The goal of the exposition was to inspire students toward further study in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math by completing their own projects and experiments in those fields.
Students viewed the displays during the school day, later returning with their parents Monday evening to present their projects and also participate in guest exhibits from places like GlobalFoundries and the Saratoga Springs Police Department.
Several classrooms were taken over by different exhibitors; in one room Eddie’s Aquarium hosted a real coral reef tank and “touch tanks” with aquarium life that students were allowed to touch with their bare hands. Representatives from the Saratoga Springs Police Department were there to show kids how they use scientific methods to do their fingerprinting and dusting.
A dry ice show and a static ball exhibit were also crowd favorites as students got to be more hands-on with a ball that lit up each time it was touched. Students also got to see the science behind how the KINECT for XBOX360 works, as well as make their own bouncy balls with Camp Invention Saratoga.
Robotics exhibits were also big at the event, with both the Division Street Lego Robotics Team and the Saratoga Springs High School Robotics Team present to show the science behind building robots and robot cars.
60 percent of the new jobs that will open in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20 percent of the current workforce, according to the National Math and Science Initiative. In addition, recent studies have found that U.S. students are falling behind in world rankings of math and science performances—U.S. students recently finished 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“With regional investments in technology-based corporations like GlobalFoundries, combined with research and development at RPI and the University of Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, a long-term commitment to providing a highly skilled workforce has been made,” said Maureen Dana, public information specialist for the Saratoga Springs School District.
The STEM educational initiative was formed by a national coalition looking to improve these statistics of U.S. students’ performance in STEM fields.
The Saratoga Springs School District launched a 21st Century Academy program in September 2011 to encourage high school seniors to participate in project-based learning. Technology tools like iPads have been integrated into students’ learning in the classroom, along with e-books being used for some classes instead of traditional paper textbooks.
A Saturday STEM Academy and Summer STEM Academy have also been implemented, letting students in grades four through eight learn about topics such as robotics, wind power, solar power and nanotechnology.
The district's Technology Education Department has employed a pre-engineering program called Project Lead the Way, which is offered to all middle school students and high school students. The sequence offers five classes that, if completed, lead to college credit from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“STEM is an educational initiative that is here to stay,” Dana said.