Category Archives: STEM

Invent Iowa…Online!

Welcome back to another year of inventing, Iowa! We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the Invent Iowa State Convention on April 19, 2021. Due to the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, students will participate virtually.

Invent Iowa state finalists have a strong track record of going on to win big at the National Invention Convention! For the past four consecutive years, Iowa students have brought home national prizes. Your future inventor could be next!

Our website has been updated to reflect dates and deadlines for the 2020-2021 academic year. If you plan to participate, be sure to mark your calendars for these important dates.

The free National Invention Convention curriculum can be accessed here.

Please feel free to pass along the information below to other educators or parents who may be interested in learning more about invention education.

Questions? We’re here to help at inventiowa@belinblank.org!

Not Your Ordinary Science Fair

Conducting original research projects will spark students’ curiosity. Through research processes, students develop 21st-century skills and meet Next Generation Science Standards. Ok, you’re convinced. You’re ready for students to work on research projects. But how do you take student research out of the classroom and into the world? 

The Iowa Junior Sciences and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) is a high school science research competition, grounded in engaging students in unique research experiences. The uniqueness of Iowa JSHS begins with students submitting a symposium proposal in the form of a scientific article. (See how to write a scientific article.) The symposium proposal is an authentic audience for whom students write. Students put their work out into the world, and a panel of experts reviews each submission for potential inclusion in the symposium. 

The premier event of Iowa JSHS is students listening to presentations of research that has been conducted by their peers. Presenting at Iowa JSHS is an exciting experience, but for students in the audience, seeing what is possible through near-peer mentorship is an impactful experience. Yet, Iowa JSHS is more than students presenting research. Time is provided for the students to socialize, forming impactful connections resulting in life-long friendships. Iowa JSHS also enables students to experience a research-intensive university first hand. Through laboratory tours, students get a backstage pass to world-class labs and the professional scientific community. 

Any school in Iowa can bring five students to attend Iowa JSHS free of charge, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Tri-Services and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. Iowa JSHS truly is an experience that goes beyond the ordinary science fair. If you’re interested in learning more, send us an e-mail at jshs@belinblank.org and check out our website

Invent Iowa Winner Featured on Good Morning America!

Congratulations to 6-year-old Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) for his appearance on Good Morning America! Charles is a winner of our 2019 Invent Iowa competition who went on to win 1st place in his grade level at the National Invention Convention

Charles invented the Benge Beacon, a device to help firefighters find the exits in a smoky house. See his invention in action and watch his national television debut! (Trust us, you won’t regret it.) 

Charles also won $5,000 in seed money and a mentorship opportunity with entrepreneur Chelsea Hirschhorn through the SSK Kidventor $25,000 giveaway! 🤩 (Watch the announcement here: https://gma.abc/2O3XmJW)

After all that excitement, Charles got a hero’s welcome open returning home to Ottumwa and getting back to school. Watch here: https://www.kyoutv.com/home/2019/11/11/first-grade-inventor-welcomed-home-at-eisenhower-elementary/

We are so proud of you, Charles! Keep up the GREAT work.

For information about how your student can follow in Charles’ footsteps, check out Invent Iowa!

New 2020 Summer Program for Students!

Two of our previous programs, Blast and the Junior Scholars Institute, have joined forces to create the Junior Scholars Academy (JSA)! Students from 2nd to 8th grade with a deep curiosity, a love of learning, or a lot of talent in a particular area will feel right at home in this program.

JSA is a summer commuter program designed specifically for bright elementary and middle school students who want to thoroughly explore a topic – all while having fun with other kids who share their enthusiasm for learning. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes! With past options like Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, Programming (and more!), we’re sure to have something for any curious kid.

Applications open December 15th and will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff. Program acceptance is based on a review of the student’s strengths and interests. The selection committee works to ensure that the class is a good academic fit to nurture the student’s potential. Participation in a school’s gifted education program is not required.

Grade bands for JSA will be 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, 6th-8th, with the structure consisting of four 1-week sessions. Choose any one (or more!) that works best for you:

  • Session 1 is June 15-19
  • Session 2 is June 22-26
  • Session 3 is July 6-10
  • Session 4 is July 13-17

Find more information here: www.belinblank.org/jsa.

Looking for a residential opportunity for 7th and 8th grade students? The Blank Summer Institute (BSI) is a prestigious one-week residential summer program for 120 of Iowa’s most talented 7th- and 8th- grade students, nominated by their schools.

Applications for all of our student summer programs open December 15th at belinblank.org/summer. Please email us at summer@belinblank.org with any questions!


We hope to see you this summer!

How We’re Supporting Academic Talent in Rural Iowa

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently published a new report on rural education programs that develop academic talent. The report, “Small Town, Big Talent: Identifying and Supporting Academically Promising Students in Rural Areas”, highlighted the work that is being done across the state of Iowa through the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, administered by the Belin-Blank Center.

The program takes place extracurricularly in rural school districts throughout the state. Teachers identify talented middle-school students with interests in math and science, increase their aspirations, and engage them in advanced, in-depth coursework to prepare them for STEM opportunities at the highest levels.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s report makes the following recommendations for organizations and educators working with rural schools. Here’s how Iowa’s STEM Excellence and Leadership program realizes these 9 ideals. 

  1. Use quantitative testing appropriately. We believe that every child deserves to learn something new every day, including the ones that ace every test. It’s often the case that bright students are ready to learn things beyond the level of the grade they are in—but how can you tell what level would be more appropriate for a particular student? One way, called above-level testing, is to give a younger student a test that was developed for older students. In the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and at the Belin-Blank Center, we use above-level testing to uncover information about a student’s academic abilities and learning needs, helping parents and teachers discover what that student is ready to learn. Learn more.
  2. Use educator and community feedback. The STEM Excellence and Leadership program is grounded in the philosophy of place-based learning and provides support for educators to have agency in shaping their local programs around the needs and interests of their students and communities. This means that each program implements a unique curriculum that leverages local strengths, opportunities, and needs. Local districts have strong voices in their programs, which have incorporated prairie restorations, algebra, rocketry, butterfly gardens, probability, robotics, statistics, and invention conventions.
  3. Use student interviews. We gather feedback from STEM Excellence and Leadership students by visiting classrooms, conducing focus groups, and sending out surveys. Understanding how students experience our programs is key to living up to our ideals and knowing the extent to which we are truly inspiring excellence and nurturing potential.
  4. Pay special attention to underserved populations. Research shows that rural students have fewer STEM educational opportunities, are less likely to attend a four-year college, and less likely to major in STEM than their urban and suburban peers. We believe talent is not bound by zip code and neither should be opportunities for advanced STEM learning.
  5. Expose promising rural students to people and opportunities outside their home communities and connect talented students with older, near-peer role models cultivating a robust peer community. Students who participate in the STEM Excellence and Leadership program come together in the spring to attend a Student Research Conference at the University of Iowa. There, they learn about research conducted by undergraduate students from rural Iowa communities and hear presentations from Iowa high school students conducting original research. Scholarships sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation are also available to support STEM Excellence and Leadership students in attending Belin-Blank Center summer programs, where they spend their days taking a deep dive into a topic of their choice with like-minded peers. Through these summer programs, students have access to valuable university-level resources and experts. They also live in a residence hall with their classmates and get a taste of life as university students. 
  6. When possible, provide consistent engagement throughout the year. STEM Excellence and Leadership is a year-long program with a fall and spring session. With programming before school, after school, on the weekends, and during the summer, STEM Excellence and Leadership programs create bountiful STEM opportunities for rural students throughout the year.
  7. Encourage professional development in schools. A hallmark of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program is that communities of teachers from a variety of disciplines come together to learn about the identification of STEM talent, the needs of gifted learners, and principles of math and science education. Summer professional development programs create communities that understand and support the development advanced STEM learning ecosystems within and across districts.
  8. Provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities. Through administering the STEM Excellence and Leadership program, we are able to support educators across the state in creating STEM ecosystems that provide acceleration and enrichment opportunities for rural students.

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cook Foundation for a Rural Talent Initiative grant and a Talent Development Award that have supported the implementation of the STEM Excellence and Leadership program and the Student Research Conference. Additionally, a National Science Foundation Advancing Informal STEM Learning grant supports current STEM Excellence and Leadership programming and research and rural STEM talent development.

Meeting Your Goals for the Precocious Teens in Your Life with Real-World Data Sets

You can create engaging learning experiences for teens by making it possible for them to conduct original research and connect with a larger scholarly community through citizen science. While collecting original data has tremendous merit, sometimes barriers to the necessary equipment or resources for effective data collection are challenging to navigate. Publicly available real-world data sets are one way to circumvent these obstacles and get teens researching—for real.

Did you know that there are more than 244,000 data sets publicly available to anyone on data.gov? This website has data from a wide variety of sources from agriculture, climate, and ecosystems, to manufacturing, energy, and finance. Looking at the available data, you and your teen might wonder how public parks might affect a neighborhood’s resilience to natural disasters. With a research question in mind, teens are ready to learn how to design their investigation and then dig into those data!  

Perhaps you have teens interested in developing a deeper understanding of how life in the United States compares to life around the world.  Through international datasets from the United Kingdom (https://data.gov.uk), Australia (https://data.gov.au/), Singapore (https://data.gov.sg/), for example,  teens can mine data to answer specific questions and better understand international relationships and trends. Many teens are passionate about global and social justice issues. UNICEF publishes data on the lives of children from around the world, and the World Health Organization publishes global human health data. Societal viewpoints can be analyzed using data sets available from the Pew Research Center.

If economics and mathematics are where a student’s interest lies, then have them check out the international financial data released by the International Monetary Fund, weekly Dow Jones Index data, or sales datasets from stores such as Walmart.

Our technology-based lives generate datasets that may surprise teens! There are publicly available data on reddit user comments and Airbnb worldwide locations even challenges its users to “Discover what insights lie hidden in our data.” Wikipedia, Google, and Amazon make their data available, too.

Student research doesn’t have to involve a lot of expense or fancy equipment. With nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection, students can produce high-quality original research from their bedrooms or the classroom. Publicly available data sets abound and they can be the spark that ignites a lifetime of STEM curiosity.

For more information on student research, be sure to check out our other posts on this topic!

Using Citizen Science to Increase Engagement in Summer Learning

As the school year has come to a close, excitement and planning for summer fun is in the air! What are you imagining for these sun-drenched days—beaches, camping, novels, hiking, blockbuster movies? If you are a teacher, which of your students might be dreaming about digging into a science or engineering challenge this summer and how can you encourage them? Perhaps you have a child whose curiosity needs an outlet and encouraging nudge. Summer science to the rescue!

With the increase in the number of researchers looking for everyday citizens to aid them in research projects, opportunities to contribute to actual research projects right from home or the classroom are more abundant than ever! In today’s information-rich world these opportunities are available to anyone.

We have collected a few projects that span a variety of interest areas to nurture the curious indoor and outdoor kids in your life:

  • Join the Zooniverse (https://www.zooniverse.org/) and get connected to projects ranging from analyzing images identifying wildlife, analyzing images and data identifying celestial bodies, to transcribing historical documents. These projects seek out ordinary individuals to contribute to research, making an impact in the world. One example project is Bash the Bug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug), a project in which an individual analyzes the antibiotic resistance of M. tuberculosis, helping hospitals around the world accurately predict which antibiotics are effective at treating this disease.
  • National Geographic (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/) lists several projects on their website such as bird counting projects, monitoring light pollution with the night sky, or participating in water quality monitoring with people from around the globe. Some of the projects such as the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey (https://garlicmustard.wordpress.com/) even give teachers tips on how they can use the project in their classroom: “Educators can offer their students an invaluable opportunity for hands-on participation in peer-reviewed scientific research, and compare class results to the larger dataset involving hundreds of populations.”
  • Journeynorth.org is a website in which students can help track seasonal changes and seasonal migrations of different species right where they live. This site also offers teacher resources (https://journeynorth.org/tm/educators_index.html) to help a teacher drive discussion using data that was input by citizen scientists just like your students.
  • If you want to search for projects by location, then check out Scistarter.org. This website connects citizen scientists to local projects. Projects range from migration tracking to water and air quality. One project, School of Ants USA, (https://www.scistarter.org/school-of-ants-usa) asks citizen scientists to help track ant diversity by collecting and sending in a sample of ants. 

What if you have a high school student on your hands who wants to take summer science to the next level? No problem! Citizen science projects and the associated publicly available data sets can be used by students to ask their own questions and conduct their own research. Then, they can submit their work to the Iowa Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!

Iowa JSHS showcases research conducted by high school students each year to provide students with an outlet to share their work and be recognized for their efforts. Attending the symposium provides youth with exposure to Iowa high school research, and they also benefit from networking opportunities with other student researchers and research professionals.

Want more information on student-led research? Be sure to check out our previous posts on this topic!

Iowa Wins Big at the National Invention Convention

For the second year in a row, Iowa students have earned national recognition for their innovative inventions!

Winners of the 2019 Invent Iowa State Invention Convention qualified to compete at the National Invention Convention at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in May. Of the six qualifying inventions, three earned national prizes!

Charles Smith (Ottumwa Community School District) won 1st place at the Kindergarten grade level for his “Benge Beacon,” a bright light to mark exits in homes to help firefighters and residents locate them more easily.

Dylan Hunt, Thomas Nugent, and Rebecca Yanacheak (8th grade, Adel-Desoto-Minburn Community School District) won a Patent Application Award for their “Eazy Shuck,” which makes shucking corn an easier and safer process.

Kelty Raap & Sadie Takes (4th grade, St. Pius X Catholic School), won an Inventor Communication Award for “Best Pitch” while presenting their “I C Safety Straw,” a straw made of ice to reduce plastic use.

A full list of national winners is available here. Congratulations to all who competed, and especially to our Iowa representatives. We are proud of your hard work and inspiring ideas!

Iowa Students Attend the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In March, students from across Iowa competed at the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS). A panel of experts judged 15 impressive oral presentations, and the finalists were:

  • 1st place: Pooja Kasiviswanathan (Ames High School) — “Farming on Mars: potential strategies for sustainable agriculture in Martian conditions”
  • 2nd place: Isabella Hoeger-Pinto (Iowa City West High School) — “Examination of plasma etch rate on silicon substrate with photoresist mask”
  • 3rd place: Radha Velamuri (Valley High School) — “Involvement of the AhR in reproductive function with exposure to PCB 126”
  • 4th place: Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) — “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III”
  • 5th place: Amara Orth (Lewis Central High School) — “What is honey? A comparison of honey from Iowa beekeepers versus national store brand honey using pH, pollen, and chemical composition analysis”
Winners of the 2019 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium

In addition to scholarships, these five students qualified to compete at the 57th Annual National JSHS in Albuquerque, New Mexico last week.

Approximately 230 high school students from all over the world attended the National JSHS to compete for scholarships and recognition in the fields of environmental science; life sciences; biomedical, cellular and molecular sciences; medicinal, behavioral and health sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer science; physics; and chemistry and material sciences.

Iowa representatives at the 57th Annual National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Like the Iowa finalists, these impressive students qualified for the symposium by submitting and presenting original scientific research papers in regional symposia held at universities nationwide. Approximately 130 high school teachers, mentors, university faculty, ranking military guests and others also attended to encourage the future generation of scientists and engineers and celebrate student achievement in the sciences.

Students had the opportunity to tour labs such as the Air Force Research Laboratory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Sandia National Laboratories—Security Technologies, and the University of New Mexico’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, School of Engineering, and School of Medicine—Emergency Medical Services.

Students participated in round table discussions on topics such as ocean trace elements, agile aerospace, energy and shear stability, academic STEM careers, and engineering satellite thermal systems. Students also had the opportunity to listen to an array of distinguished keynote speakers, including Dr. William Swartout, the Chief Technology Officer of University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies and Research Professor in the USC Department of Computer Science. Dr. Swartout shared his involvement in research and development work based on his interest in virtual humans and the development of new Artifical Intelligene architectures through the Shoah Foundation and the New Dimensions in Testimony project. Together they are creating a unique collection of interactive historical biographies that allow people to converse with pre-recorded video images of Holocaust survivors.

For the second consecutive year, an Iowa regional finalist placed at the national competition! Kayla Livesay (Van Buren Community High School) won second place in the Life Science division of the poster competition for her project, “Accelerating plant growth to improve crop production and soil fertility: analyzing the effects of macronutrients and mycorrhizal fungi for Zea mays: Phase III.” Congratulations to Kayla, as well as her teacher, Amanda Schiller (a former JSHS competitor herself)!

Congratulations to all who participated in both the Iowa regional and National Junior Science and Humanities Symposia! For more information on getting started with student research or the JSHS program, visit:

Must-See Summer Enrichment Classes for Middle School Students

If you’re still looking for summer programs for curious middle school students, look no further! Our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) still has limited seats available in some amazing classes. Check them out before it’s too late!

Robot Theater: Exploring with Cozmo

The focus of this class is to learn the basics of dramatic storytelling that incorporate robot technology (Cozmo, created by Anki) as part of the story. If you have written a script, story, or poem that you have been dreaming of seeing performed on stage, then this class is for you—our Cozmos will be your actors. If you have an interest in robotics and want to work with sophisticated technology, then this class is for you—Cozmo will introduce you to the world of robotics. No previous experience with writing, puppetry, theatre, or working with robots is required.

Environmental Engineering

Students will be exposed to real-world environmental challenges Iowans face with an emphasis on flooding and access to clean water. Through an interactive learning environment, students will connect with professionals from a variety of related fields to learn how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster events, but then also mitigate for future disasters to build community resilience. Classroom learning will be mobile and designed to engage the students in career settings providing opportunities for practicing professional development skills.

Mixed Media Workshop

Are you ready for an exciting week of action-packed art adventures? If so, this class is for you! Our week will be an exciting exploration of several different kinds of art making. You will try your hand at a variety of studio projects throughout the week. The two-dimensional art portion of the class will involve some printmaking, drawing, and painting. The stop motion animation segment will introduce you to the basics of stop-motion in the making of an awesome animation that you will shoot, edit, and create music and sound effects. You will work on individual pieces, as well as work in small groups. Exploring collaboration in small groups will allow us to put our brains together to come up with unique, creative solutions. We will go on a couple of field trips to get ideas for work and look at other artists’ work. Bring your adventurous spirit and creative brain. It’s going to be a great week of getting a little messy, learning some new techniques, getting your creative juices flowing, and challenging yourselves.

Archaeology: Discover the Past!

Ever wonder how archaeologists know where to find ancient sites? Or how rocks and bones provide them clues about how people lived? Archaeologists are scientific detectives, studying people from the past and the objects they left behind. In this course, you will learn to think like an archaeologist using scientific inquiry. We will study real artifacts in the research labs at the Office of the State Archaeologist and participate in hands-on lessons and activities to learn about Iowa’s archaeological past, from the Ice Age to the first Europeans. You will also learn how today’s Native American communities work with archaeologists to strengthen our understanding of their cultures. Part of this course will take place at an outdoor classroom at the Macbride Nature Recreation Area, where we will learn archaeology field techniques to document a real archaeological site!

Other open classes include Leadership for Students Who Want to Make a Difference, Women in Engineering, and Project Discovery: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.

Participation in your school’s talented and gifted program is not required. Payment plans and financial aid are available. If you think JSI sounds like a good fit for your student, be sure to check it out at www.belinblank.org/summer or contact Ashlee Van Fleet at summer@belinblank.org!

The Scoop on Summer Programs at the Belin-Blank Center

If all the recent school closure days have you thinking ahead to how you’re going to keep your children occupied over summer vacation, now is a great time to start planning! At the Belin-Blank Center, we specialize in bright kids. Whether or not they participate in their school’s gifted and talented program, if your child shows a deep curiosity when a topic sparks their interest, a love of learning, or a particular talent in an area, they will feel right at home here!

Our summer programs are designed specifically for students in grades 2-11 who want to take a deep dive into a topic while having fun with other kids who share their level of interest and ability. Students get to choose one class to focus on all day, for a full week – and these aren’t just any regular classes!

For example, grade school students can choose from classes such as Harry Potter, STEAM, Mixed Media Art, Virtual Reality, and Programming in our Blast program. Middle school schools students can apply for our Junior Scholars Institute (JSI) to explore Leadership, Women in Engineering, Archaeology, 3D Printing, or a Mixed Media art workshop, among many other options. High school students can learn about the research process and just what is involved in creating new knowledge in our Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI). Class sizes are kept small (a maximum of 16-20, depending on age group), to ensure that each student has a positive experience learning something they enjoy.

The programs take place on the University of Iowa campus, giving students access to valuable university-level experts and resources. Our instructors are vetted professionals, including classroom teachers, local artists, and professors who have the expertise to delve into a subject at an advanced level, while keeping it accessible for the age group. Classes utilize specialized spaces and equipment, such as research laboratories, the Van Allen Observatory, 3D printing facilities, the National Advanced Driving Simulator, art studios, maker spaces and the university library.

We understand that many bright students may also have a disability or impairment that can present behavioral, emotional, social, or learning challenges. Our staff are experts in gifted education and talent development, and we offer specialized social and academic support for these twice-exceptional students.

If you think our programs sound like a good fit for your child, be sure to check them out at www.belinblank.org/summer. Payment plans and financial aid are available. With options for students from elementary to high school, covering a wide range of topics, we’re sure to have something for you and your family. We can’t wait for you to join us this summer!

7 Tips for a Successful SSTP Application

SSTP Extracurriculars 2017-5

Applications are officially open for the 2019 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa. The fall break is a perfect time to work on your materials, so here are 6 quick tips for making your application the best it can be!

  1. Once you’ve started your application, write down your username and password! The $75 application fee applies for each application account you start on the portal, so be sure you can log back in when it’s time to finish your application later.
  2. Contact your references now! The application requires two references from you: First, the academic reference, which should come from a teacher who can speak to your abilities in your desired research fields; Second, the character reference, which should come from a mentor who can speak to your character and maturity as a person. We define mentor broadly. Past applicants have chosen teachers, coaches, counselors, pastors, rabbis, etc. Just make sure that your mentor is not a friend or family member. Once your teacher and mentor have agree to provide references on your behalf, enter their email addresses into the appropriate field in your application. We will then email them a few short questions. They have until February 1st to send us their responses. Late references cannot be accepted, and it’s your responsibility to follow up and ensure that your references respond on time.
  3. Start yApp5our essays now! We ask for two separate pieces of writing from you: First, a 750-word essay describing your research interests and background; And second, a 750-word essay explaining why SSTP is a good fit for you. We recommend writing and editing your essays in a separate document and pasting them into the application platform once you’re satisfied with your work. Please bear in mind that the essay fields in the online platform will save your essays as plain text, meaning that your formatting will not be kept.
  4. Carefully consider your desired research areas. In the application, we will ask you for top three research areas, and we include a list of research areas that other SSTP students have used in the past. If you do not see your desired field, that’s fine! You may write in research areas that we have not listed. If you’re not sure what’s available, be sure to check out our virtual poster session on the SSTP website, where you can view past students’ work. Although not every research area you see there will necessarily be available in 2019, what you see can give you a good idea of the kind of research that students have been able to do in the past.
  5. You may only submit one set of test scores. We recommend the SAT, ACT, PSAT, or PLAN, but if you have not taken one of those four tests, you may also submit state-administered standardized test scores. Since you may only submit one set of scores, we strongly advise against submitting SATII subject test scores. If you are a non-native speaker of English, no problem! You do not have to submit TOEFLs scores or any other proof of English ability. Your English results from the SAT, ACT, etc., will suffice.
  6. SSTP Buchholz Lab 2018-1Review the costs of the program. For students applying from within the US, the total costs will add up to $6,270. US students may also apply for financial aid within the online application platform. For students applying from outside the US, however, no financial aid may be awarded. Additionally, students applying from outside the US must pay an additional $550 fee to cover the costs of insurance and two additional nights of room and board, bringing the total costs of the program for international students to $6820.
  7. When you’re done, save your application and leave it is as! There’s no “submit button.” Whatever you have on your application as of February 1st will be what we use to make admission decisions. Until February 1st, you may return to your application and make edits as often as you like. Applications are considered on a non-rolling basis, so there are no advantages to finishing early other than peace of mind and the assurance that your application is complete. You will be able to see at-a-glance what sections still need your attention using the little red lights. Once they all have turned green, you’re all set.

If you have any questions, you can contact us at sstp@belinblank.org. During times of high inquiry volume, it may take us up to two business days to respond to your email, so please contact us sooner rather than later to ensure that you receive your response in a timely manner.

We look forward to seeing your application!

SSTP Musselman Lab 2018-13.jpg

Welcome to Another Year of Inventing!

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 6.40.18 PM
Please find below a list of dates-at-a-glance for this year’s Invention Conventions, as well as quick links to resources for both Invent Iowa and the National Invention Convention. All the below information is also available on our website at belinblank.org/inventiowa.

Dates-at-a-glance:

January 18 online registration opens
February 15 competition materials due
March 7 qualification notification
March 14 registration due
April 15 Invent Iowa Invention Convention
May 30–June 2 National Invention Convention & Entrepreneurship Expo

The Invent Iowa program is a state affiliate of the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo and follows the rules and guidelines as the National Invention Convention.

For your convenience, the National Invention Convention has developed a logbook that we encourage you to use to guide your students through the invention process as they prepare for Invent Iowa. If you are looking for additional classroom resources, the National Invention Convention has also developed a free online curriculum for teachers like you to use as part of their invention program. Both can be found below.

Links to important references:

Curriculum & Resources
Logbook
Rubric
Rules
Timeline

During the invention process, please contact inventiowa@belinblank.org with any questions.

Happy inventing! We can’t wait to see your ideas!

 

SSTP 2018 is in the Books!

Thursday, July 26th saw the close of the 2018 Secondary Student Training Program at the University of Iowa.

To celebrate a summer of exceptional research, participating students concluded their work by presenting their research in a final poster competition. Represented among the presentations was research from the College of Engineering, the Carver College of Medicine, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to name just a few. Congratulations to all students who presented!

A special congratulations goes out to this year’s valedictory class speaker, Iowa’s own Riley Dejohn, who spent his summer researching physical chemistry in Dr. Alexei Tivanski’s group at the University. Also featured was special guest speaker Dr. Hanna Stevens, professor of psychology and veteran SSTP mentor, who shared her insights gleaned over years of pedagogy during the final banquet dinner.

Thank you to our guest judges from Integrated DNA Technologies, without whom the final poster competition would not have been possible, and to the 2018 SSTP mentors at the University, for all of the guidance and leadership they gave to each student. We know that you have made a huge difference in the lives and careers of these future researchers!

SSTP Group 2018-5

Congratulations, JSHS Student Researchers!

Last month, students from across the state of Iowa attended the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), hosted by the Belin-Blank Center at the Marriott Hotel in Coralville, Iowa.

JSHS is a collaborative effort with the research arm of the Department of Defense and is designed to challenge, engage, and publically recognize high school students conducting scientific research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM).  JSHS aims to prepare and support students to contribute as future scientists and engineers – conducting STEM research on behalf of, or directly for, the Department of Defense, the Federal research laboratories, or for the greater good in advancing the nation’s scientific and technological progress.

Students completed an original research project and submitted a research paper to the regional competition. The authors of the top 18 papers were invited to compete for scholarships and recognition by presenting their results before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers.  Students also toured various labs and facilities at the University of Iowa to hear about cutting edge research, potential career paths, and student opportunities.

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After an intensive day of presentations, the judges had the difficult task of selecting five finalists based on their research papers and presentations:

1st place: Megan Ertl (Beckman Catholic High School) – “Quantification of Muscle Accelerations to Interpret Individual Fatigue as an Industrial Application

2nd place: Cheryl Blackmer (Ballard  High School) – “Development of a LAMP Assay for the Detection of Powassan Virus”

3rd place: Pranav Chhaliyil (Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment) –  “Metagenomics Analysis of Bedtime Oral Cleaning by the Novel GIFT Method, Shows a Reduction in Dental-Damaging Bacteria”

4th place: Aaron Wills (Central Lee High School) – “Engineered Environmental Containment: “Using Lemna minor L. to Reduce Nitrate Levels in Aquatic Environments”

5th place: Brianna Cole (Valley High School) – “Cumulative Effects of Recurrent Amygdala Kindled Seizures on Respiratory Function”

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Additional presenters, who were winners by virtue of having their papers accepted, included Allison Brasch (Waterloo West High School), Mason Burlage (Beckman Catholic High School), Ava Depping (Madrid High School), Serenity Haynes (Central Lee High School), Sean Kluesner (Beckman Catholic High School), Pearl Krieger Coble (Winfield-Mt. Union High School), Kayla Livesay (Van Buren High School), Kathryn McCarthy (Sioux City East High School), Evylin Merydith (Keokuk High School), Tyler Montgomery (Kennedy High School), Elizabeth Smith (Waterloo West High School), Laura Stowater (Algona High School), Shelby Westhoff (Beckman Catholic High School).

The top five finalists will attend an expense-paid trip to the JSHS National Symposium next month in Hunt Valley, MD to present their research and compete for additional prizes.

To see all the fun we had, including tours of the IIHR – Hydroscience & Engineering, Iowa Flood Center, and Additive Manufacturing-Integrated Product Realization Laboratory (AMPRL) in the University of Iowa Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, check out our full photo album! Congratulations to all, and good luck at Nationals!

 

Curious About Research?

Do you know academically talented teenagers who show curiosity or promise in doing research, or are you one yourself? Then you need to know about the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), where students can experience lots of different types of research happening at a top public research university!

Students in grades 8–10 (academic year 2017–2018) may apply for the Perry Research Scholars Institute (PRSI), a two-week residential summer academic program at the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center.

At PRSI, students will participate in seminars with university faculty, tour their research facilities, and study their publications. While students will spend some of their time learning advanced lab techniques, they will not be conducting original research in this program. Rather, they will be granted an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at research while it’s happening, in fields such as anthropology, business, education, engineering, medicine, psychology, sustainability, and more. This “backstage pass” approach will help students develop an understanding of research that extends well beyond bench science.

During off-hours, students can expect plenty of fun getting to know other bright teenagers who are also interested in research! They will even experience an authentic taste of life on a university campus, complete with two weeks of living with a roommate in the residence halls. Evening activities include special seminars, off-campus field trips, and cultural and recreational activities. Social events are scheduled, and students will be granted access to the University of Iowa libraries, computer facilities and study areas.

Don’t miss this unique chance to see how research works, up close and personal; experience college life for two weeks; and meet new friends with similar abilities and interests! Applications are open through March 16 at www.belinblank.org/students. The program will run from July 8–July 20, 2018.

summer program students looking at university science research

Looking for more research programs for high school students? Check out the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) and the Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP). PRSI is great preparation for programs like these!

 

Computer Science Education in Iowa

At the end of April, then-Governor Branstad signed Senate File 274 into law, establishing goals for expanding computer science education opportunities for Iowa students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Read more about the bill here. These goals include: offering at least one CS course in each high school and offering basic and exploratory computer science instruction in each elementary and middle school.

The bill also created a work group to make recommendations for meeting these goals by July 1, 2019. The Computer Science Education Work Group released their final report last week. The report includes detailed recommendations for using CS courses to satisfy graduation requirements, integrating CS courses into a career and technical education (CTE) pathway, ensuring equitable access by offering courses in a number of settings, developing a scope and sequence for CS education, and using the CS professional development fund to meet goals. It will be exciting to see these recommendations turn into actions to expand CS education access to all students in Iowa.

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Through the Iowa Online AP Academy, high-ability Iowa students in 6th through 12th grades can access above-level CS coursework, and teachers can take advantage of professional development opportunities. Registration for our spring-semester Introduction to Computer Science course for students in 6th-9th grades is available now; visit our website for more on courses and registration.

We Love a Good Field Trip

We were lucky enough to tag along when sixth graders from the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont STEM Excellence and Leadership program visited the University of Iowa State Hygienic Lab (SHL) with their teacher, Maura Young. Their journey started with students investigating a hypothetical zombie outbreak at Iowa county fairs across the state. Through this simulation, students learned about the role of the SHL in disease detection across the state.

Sifting through stream and river samples in search of insects.

Students also had the opportunity to visit the SHL’s limnology lab to learn how Iowa’s waterways are monitored and see some intriguing aquatic invertebrates.

They toured the serology and microbiology labs to learn about how the SHL lab runs the state’s newborn screening and infectious disease testing programs, which featured a memorable peek at a tapeworm.

Specimens that limnologists have taken from streams and rivers in Iowa to study water quality and species trends.

Students learned about new STEM careers they had not considered before and saw some of the many different science disciplines conducted at the State Hygienic Lab that improve Iowans’ quality of life.

It was a great day full of discovery!  We would like to thank our hosts at the SHL for creating such an interesting and informative afternoon.  We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the National Science Foundation for the STEM Excellence and Leadership program.

Scholarships for Young Researchers

Looking for ways to provide high achieving students with additional opportunity? The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) offers substantial scholarships to Iowa students for original high school research.

The University of Iowa invites all students grades 9-12 in the state to present their original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers at the regional symposium in Iowa City this March. Five finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS will be awarded academic scholarships ranging from $750 to $2,750 and will be invited to compete at the 55th National JSHS for scholarships up to an additional $12,000. To apply, students need to submit their papers by January 12, 2018, so it’s not too late to start research projects! On January 24, we will notify candidates if their work has been selected for presentation.

Timeline at-a-glance:

Fall Semester Students conduct original research
January 12 Research paper and application deadline
January 24 Iowa Regional Symposium selection notification
Feb 2 Registration deadline for student delegates, teachers, and chaperones
March 5 & 6 Iowa Regional JSHS in Iowa City
Late April National JSHS

Regardless of whether or not their paper is selected, we encourage all interested students to attend the Iowa Regional Symposium as delegates from their home schools, and we further welcome all STEM teachers in Iowa to attend and bring your students. For more information, please visit the Iowa JSHS website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS. Don’t hesitate to contact JSHS@belinblank.org if the Symposium is of interest to you or your students.

Join Us for Saturday Fun on September 9th!

UPDATE: All seats are now filled for September 9th; however, we do still have availability in our October date for 4th-6th graders and 6th-8th graders, and February classes will be up soon.  You may also join the waitlist for classes that are full – occasionally we have drops and can add students from that waitlist.

Do you have a 2nd-8th grader with an interest and talent in robots, circuits, geography, art, or science fiction?  Check out the classes for our upcoming WINGS date on September 9th in Iowa City!

A variety of classes are available, such as Watercolor Science (grades 2-4). In this workshop, students will use chemistry to create their very own watercolor paints. Using cabbage dye and household items, students will learn about the pH scale and mix their own liquid watercolor palette. Using our homemade watercolors, we will learn about other nifty watercolor tricks and techniques including using salt, rubbing alcohol, and wax to create watercolor works of art!

Another option is Making A World Through Science Fiction Writing (grades 6-8).  Want to build and explore your favorite sci-fi setting in VR? In this course, we’ll talk about what makes our favorite sci-fi worlds so rich and enjoyable.

We’ll try designing and possibly exploring some of these worlds using the virtual reality design program, CoSpaces. Once we’ve spent some time exploring, we’ll work on coming up with ideas for worlds of our own and some stories that could happen there.

And if you already have plans on the 9th, we have several additional WINGS dates coming up, too.

Scholarship Program for Young Iowa Researchers

Do you have young researchers in your classroom whose work begs to be recognized? Are you looking for ways to provide your high achieving students with additional opportunities? The Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS) offers substantial scholarships to Iowa students for original high school research.

The University of Iowa invites all students grades 9-12 in the state to present their original research in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) before a panel of judges and an audience of their peers at the Regional Symposium in Iowa City this March. Five finalists at the Iowa Regional JSHS will be awarded academic scholarships ranging from $750 to $2,750 and will be invited to compete at the 55th National JSHS for scholarships up to an additional $12,000. To apply, students need to submit their papers by January 12, 2018, so it’s not too late to start research projects! On January 24, we will notify candidates if their work has been selected for presentation.

Regardless of whether or not their paper is selected, we encourage all interested students to attend the Regional Symposium as delegates from their home schools, and we further welcome you and all other STEM teachers in Iowa to attend and bring your students. Student delegates pay just $25 for lodging and the Awards Banquet, and the $50 fee for teachers and chaperones is waived for every five students in attendance from your school (i.e. 10 student delegates = 2 teachers/chaperones).

Timeline at-a-glance

Fall Semester Students conduct original research
January 12 Research paper and application deadline
January 24 Regional Symposium selection notification
Feb 2 Registration deadline for student delegates, teachers, and chaperones
March 5 & 6 Iowa Regional JSHS in Iowa City
Late April National JSHS

For more information, please visit our website at www.belinblank.org/JSHS. Don’t hesitate to contact us at JSHS@belinblank.org if the Symposium is of interest to you or your students. We look forward to reading all the brilliant papers from Iowa’s next generation of researchers!

Furthering STEM Excellence and Leadership

We are delighted to announce a nearly-$2-million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation that will strengthen our STEM Excellence and Leadership (STEM Excellence) program.

The NSF award of $1.98 million dollars to the Belin-Blank Center is recognition of the Center’s dedication to STEM education for high-ability students who attend under-resourced schools in rural communities.  The four-year grant will permit the research team of Drs. Lori Ihrig, Duhita Mahatmya, and Susan Assouline, who will be assisted by several graduate and undergraduate students, to delve deeply into the experiences and outcomes at districts that implement STEM Excellence.  The program was originally funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF; funded 2014-2016); early this summer, STEM Excellence also received one of the JKCF’s Rural Talent Initiative awards to expand the STEM Excellence program to grades 8 and 9 over the next two years.  With the JKCF funding to expand the STEM Excellence program for students in ten rural Iowa schools, the NSF award to investigate best instructional practice of the STEM Excellence program teachers, and the Belin-Blank Center’s dedication to researching best practice for students and teachers, the University of Iowa is well-positioned to take the lead in advancing STEM learning in rural settings.

Message from the Director: Summertime is Talent Development Time

Welcome to the Belin-Blank Center’s 29th summer of programs for teachers and students!  While in the midst of serving hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school students, we will deliver TAG courses and workshops to teachers, evaluate clients in the Assessment and Counseling Clinic, and prepare for 2017-2018 fall and spring opportunities.  Dozens of short-term faculty and staff, including program coordinators, teaching assistants, instructors, and residential advisors, assist our permanent staff members in accomplishing our goals for Summer on the Brain.  While many students come from Iowa, we will also welcome students from 28 other states, plus Canada, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Turkey!

Saying good-bye at the end of each program is always difficult.  However, everyone can stay connected to the Belin-Blank Center through our newsletter and The Window, a new podcast hosted by Director Emeritus, Dr. Nicholas Colangelo.  As described in the article published in The Gazette, The Window aims to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the listeners and break new ground in our thinking about talent development and our educational systems vis-à-vis the talent development process.

Speaking of talent development, we are thrilled to share that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has introduced a new grant program, the Rural Talent Initiative, and the Belin-Blank Center is one of the six grantees.  In 2014, the Center received a $500,000 Talent Development Award from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for its STEM Excellence and Literacy (SEAL) program for students in grades 5 to 7.  It will use its new grant to expand the program to students in grades 8 and 9 in the 10 rural Iowa school districts currently implementing SEAL. More than 1,000 students and their teachers in these districts will receive direct benefits over a two-year period due to this grant.

One thing we’ve found in nearly thirty years of summer programs is that there is always more to learn.  Even on the sleepiest summer days, students of all ages are at the Center learning exciting new things!

Science in San Diego

The 55th Annual National JSHS starts tomorrow! The top five students from the 2017 Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium are going to Nationals.  Good luck to all!

1. Kathryn Bozer – West High School, Iowa City
2. Manasa Pagadala – Rivermont Collegiate, Bettendorf
3. Mason Burlage – Beckman Catholic High School, Dubuque
4. Megan Ertl – Beckman Catholic High School, Dubuque
5. Maddie Zastrow – Prairie High School, Cedar Rapids

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Come Join Us This Summer For Blast!

Check out more about the courses below and additional academic programming at belinblank.org/summer.

Introducing And Increasing Computer Science Education In Schools

There are innumerable benefits to offering computer science instruction in K-12 schools. This policy statement from the Association for Computing Machinery makes a compelling case in favor of increasing CS opportunities for students. The question now concerns how to go about expanding those opportunities. Below are a few resources to aid in bringing CS education into schools.

General Resources: LeadCS.org offers tools to answer questions facing district and school leaders who are working to expand CS in their schools and districts. Code.org contains a wealth of information regarding CS advocacy, methods of teaching CS, and opportunities for students to employ both in and out of school.

Preparing Teachers: The Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) provides community and professional development opportunities. Advanced Placement training for a CS course through an AP Summer Institute (like our Advanced Placement Teacher Training Institute) is another way for teachers to gain skills and confidence in teaching computer science.

Offering Courses: There are a wide variety of options for CS instruction that can be implemented by teachers with varying levels of CS content knowledge. One such option is our Iowa Online AP Academy. We offer a high-school level Introduction to CS course for middle school students, and both AP Computer Science courses for high school students through our partnership with Edhesive. Additionally, Code.org offers courses through their Code Studio, and they compiled a list of 3rd party resources offering courses and/or programs at elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Check out the IOAPA website for more on our courses, and the APTTI website to find out how to join us this summer.

Computer Science Education Week!

Next week (December 5-11, 2016) is Computer Science Education Week (CSEd Week)!

One way to get involved is through Hour of Code. You may have heard of it through our presentation at ITAG, our Twitter, or some other means. Last year, 590,000 Iowans tried an hour of code (or more!), and this year Code Iowa is in its third year of a partnership with Code.org to generate more interest and participation in Iowa. Visit the Hour of Code website to learn more about how to teach an Hour of Code, how to promote your event, and to find activities to fill your Hour of Code and beyond! You can also register your event and find local volunteers who can inspire your students by visiting your classroom in-person or remotely. Share pictures of your event using #CodeIowa or @IowaSTEM (and share them with the Belin-Blank Center using @belinblank)! By participating in Hour of Code, your school and/or organization can become “Certified Code Iowa Partners” and gain access to free CS trainings in 2017. Find out more at www.iowastem.gov/CodeIowa.

So you have a plan for your Hour of Code; how else can you participate in CSEd Week?

What are your plans for CSEd Week? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @kflanaryIOAPA

JSI Alliant Energy Community Grant

students_for_ae_blogThe Belin-Blank Center is proud to announce a new scholarship opportunity for gifted students. The Alliant Energy Community Grant will provide scholarships for 10 STEM Excellence and Leadership students to attend our Junior Scholars Institute.

As an advocate for education and innovation, Alliant Energy offers a number of scholarships. In less than 20 years, the Alliant Energy Foundation has given nearly $50 million to local communities. We want to thank Alliant Energy for helping us pave the way for gifted education for students in rural Iowa.

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One student from each of our STEM Excellence & Leadership schools will be eligible to receive this grant. STEM Excellence & Leadership, funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, is a unique educational program that helps empower under-resourced rural schools in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Alliant Energy’s generous donation will allow ten 6-8th grade students from these schools to participate in a one-week-long summer program. JSI students take an advanced course and live on the University of Iowa campus in the Honors program residence hall.

Other students interested in attending are also welcome. Registration for this and other summer programs will open December 15, 2016. For more information on the Belin-Blank Center’s summer programs, visit belinblank.org/summer.

To learn more about all of Alliant Energy’s charitable donations and community involvement, visit: http://www.alliantenergy.com/CommunityInvolvement/

Challenge Comes to Cedar Rapids!

We’re excited to partner with Imagination Iowa to offer enrichment courses in Cedar Rapids for gifted middle school students this fall!

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Starting October 21 – November 18, gifted middle school students in Cedar Rapids can explore the world of business development with the iEntrepreneur class or try out the art of 3D Design & Printing. Classes will start at 2:00 pm after the early release from school and last for three hours.

Imagination Iowa is a K‍–‍12 STEAM-based program powered by the non-profit NewBoCo. It prides itself on encouraging creative growth by teaching students coding, engineering and entrepreneurship skills. All Imagination Iowa courses are hands-on, experiential and project based. This ensures that students apply real world concepts to their learning and have opportunities to work with experts in those fields. Located in the heart of the NewBo District, this innovative program is growing quickly and expanding its efforts to reach the needs of all learners.

Are you in the Cedar Rapids area? Check out the courses!

Discovering Talented Students

BBC students outside

As you are thinking about ways to challenge your students next year, consider investigating above-level testing with the Belin-Blank Center’s new online test, I-Excel. I-Excel is an above-level test for high-ability 4th – 6th graders and assesses in the areas of math, science, English, and reading.

What is different and exciting about this?

  1. I-Excel assesses in science, which is not always addressed in above-level testing.
  2. I-Excel is online and can be delivered in your school at a time convenient for you and your students (weekdays or weekends).
  3. The Belin-Blank Center provides an extensive interpretation of scores allowing educators to make data-driven decisions and differentiate for their students through curricular intervention and enrichment. Educators receive a group report plus an individual report for each student.
  4. I-Excel licenses content developed by ACT that was designed to measure academic progress of junior high students. From that content, the Belin-Blank Center has been identifying the academic talents of bright 4th – 6th graders for over 20 years.
  5. I-Excel helps educators discover exceptionally talented students.

Learn more at:  www.i-excel.org

Or contact ann-shoplik@uiowa.edu with any questions.

Many Online Learning Opportunities for Teachers this Summer!

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It’s time to think about your own personal learning opportunities! You don’t have to travel long distances to take courses in gifted education. Consider taking an online course this summer through the Belin-Blank Center!

Topics include:

  • Gender Issues and Giftedness
  • Perfectionism and High-Ability Learners
  • Cognitive and Affective Needs of Gifted Students
  • Counseling and Psychological Needs of the Gifted
  • Math Programming for High Ability Students
  • Differentiation at the Secondary Level

More information is available at http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/belinblank/Educators/Courses/Schedule.aspx.  Also see the links on the same page at the right: General Information and Register. You should register as a University of Iowa Continuing Education student (no cost to register).

There are also numerous face-to-face educational opportunities for teachers at the Belin-Blank Center, if you’d like to plan a trip to Iowa City. Housing is available on campus.

Whatever your schedule, the Belin-Blank Center has an opportunity for professional development to match!

Message from the Director: What’s Wrong With Being Confident?

An appealing refrain plus a catchy tune find their way into our heads and often stick.  This is exactly what happened to me during a recent Zumba class when the refrain, “What’s wrong with being confident” from Demi Lovato’s song “Confident” started. During Zumba, my thoughts are typically absorbed with upcoming Belin-Blank Center programs or events, the director’s message, or a research project.  These thoughts often flit from one to the next and back and forth like a moth in a room with lights on opposite sides of the space.  It’s no big surprise that these simple words, with the subtle, yet profound message, infiltrated my mind.

First I thought about two special events hosted in March.  The month started with the highly successful, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), at which 13 high school students confidently presented their research findings to an audience of nearly 200 teachers and students from around Iowa and 5 were selected to attend the National JSHS.  We finished March with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Recognition Ceremony, where Gold Key, Silver Key, and Honorable Mentions from Iowa were recognized for their creativity.

How wonderful to meet these young, talented, creative, and confident students and – for both programs — to have the support from the national offices of these long-running, prestigious recognition programs.

Everything that we do at the Belin-Blank Center is designed to nurture potential and inspire excellence and thereby support the development of self-confidence. We live up to our tagline through well-established programs and service as well as through new, innovative programming:

“Confidence” is a longish song, one reason it’s good for a Zumba warm up!  My thoughts jumped to a current research project, based upon previous Belin-Blank Center research findings that investigated the differences in the attributions boys make for success in math or science compared to girls.

The answer to the research question “What attributions do gifted boys and girls make for success – and failure—in math and science?” was juxtaposed with Lovato’s words and appealing tune: “What’s wrong with being confident?”

The respondents in the study were asked to choose among ability, effort, luck, or task difficulty as attributions for success and failure. Ability and effort were overwhelmingly the two categories selected (these two attributional choices accounted for 75% or more of the responses for success in math or science). However, the two choices with the highest percentages for ability for both math and science varied significantly for boys and girls: 44% of the boys chose ability as their reason for their success in math and 42.5% made the same choice for their success in science. The next highest choice for boys was effort, 32% and 37%, respectively. Girls’ choices, however, varied significantly from boys: 26% of girls chose ability as the attribution for their success in math and 23% chose ability as their attribution for success in science. Nearly twice as many girls (50%) chose effort as their attribution for success in math and more than twice as many (55%) chose effort as their attribution for success in science.

Attributional research is but one facet of the complex topic known broadly as motivation, an area that is extremely important to our understanding of patterns that could impact, positively or negatively, the performance of students. Attribution theory represents a well-researched cognitive model. However, despite its relevance to our understanding of gifted students, attributional research specifically investigating the beliefs that gifted students have for their academic successes and failures has not been thoroughly researched.  Results from the study mentioned above are much more extensive than reported here; however, they are the foundation for a new investigation of attributional choice regarding success and failure from a current generation of students.

For educators and psychologists to be effective in designing curricular or counseling interventions, it is important to know an individual’s motivational mindset. It is also important for society to recognize these mindsets. As we concluded a decade ago, “We see potential negatives for girls [or boys] who do not accurately recognize their academic abilities. They may be more tentative about undertaking challenges or putting themselves in competitive situations” (Assouline et al., 2006, p. 293).

These findings, along with our new research, lead back to the question: What’s wrong with being confident?

Educators: Interested in the New AP Computer Science Course?

This year, the College Board is introducing a new AP class to round out their computer science offerings. AP Computer Science Principles is a full-year class for high school students aimed at developing literacy in the field of computer science.

What makes AP Computer Science Principles different from AP Computer Science A?

Whereas AP Computer Science A focuses heavily on learning programming languages, AP Computer Science Principles offers a more creative approach that allows for integration of computer science into multiple fields (a chart describing the differences between the two courses can be found here). The goal of this integration is to broaden the appeal of computer science beyond programming and to encourage students who may not be interested in traditional computer science courses to consider alternative applications to computer science. By offering both courses, students with a multitude of interests will be able to access courses related to this STEM area and explore interests in computer science.

Should one course be taken before the other?

AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A are designed to function independently of each other, and can be taken separately or together in any order. The only prerequisite suggested by the College Board is that students have taken Algebra I prior to either computer science class.

How can I bring AP Computer Science Principles to my school?

The process for starting an AP Computer Science Principles class at your school is similar to starting any AP class, and includes submission of your syllabus for the course audit process. A more detailed step-by-step guide can be found here.

Are there training options for teachers interested in teaching AP Computer Science Principles?

Yes! The College Board is offering many AP Summer Institute sessions on AP Computer Science Principles, as well as a day-long AP Computer Science Principles workshop at the Annual AP Conference. For teachers interested in AP Computer Science A, we will again be offering this session at the AP Teacher Training Institute at the Belin-Blank Center in July!

What computer science courses will be offered through the Iowa Online AP Academy next year?

The Iowa Online AP Academy is excited to offer three computer science courses, including AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles through our new course vendor, Edhesive. We are also providing a Computer Science class targeted towards middle school students aimed at preparing them for the more rigorous AP computer science classes. You can learn more here.

Learn more about AP Computer Science Principles. For more about IOAPA, visit belinblank.org/ioapa.

We’re Impressed

…by the research that high school students presented at the Iowa Regional Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS)!

The finalists (in order) were:

  • Kaylie Wilson – Central Lee High School, Donnellson
  • Manasa Pagadala – Rivermont Collegiate, Bettendorf
  • Megan Ertl – Beckman Hugh School, Dyersville
  • Rachel Mehmert – Holy Trinity High School, Keosauqua
  • Carl and Maracus Schneider – Beckman High School, Dyersville

Iowa Online AP Academy: Changes Coming to Computer Science

As many of you know, we introduced our first pilot course in Computer Science during this academic school year. Given the number of students interested in computer science, we are excited to expand our offerings to three new Computer Science courses, beginning in the 2016-17 school year through Edhesive (registration will still take place through the Belin-Blank Center’s website). Not only are we expanding our offerings to include middle school students, we are pleased to provide both new AP Computer Science courses:

  • Introduction to Computer Science (one semester, grades 6-9; students must meet IOAPA for MS eligibility guidelines)
  • AP Computer Science Principles (full-year, grades 9-12)
  • AP Computer Science A (full-year, grades 9-12)

What will these courses look like?

Edhesive utilizes a video-based lesson format to present content needed for labs and assignments. Students will also have the opportunity to interact with other students, instructors, and teaching assistants in an online forum for support any day of the week. As with all other Iowa Online AP Academy courses, students will have both an online instructor as well as a classroom mentor (generally a teacher at their school) available at the school for additional in-person support.  Courses should be scheduled as part of the student’s regular school day.  Mentors do not need to have content knowledge in computer science, as they do not deliver course content.  However, all mentors will also receive 24/7 access to Edhesive’s forums and complimentary professional development materials to help them more effectively mentor computer science students.

Why encourage students to take computer science courses?

Computer science opens up a new world, enabling your students to create programs that can make a real impact. If they’ve ever had an idea for a game, an app, or a better way to do something or help people, computer science gives them the tools they need to design, build, and create code and programs that can bring ideas to life. By 2022, it is estimated that there will be over one million open jobs in the US economy that are computer science-related, and that employers will struggle to fill these positions. Check out this video to see why learning to code is so important and how coding will open doors for your children in the future: http://bit.ly/whycodingiscool

How do Edhesive students do on the AP exams?

Last year, students who completed Edhesive’s AP Computer Science A course achieved an average score of a 3.3 on the AP exam, compared to a national average score of 3.09. Scores above 3.0 are considered passing and are eligible for credit at many colleges and universities.

IOAPA registration will open in April. Until then, be talking with your students about whether IOAPA or Computer Science is right for them!

Message from the Director: What’s in a Name?

Everything!

A new baby enters the world and one of the first things we want to know is the name. Not surprisingly, there are entire websites devoted to the meaning of a name. Being a namesake is nothing short of a very big deal!

Therefore, it is no wonder that the Iowa Board of Regents was required to vote on approving the naming of the Belin-Blank Center’s Early Entrance Academy. At the February 24-25, 2016, Board of Regents meeting, we received approval for the naming of the Martin and Melva Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan

As I shared with you in December, Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan and her husband, Patrick Scanlan, have pledged $10 million dollars to the Belin-Blank Center to create the Bucksbaum Academy, which is named after Mary’s parents, Melva and Martin Bucksbaum. The Bucksbaum Academy is unique among early entrance academies for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the integration of the arts and humanities with STEM. Melva Bucksbaum was one of the country’s most important curators of art, a passion she nurtured from a very young age throughout her life. Mary’s father, Martin Bucksbaum, along with his two brothers, pioneered the development of large shopping centers.

Martin and Melva Bucksbaum were close friends of the Belin-Blank Center’s co-founders, Myron and Jacqueline Blank and David and Connie Belin. It is with deep gratitude that I acknowledge the vision and generosity of our co-founders and recognize how their philanthropy inspires our work each and every day. They have all passed away, yet their names live on through the Center and through our work – our professional development, research, programs and services for students, and now, the Bucksbaum Academy.

I thank the families of Martin and Melva Bucksbaum, Myron and Jacqueline Blank, and Connie and David Belin for trusting us to continue to honor their names. Indeed, honoring these names is, and will continue to be, a part of every decision that I make and every action I take with the team of colleagues who make the Center a vibrant organization where we nurture potential and inspire excellence.

Pilot Test the New Test, I-Excel

This spring, the Belin-Blank Center will launch I-Excel, a new online, above-level assessment for high-ability 4th – 6th graders.  I-Excel will help educators identify and tailor programs for academically talented students. I-Excel tests in four areas: science, mathematics, reading, and English.

I-Excel offers the research-supported power of above-level testing in a convenient online format.  Educators receive recommendations for their students based upon the results.  Parents and educators receive an individual student interpretation.

We are pleased to report that I-Excel pilot testing has been an excellent experience for students and educators, and we invite you to consider the opportunity to pilot test I-Excel in your school during February or March. There is no cost for participation in pilot testing. To learn more, visit http://i-excel.org/pilot or contact Ann Shoplik at ann-shoplik@uiowa.edu. For additional information about using I-Excel to identify students for programming, visit www.i-excel.org.

Mark Your Calendar!

We have WINGS coming up on March 5! 

Grades 2-4:

You Scream, I Scream! The Science of Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream!? Come learn about the science of ice cream, and maybe even get to do some taste testing!

ice cream

 

First Contact

We will learn about the Columbian Exchange! From it came many exciting times but also many consequences. Come learn more!

ship

Grades 4-6:

CSI: Crime Scene Investigators!

Come learn how to be a real crime scene investigator by learning how to lift fingerprints and analyze evidence!

magnifying glass

Slam Poetry

Come create and perform a poetry slam with other young writers!

poet

Grades 6-8:

Two Observational Astronomical Instruments

Interested in learning more about astronomy and creating your own refracting telescope? Sign up to take this class!

 

Visit belinblank.org/WINGS to learn more and register!

Students: Get Your Invention Noticed

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Where can I register my invention?

Go to belinblank.org/inventiowa to register!

What do I need to do register?

Students will need to complete an online registration form. They will also be asked to print a cover sheet to include with their inventor’s log that will be mailed to the Belin-Blank Center.

New this year: Payment will be $20 per invention. For example, if a group of students are working on their invention together they will register one invention as a group.

What’s next?

After inventions go through the adjudication process, students will be notified on March 21 if they will be advancing to the State Invention Convention on May 7.

Then what?

For the first time, students who win at the State Invention Convention level will have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to participate in the National Invention Convention at the United States Patent and Trade Office!

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Get the Latest News from the Belin-Blank Center

Our December newsletter is out, featuring everything from bunny slippers to webinars!

December newsletter

Bringing Math and Science to Life

This fall, STEM Excellence and Leadership students from across Iowa have enjoyed spending their extracurricular time on academic pursuits!

SSTP Mentor’s Graduate Student Lands a NASA Fellowship

Check out this great story about a graduate student who works with a mentor for the Secondary Student Training Program, one of the Belin-Blank Center’s summer programs.  Congratulations, Jake!

Not only do our mentors guide SSTP students in the summer, but they are also overlooking the work of graduate students in their labs. Randall McEntaffer is an associate physics professor with a research interest in x-ray astronomy and instrumentation. He currently mentors Jake McCoy who has recently received a NASA fellowship. Read more here at Iowa Now!

Source: SSTP Mentor’s Graduate Student Lands a NASA Fellowship

Your Summer Research Adventure Starts Now

SSTP_lab_visits_2015-43 2The Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) connects high-achieving high school students with faculty mentors from the University of Iowa. Through this program, students gain first-hand experience with a faculty mentor’s research during five-and-a-half weeks of the summer. Applications are due February 26th, 2016. Get ready for another fun summer at the Belin-Blank Center!

Check out the SSTP website for more information on SSTP and the application process.

 

Get the Latest on All Things Invent Iowa

InventIAtitleInvent Iowa is Back with updates!  Interested in learning more? Join us for a webinar on November 5 at 4 pm CST.

An overview of the program, Intent to Invent, student registration, and the State Convention will be provided during this time.

To join us, register here

If you have any questions, please email Ashlee Van Fleet (ashlee-vanfleet@uiowa.edu).

Message from the Director: Overcoming Inertia

Among the many definitions of inertia, I prefer “lack of movement or activity, especially when activity is warranted or needed” [emphasis added]. What does inertia have to do with a center for gifted education and talent development that literally buzzes with intellectualism, innovation, and insight?   Answer: Very little – except we try to avoid inertia by proactively determining when activity is warranted or needed.

Two recent publications have brought home this point.  Tom Clymes’s book, The Boy Who Played with Fusion, tells the story of Taylor Wilson (check out the TED Talks); the book emphasizes what can happen with bright children when parents and educators with an entrepreneurial spirit find ways to match learning experiences with curiosity and intellect.  Taylor Wilson likely would have achieved a nuclear-fusion reaction – but he might not have done it just as he was turning 14 and he might not have been the 32nd person on earth to do so – were it not for Jan and Bob Davidson who created, in 2006, the Davidson Academy on the University of Nevada-Reno campus.  Taylor’s parents enrolled him in this free, public high school when Taylor was 13.  There, he attended classes in the mornings and spent his afternoons in a corner of a physics lab.  And the rest is history.

As I read Clyme’s compelling volume, I was filled with gratitude for my friends and colleagues, Jan and Bob Davidson, who had the remarkable foresight to build an academic institution for the very brightest students and locate the program on a university campus.  Their phenomenal generosity matches their far-reaching vision, which inspires the entire field of gifted educators to find ways to meet the extraordinary needs of outstanding students.

The second publication, hot-off-the-press, is Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students by Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Brandon L. Wright.  Finn and Wright offer a compelling analysis of American education (institutions such as the Davidson Academy notwithstanding) that challenges anyone who cares about America’s bright, highly-able students to ask questions about the current status of gifted education in the U.S. and around the world.  The next issue of our newsletter will focus more on this volume.  Meanwhile, I ask you: do you care?

If your answer is yes, then I hope you will continue to become informed – with these two books and with the Belin-Blank Center’s new, two-volume publication, A Nation Empowered.  The reason to enroll students in above-level testing and specialized programming, register for professional development, or review the extensive information on our websites is simple enough:  activity is warranted and needed.

Attention, Iowa Middle School Teachers!

BSIThe Blank Summer Institute nomination process will be new and improved this year! We will make the nomination process available to educators in December and it will now be entirely electronic. No more papers to print and no more packages to mail! Nominations will be due March 1st.

Watch our website for more information on how to nominate students in the new system.

Summer is Coming!

summeronthebrain_logoSummer is coming sooner than you might think, so start making plans now! Our Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) begins accepting applications in November and all of our other programs (Blast, BSI, JSI, and NSI) will accept applications in December. Get ready for another fun-filled adventure with a summer at the Belin-Blank Center!

Did You Miss the October WINGS? Join Us in November!

005The Weekend Institute Gifted Students (WINGS) will be back on November 7th with classes in the morning and afternoon.

Topics being offered include; Great Goo Investigations! Adventures in Animation and Comic Book Art, Logical Leaps, Robot Theater and The Neuroscience of Abnormal Psychology.

Find out more  at belinblank.org/wings.

Have You Heard? Invent Iowa is Back!

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Head over to belinblank.org/inventiowa and check out all the information about the State Invention Convention!  As you explore the site, you will find information about the revamped Invent Iowa program, a timeline with important dates and other helpful resources.

If you have any questions regarding Invent Iowa, please email Ashlee at ashlee-vanfleet@uiowa.edu.

Fun With Air at the Farmers Market

farmers market

We recently set up a booth at Kids Day at the Iowa City Farmers Market!  We built gliders (see above) and kazoos, and we’re still talking about the musical stylings of our visitors!

Are you looking for a fun activity for a Saturday?  WINGS still has openings for for November 7th and March 5th – check out belinblank.org/WINGS