Tag Archives: STEM

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.

JSHS 2018-12.jpg

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”

JSHS 2018-50

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!


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

Furthering STEM Education

Recently, we sat down with the Belin-Blank Center’s STEM Initiative Team to talk about their vision for the future of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) at the Center, in Iowa, and beyond. The team is made up of Kate Degner, Administrator for IOAPA and SSTP; Leslie Flynn, Clinical Assistant Professor, Science Education, and Administrator for STEM Initiatives, Belin-Blank Center; and Lori Ihrig, Administrator for Summer Program Faculty and Commuter Programs.

Can you talk a little bit about your background in STEM?

Kate: I began my teaching career in 2003 in Lone Tree, Iowa. I was the only regular education 9-12 mathematics teacher in the building, meaning I taught every mathematics course offered from Consumer Mathematics to Pre-Calculus. During the summer of 2005, I was invited to be part of a 6-person writing team for the University of Chicago Mathematics Project 3rd edition Algebra textbook. Shortly after completing that project I began teaching upper-level mathematics courses (AP Statistics, Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and Discrete Mathematics) in Williamsburg. During that time I also went back to school and earned my M.A. in Mathematics. I’ve also had experience teaching concurrent credit classes, as well as night classes at a community college. During the last few years I also taught Calc I and II at the high school and college levels. Last year I graduated from the University of Iowa with my PhD in Curriculum and Supervision, with an emphasis on Mathematics Education and Educational Leadership.

Leslie: I have worked in STEM education for 25 years as a high school and college science and mathematics instructor, school administrator, professional development director, and professor in our STEM K-12 licensure programs. I became interested in STEM as a 4th grader engaged in specialized courses in STEM. I was fortunate to have programs where I could attend college courses and STEM competitions while still participating in school athletics and general education courses. My exceptional STEM female teachers opened my mind to the idea that girls can excel in STEM and they provided me with the skills and confidence to pursue college degrees in Chemistry.

Lori: I graduated with a B.S. in Science Education in 1999 from the University of Iowa and worked as a grades 7-12 science teacher for the Williamsburg Community School District. In Williamsburg, we participated in Iowa Excellence through a partnership with the Belin-Blank Center, and I began teaching an AP biology class. During this time period I also worked with the Center, teaching for the Junior Scholars Insitute (JSI) and WINGS, and earned my MS in Science Education from the University of Iowa. In 2007, I began working at ACT writing science curriculum and facilitating science teacher professional development for Quality Core, a project that was a partnership between ACT, the Gates Foundation, and the National Governors Association. In 2010, I began working on my doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University with an emphasis in Science Education. My doctoral emphasis is on secondary science teacher education and the implementation of reforms-based science instruction by novice science teachers.

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What Do Muscle Fatigue, Photoluminescence, and New Zealand Freshwater Snails Have in Common?

They are all topics that our Secondary Student Training Program (SSTP) students researched!  Thirty-one high school students spent six weeks on the University of Iowa campus in labs in their area of interest.

The Belin-Blank Center hosted a poster session last week, but you can still view their posters online.

Free Webinar on Math Acceleration

Dr. Susan Assouline

Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director, Belin-Blank Center

Register here for a free Webinar – You Already Know This: How to Use Your Teaching Skills & Current Resources with Math-Talented Students (Grades 3-7). On Thursday, April 14, from 3:30 to 4:15 PM (US CDT), Kate Degner, a doctoral candidate in math education, will demonstrate a technique for accelerating the math curriculum. I will give a brief explanation of the reports generated from our new online system for making informed decisions about math acceleration, IDEAL Solutions® for Math Acceleration.

As you know, mathematically talented students have varying academic profiles. This aspect is described in Developing Math Talent (Assouline & Lupkowski-Shoplik, 2011); you can read about one very talented student, Zach, here.

40 Years of Talent Search

Dr. Susan Assouline

Dr. Susan Assouline, Associate Director, Belin-Blank Center

I love coincidences – and the co-occurrence of two events this weekend are particularly special for me. This weekend, scholars from all over the country are gathering at Johns Hopkins University to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Talent Search Model, which was originally established as the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). Professor Julian C. Stanley (1918-2005) founded SMPY, “to find youths who reason exceptionally well mathematically and to provide them the special, supplemental, accelerative educational opportunities they sorely need and richly deserve for their own optimal development and the good of society.”

Also this Saturday, several hundred students will take the EXPLORE test as an above-level test. This opportunity is available through our talent search, BESTS. BESTS is part of the 40-year tradition that will be celebrated on the 25th and 26th of March. It is safe to say that without the establishment of SMPY four decades ago, well before some of the parents of today’s talent search participants were even born, many of the hundreds of thousands of students who have been impacted through the Talent Search would never have had the opportunity to fully develop their academic talents. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about the Talent Search and the research and programs that emanate from this extraordinarily robust educational model.

IDEAL(R) Solutions for Math AccelerationFor more information about ways to advocate for math-talented students, check out the Belin-Blank Center’s new web-based service, IDEAL® Solutions for Math Acceleration.

When it comes to STEM, does gender still matter?

Although it may seem surprising in light of the gains women have made in the last forty years, recent research shows that the gender gap in STEM fields still exists. According to the American Association of University Women, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that as of 2008, although more than half of biological scientists are women:

  • Just over 30% of chemists and material scientists are female
  • Women make up a little over 20% of computer programmers
  • Less than 7% of mechanical engineers are women

So why are women so underrepresented in STEM fields? While some people may assume that the gap is due to intrinsic ability or differences in interest, the research suggests that the real reasons are more complicated:

  • A recent study found that having a female instructor rather than a male instructor makes a big difference for female students in an introductory calculus, increasing class participation as well as the likelihood that a female student would ask the instructor questions outside of class.
  • Having female professors appears to provide a sort of “inoculation” against the stereotype that STEM fields are for men only.   It’s therefore important that women be well-represented in STEM departments in colleges as professors, TAs, and older students in the program.
  • Other findings “…suggest that other characteristics such as gender differences in orientation toward people versus things (Lubinski & Benbow, 2007), the value placed on different occupations (Eccles, 2007), and commitment to child rearing, family (Halpern, 2007), and full-time work (Lubinski & Benbow, 2007) are responsible for the differences in occupational choices and career achievement levels of males and females in math and science fields.” (55-56, Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee)
  • “…although gender differences on cognitive tests may be small and disappearing when heterogeneous samples of students are studied, they appear to remain robust for gifted samples.  These gender differences for gifted students have implications for the representation of the most able females in STEM professions.” (56, Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee)

What can parents, educators, and counselors do to help more girls find success in STEM?

  • Include female scientists and mathematicians in your history courses not as “special cases” but as equal contributors to their fields.  Researchers emphasize that  instructors need to make references to accomplished women in STEM in a “regular and low-key” way.
  • If a girl shows interest in STEM, encourage that interest – provide relevant activities, academic programs, enrichment, and acceleration.
  • Model genuine interest in STEM – excitement about learning is contagious.