PMHS freshmen enjoy JA STEM Summit activities

Penn Manor students were walking on eggs, firing smoke rings and mixing chemicals into polyurethane this week — all while discovering the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math.

They were participating in the Junior Achievement STEM Summit, held Dec. 14 and 15 at Penn Manor High School, a day-long program of science experiments, engineering and math competitions and career panel presentations for every freshman in the school.

Instead of dreary, the activities were highly engaging.

Students got to walk over dozens of raw eggs in bare feet, knock cups off each other’s heads by firing smoke rings of air from a giant trash can, and fill latex gloves with chemicals and watch as they expanded to create colorful hands. Along the way, they learned about vortexes, the Bernoulli principle, centripetal force, chemical properties and engineering and geometry concepts.

Students also were challenged to build towers using uncooked spaghetti and marshmallows and use medical test kits to identify the markers of various diseases. The goal of each station was to give students a fun, hands-on look at science and how it applies to the real world. Professionals who work in STEM fields volunteered to lead the activities, and students got to don the lab coats and anti-contamination suits that are the “uniforms” of STEM professions.

The Summit is designed to inspire students to pursue STEM academic skills in high school to prepare them for the anticipated growth in well-paying STEM-related jobs when they graduate.

Students seemed to enjoy the day, and teachers also got caught up in the activities, which concluded with a dramatic science demonstration involving dry ice and an awards ceremony for student teams that competed in engineering and math challenges.

“My group of students was totally engaged and really enjoyed the challenges and experiences the STEM Summit exposed them to all day,” said Barry Groff, Penn Manor applied engineering and technology teacher. “One of their comments was ‘This is really cool, I didn’t know that physics could be so cool!'”

Jason D’Amico, assistant high school principal, said Penn Manor brought the program here for all high school freshmen “to increase our STEM footprint and to expose all of our students to STEM education, and I believe we met both of our goals.”

“We are very appreciative of the Junior Achievement leadership team and all of the JA volunteers for giving our students a fantastic two days!”

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