July 18, 2019

STEM Opps @ HHS with Vermont Technical College

STEM Opps @ HHS with Vermont Technical College DATE: 03-05-2015

March 4, 2015- Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, otherwise known as “STEM” subjects in ed-jargon, are hot topics right now. At the urging of politicians with an eye to the future growth of the American economy, schools are attempting to beef up their offerings and expose students to as many STEM opportunities as possible. At Hartford High, we like to bring in the big guns from higher education to show students how they can take their studies to the next level.

John Diebold, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Civil & Environmental Engineering Technology at Vermont Technical College [VTC] visited Hartford High on Monday to introduce students to the first annual VTC Bridge Building Competition on April 10 at the VTC Randolph Center Campus. He brought models and explained the parameters: "Teams of students will construct bridges in advance of the competition using only popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, toothpicks and dental floss. Bridges will be judged on aesthetics and originality of design, presentation, ultimate load carrying capacity, strength-to-weight ratio and predicted failure point."

Although this may sound like a “fun” project, Hartford High teachers are integrating the this rigorous interdisciplinary project into their curriculum and five teams will be competing in Randolph on April 10.

Science teacher, Evan Ellerson, has raised the challenge to his Advanced Physics II course and will be sending four teams. Students will be required to plan and submit blueprints for their designs; collaborate in teams of up to four students to build the bridges; share their designs in an oral presentation, as well as do all of the math and “stress-tests” to predict how the bridge will hold up in the final competition.

The fifth team will be presenting Hartford’s The Eye Experience, “an alternative learning environment that focuses on hands-on, project-based learning to target 21st century skills.”  

I sat in as Professor Diebold demonstrated how students’ math courses up to this point (including but not limited to, geometry, algebra, and calculus) are applied in land surveying and civic engineering. He touted the cross-application of one discipline to another and the hands-on learning that occurs at VTC

Although the sine/cosine/tangent discussion stirred vague memories from mathematics studies past, it was above my head; I couldn’t stop myself from smiling as I looked around at our students who were not only understanding the math as second nature, but leaning in as they envisioned how the theories they’ve learned in their high school studies could become common practice in possible future STEM career paths.

-Alexis Nelson