examine and were studying how rocks change from lava to magma to sediment and so on. The cycle is continuous. Neither of the three students knew anything about rocks or the rock cycle before tackling this category. The three of them all said they found this category interesting.

“Pro Gamers” was yet another category in which students have to create an interactive computer game. Brock Bradley and Hudson Stringer were working in the computer room diligently trying to create their video game. They had to choose from a variety of icons or symbols that would come together in the game to create a “cool” gaming experience. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” they both admitted. They had to figure out how to make the characters move once placed in the game. Although they chose an icon that appeared to have motion in the batch they could choose from, when they placed it into the game it did not move. It was up to them to figure out how to solve this dilemma. They both felt confident that they would succeed and be able to figure it all out. 

The “Pasta Tower” event calls for students to design and build the lightest tower, constructed only of pasta and glue, with the greatest structural efficiency, capable of supporting a load of up to 10kg. Ashley Flores  and Isabella Shope decided to tackle this task. Their table was loaded with pasta which they had to cut and glue and put together to form their tower. Eliza Cerri and Paytin Maywell were also helping as alternates in case they were needed. 

Teachers tour several businesses in Franklin

 

Twelve teachers from Franklin area schools were able to take part in a STEM Workshop that included touring several local businesses in Franklin. Jenifer Love, coordinator of the STEM Program, arranged the workshop with funds from the Golden Leaf Foundation Grant. Love thought that by touring local businesses teachers could find out just what the community has to offer graduating high school and college students. What they discovered was far more than they ever realized about businesses in Franklin.

 Meghan Peck was in a small group that toured Drake Enterprises. Drake is well know for its tax program but Peck found out that there was much more to Drake than just taxes.

 

“Just within Drake Enterprises, we saw everything from civil engineers to Google data analysts, to marketing managers, to printing press operators, to music/sound editors for Netflix movies, to CAD designers and wood workers, welders, to Computer Systems managers, and so many careers in between.  Although I am aware of many of the Drake businesses, I had no idea there were so many different career opportunities just within a handful of businesses, said Peck.”

 

The Leader in Me Program

  

Peck is a teacher at Iotla Valley Elementary School and is involved in “The Leader in Me Program.”

“I think the biggest takeaway, at least for me, was that the Leader in Me initiative we have at Iotla Valley Elementary is really filling some of the ‘gaps’ businesses expressed that their new employees often lack.  The Leader in Me teaches those ‘soft skills’ such as filling out a job application, interviewing, making eye contact, shaking someone’s hand, greeting people, answering the phone, internalized work ethic and drive, and many more.  It tells me we are continuing to make the right choice in using this system to instill the Seven Habits in our students.”

 Graduates can look for jobs right here in Franklin

 “This experience was very beneficial, in that it helped open my eyes to just how many opportunities there are in our community.  So often, I think our students feel they have to ‘fly away’ to be successful, and that is clearly not the case.  There are career opportunities available here just as there are in bigger cities.  I can now share those opportunities with my students, whether it’s my Iotla Valley students, or the students in my youth group, or my friends’ kids.  There are lots of amazing career choices available.”

Teacher Jesse Buchanan followed in the steps of the Public Works Director and county engineer Nathanael Moore during his daily duties. Buchanan said that he was very impressed at the wide variety of the tasks that Moore and his crew had to perform. Moore is involved in water and waste water plants as well as maintenance of water and sewer collection and distribution. They did everything from digging with their hands in wet muddy dirt to placing intricate parts on sewer lines when needed. Buchanan said he did not realize the extent of what was needed to perform this job until he shadowed him. 

TekTone was another business which was visited. 

At TekTone the consensus was similar to that of other businesses. Teresa Mallonee,  vice president of Human Resources, spoke about how employees are lacking “soft skills.”  Employees can be taught about the business but they are not being taught how to talk to customers in sales and marketing. Some of the skills that they felt were necessary for their market were phone etiquette, sending and answering e-mails properly, being flexible, being on time and able to do presentations. 

In just the last three years, Tektone has grown from 72 employees in 2016 to currently employing 94. As TekTone continues to grow, the need for qualified employees will increase and although people can learn the ins and outs of the company business,  if the soft skills are missing they will not be hired. Mallonee said that TekTone’s internship programs help employees with further education.

2nd Place in Science Olympiad!

  • Press photos/Jake Browning - Members of the Mountain View Intermediate team celebrated their second-place finish at the Science Olympiad.
    Press photos/Jake Browning – Members of the Mountain View Intermediate team celebrated their second-place finish at the Science Olympiad.

STUDENTS PUT SCIENCE SKILLS TO THE TEST

Aspiring scientists from Macon County Schools got a chance to show off their skills in a competitive environment in Asheville last weekend.

At Charles D. Owen High School, Mountain View Intermediate School students participated in a Science Olympiad competition. Teams from 13 different schools across Western North Carolina assembled to compete in 19 different events testing their knowledge of physics, astronomy, building principles, the scientific method and other fields of study. The students had been preparing for the competition for months, and they had a blast sharpening their skills alongside their friends.

“It has been the longest and most wonderful journey,” said student Maggie Shields.

Mountain View’s team enjoyed a great showing at the Science Olympiad. Their final score of 74 points was enough to rank second out of the 13 teams present, falling only behind Ira B. Jones Elementary School of Asheville by a two-point margin. Carrying that high rank was a first-place finish in the Body Builders event, which tests students’ knowledge of the major systems of the human body, as well as top three finishes in seven other events.

Teacher and coach Samantha Bullis was thrilled with the results. She was especially proud of the students for sinking several months of practice into their events, and was thankful for the continued support of parent volunteers and the school that made competing possible.

“Every student worked so hard,” Bullis said. “We’ve been practicing for two hours nearly every Monday since November.”

Meanwhile, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, older students were getting pumped up for their FIRST (For the Inspiration of Robotics, Science and Technology) Competition. A total of 70 teams from all over North Carolina attended the tournament, and Macon County was represented by a collection of engineering students from Franklin High School and Macon County Early College, dubbed the Macon Bots FRC.

Delving into some more advanced science, competitors in this tournament had spent months assembling functioning robots that had to move cargo, attach hatches to carrying containers and maneuver in a logistical environment, much like similar robots would have to do for real professional work.

Team member Oliver Kimsey said the process of putting together a machine that sophisticated is long and delicate. Malfunctions can and do happen constantly, even up to the moments before competitive events begin, but being a part of the robotics club has given Kimsey and his teammates a chance to grow as builders and adapt to fast-coming changes.

“We’ve had about four changes just since we got here this morning,” Kimsey said. “The whole thing is a process. … It’s pretty easy if you actually ask questions and try to learn from people.”

Unfortunately, the Macon Bots were hit with some technical bugs during the competition. An accident with their robot’s claw after an event began left the part unresponsive and the robot unable to manipulate the hatch it had to move. The team went on to place 53rd of the 70 teams present, although it should be noted that they were one of the youngest clubs present, having only competed for the first time last year.

Despite a disappointing final score, Macon County STEM coordinator Jennifer Love admired the determination the team had shown in getting the project ready. She knew they were in for an uphill battle with teams that had more years of experience and more money to spend, but she was impressed with the progress that her students had made as scientists who could build and maintain the machine on their own.

“They have to go through and work the problem and figure out what’s going on,” Love said of the tournament’s demands. “I can’t help them. It’s just our students doing everything.”

MVI Students Training for Science Olympiad

  • Press photo/Jake Browning - Students practice their assembly skills in preparation for the “Pasta Tower” event.
    Press photo/Jake Browning – Students practice their assembly skills in preparation for the “Pasta Tower” event.

MOUNTAIN VIEW INTERMEDIATE STUDENTS IN TRAINING FOR SCIENCE OLYMPIAD

Astronomy, geology and mechanical engineering may not be Olympic events, but there are plenty of Macon County science students who still aspire to bring home the gold.

Students at Mountain View Intermediate School are currently preparing for the Science Olympiad, a series of scientific competitions for schools all around North Carolina. Fifth-grade teacher Samantha Bullis will be taking her team of 23 students to Buncombe County later this month to compete in 19 different events.

“All of the events are about critical thinking, communication, problem solving and having a can-do attitude,” Bullis said.

The scope of the competition covers a wide variety of scientific fields. Some of the kids will perform experiments on mystery substances to determine what compounds they are in the “Super Sleuths” event, while others will try to achieve the longest hang time for a makeshift rocket in “3, 2, 1, Blast Off!” and yet others will program functioning video games on a time limit in “ProGamers.” Whichever team earns the most combined points from all the events will be declared the winner.

Students said they are enjoying the sense of progress that comes from being part of the team. Science Olympiad is an after-school club with no curriculum requirements, but many of the kids feel that training for their events and doing better in school go hand in hand.

“We’re having a good time,” said Abigail Brenner, a fifth-grader studying meteorology for the “Weather Permitting” event. “The weather instruments are kind of confusing, but we studied this all through the fall and winter, so we’re getting used to it.”

Parent volunteers are essential to the team’s success. At any given practice, they can be seen giving advice on how to stack pasta noodles into the strongest tower, or helping to assemble ramps to test model cars. Amanda Maxwell is happy to help, especially when it means seeing her daughter thrive in a learning environment.

“Her love for science has grown,” Maxwell said. “I think it’s opening her up to so many opportunities that she didn’t know were there before.”

Bullis agreed with that sentiment and is proud to see the kids making the most of their academic potential.

“It helps the kids realize new capabilities,” Bullis said. “They’re already very smart and they’re still open to learning more.”

The Buncombe County Science Olympiad will be held all morning at Charles D. Owen High School in Black Mountain on Saturday, March 23.

Macon Bots FRC #6899 Recruiting for new members!

We are accepting applications to join the Macon Bots High School Robotics Team for the 2019-2020 school year.  This program is open for all 9th-12th grade Macon County Schools students.

Click here for Application

To apply to be part of the Macon Bots High School Robotics Team, please complete the following application.

Under strict rules, limited resources, and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.

Schedule:

FRC Events 2019-2020

August 3rd-10th – Robotics Camp

August 12th – MEC First Day of School

August 26th – FHS First Day of School

 

September 11-14– Macon County Fair- exhibit

September Meeting – 5th (Thursday)

September Meeting – 19th (Thursday)

 

October Meeting – 3rd (Thursday)

October Meeting – 17th (Thursday)

October 19th – Pumpkin Fest – booth

 

November Meeting – 7th (Thursday)

November Meeting – 21st (Thursday)

November Meeting (Float) – 30th (Saturday)

 

December Meeting – 12th (Thursday)

December 1 (Sunday) – Christmas Parade 3:00pm – Float

 

January  Meeting – 2nd (Thursday)

January 4th – Kick Off 2020 Season!

 

Meeting Dates – Tuesday/Thursday 3:30 – 7:00 pm through Build Season and some Saturday/Sunday TBD

 

For more information, go to www.firstinspires.org or email Jennifer Love at jennifer.love@macon.k12.nc.us

 

FLL Tournament Success!

On Feb. 23rd, 11 teams competed in the FIRST Lego League Into Orbit Challenge at the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center.  The teams competed in the robot run and had the opportunity to share their projects with all the attendees.   Thank you so much to the Smoky Mountain STEM Collaborative for their support of the season and to the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center for allowing us to hold this event in their beautiful facility.

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Bill Nye and Extreme Weather

On April 1, 20 Macon County educators will be going to the US Celluar Center in Asheville, NC to hear Bill Nye speak on climate change.  Bill Nye is here as part of a climate change conference.

Macon Bots FRC #6899 Tournament #1

The Macon Bots traveled to Burlington, NC the weekend of March 15-17 to compete in their first tournament of the season.  After it was all said and done, the Macon Bots are ranked #30 out of 36 teams.  We have our second tournament this coming weekend in Asheville!  Wish us luck!  Go Scorpio (name of robot).

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Macon Bot FRC #6899 present to Board of Education

Three members of the Macon Bots High School Robotics Team presented to the Macon Board of Education.  They drove their 2019 robot “Scorpio” around the board room and answered questions about the program.  The Macon Bots are seeking funding to continue the program next year.

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