First Quarter – 2016-17 Published 12/12/16
Fusing collaboration, relevance and dynamic participation, is a tagline used by the Harrisonburg High School Governor’s STEM Academy. Every once in a while, we try to look up from our work and communicate to our community what it is we are so busy fusing, collaborating, and participating in. This newsletter describes some of the ways students are experiencing their learning both inside and outside the classroom, interacting with a variety of professionals and collaborating between content areas to create relevance in STEM related fields. We are thankful for the support of the HHS administration, the Harrisonburg City Schools, our partners, and of course, our students and their families.
STEM Biology Students Conduct Field Research Students in STEM Biology are pursuing research in three different content areas. These include: The ongoing fight to save the native American Chestnut tree and the development of possible solutions to the blight problem. Students traveled to Boyce, VA to work with Dr. Candace Lutzow-Felling, Virginia Arboretum at Blandy Farm, seeing the experimental area dedicated to the studies of the American Chestnut and working with the Chinese Chestnut, STEM biology students examine the which is immune to the blight and backcrossing techniques historic dimensions of the American being used to establish new stock for possible reintroduction into the forests. Chestnut at Blandy research farm An agriculture focused research project in collaboration with Dr Stephanie Stockwell, JMU ISAT professor, studying the symbiotic relationship between soybeans and the nitrogen fixing bacteria, Bradyrhizobium japonicum. After visited several local farms collecting soil samples and discussing fertilizers and farming practices students inoculated soybean seeds with a variety of soils using sterilized Leonard jars to isolate B. japonicum for genetic analysis. Research on antioxidant levels in common foods with Dr. Michael Renfroe from JMU’s Biology Department. He explained the science and benefits behind antioxidants in our diet and a technique for measuring antioxidants in foods. During an informative visit to Bluestone Vineyard students tasted the bitter tannins in the seeds and skin of grapes which contain the valuable antioxidants. In research groups, students have Students collect soy bean nodules for research in STEM biology
chosen a question concerning how canning, freezing or processing fruits might affect the levels of antioxidants. Students will analyze their samples in Dr Renfroe’s lab.
Capstone Classes - Culminating STEM Coursework When students reach their senior year in the HHS Governor’s STEM Academy, we work to bring their learning to an appropriate pinnacle in one or more of our capstone courses. Mentorship, biotechnology, and dual enrollment engineering serve as these culminating courses. This year eight of our seniors have chosen mentorship, six are in dual enrollment engineering, and thirteen are enrolled in biotechnology. Some of our students are enrolled in more than one, and we have some juniors who are tackling one a year early to make room for another their senior year. Mentorship students are refreshing basic workplace skills and then partnering with professionals in STEM fields of graphic design, sports medicine, education, science research, and a variety of others. Mentorship allows our students to experience a workplace environment in a STEM related Culturing native bacteria field. samples for genomic Students in the dual enrollment engineering course have the option of sequencing and receiving three hours of college credit for their work in JMU’s engineering 112 identification. course as they pursue a variety of projects. This year’s students are managing the $15,000 ALCOA community grant for alternative energy the academy received this year. Additionally, teams are working on a national rocketry challenge competition and on designing an autonomous flying drone with a system for avoiding collisions for a Virginia competition. Biotechnology Applications is a course focused on current knowledge, techniques and application in the field of biotechnology and molecular genetics. Students have analyzed DNA at the molecular level using DNA isolation, purification, manipulation, transformation, and have become successful in maintaining a sterile environment in which to culture bacteria. They are currently developing an original research plan requiring techniques of biotechnology. Protoyping a quad-copter drone in DE Engineering
Original, Authentic Research Two years ago, our first group of HHS Governor’s STEM Academy students submitted research papers to the Virginia Junior Academy of Science (VJAS). Two of those groups of students had their papers accepted and those four students presented their research at the annual conference. Last year nine research papers were accepted from HHS, resulting in twentysix students traveling to Fredericksburg to present their work. This year more than one hundred of our students are conducting authentic, distinct, and long-term scientific research in anticipation of competing with other students from across the state at VJAS in Richmond, Our students began their work early this fall, brainstorming research questions that interest them. Guided by their teachers, students created relevant research questions, conducted research reviews, practiced presenting ideas to peers, and generated research methods. Currently,
students are in the midst their data collection. The formal write up of the students’ efforts will be turned in for internal evaluation in late January with formal submission of papers we are putting forward in February. VJAS continues to be an excellent academic opportunity for our STEM students. Tasked with creating novel research, our students fully participate in the scientific process. Coupled with the responsibilities of rigorous academic courses, they are truly reaching for excellence. We look forward to taking our students to Richmond this spring. If you’d like to explore more about what VJAS is, here is the link. http://www.vjas.org/
Integration of STEM Biology and Engineering The freshmen students experienced integration between their STEM Innovation and STEM Biology classes by engineering and designing gel electrophoresis boxes in STEM Innovations class to use in running a DNA fingerprint in STEM Biology. Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate mixtures of DNA, or proteins according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. Students were challenged to design and produce a gel box that cost under $20 yet could run a full size gel at 130 Volts. Designs varied and included graphite rods, and an assortment of metals for conductivity, removable lids that provided safety from electrical shock, and ways to eliminate the condensation build up, limiting visibility. Students used the Engineering Design Build process with seniors acting as consultants and mentors and instructors as the customer.
Students testing their engineered gel electrophoresis boxes.
Sometimes it is Rocket Science For the fifth year in a row, members of the academy will compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC). Each year brings a slightly different challenge in this national competition where 1000 teams vie to get their rocket closest to a target altitude and time aloft while protecting its payload of a raw egg. As our program evolves, so does our approach to this competition. In the past our freshmen engineering and technology students competed. This year, students in the freshman STEM Explorations class are designing and building small scale rockets to learn the basics of computer aided design and simulation. They are developing the skills they will need to compete effectively in TARC their sophomore year if they join the technology and engineering pathway. Our sophomores in Engineering Analysis and our juniors and seniors in Dual Enrollment engineering
are revisiting the TARC competition with a year’s past experience under their belt. We have integrated a new technical skill for our students participating in TARC this year. We are requiring our students to utilize 3D printing to create at least one key component of their rocket. The top 100 teams from across the nation will face off for the finals of the competition on May 13th in The Plains, VA. We haven’t gone to the finals yet, maybe this is our year! Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) - http://rocketcontest.org/