Article | Wicked Local Observer Advocate

Wakefield teacher participates in STEM challenge

Check out this article in the Wicked Local Observer Advocate about teacher Catherine Cameron’s classes at Wakefield High School and their participation in the STEM Week Challenge!

Wakefield teacher participates in STEM challenge
Sloan Friedhaber | November 18, 2020

Wakefield High School teacher Catherine Cameron was one of many educators to have her students participate in this year’s STEM Week Challenge.

The STEM Week Challenge is an annual learning event sponsored by Mass Stem Hub. The event works to help educators incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) based programing into the classroom.

Each year elementary to high school aged students are assigned one of three different project-based challenges to complete relating to the STEM field. Students can then submit their projects to industry professionals to be judged.

“The STEM Week Challenge and its real-world, project-based learning strives to prepare students to be adaptive learners, persevering through challenges and thriving in an ever-changing world,” said Joanna Jacobson, president of the One8 Foundation, which is a partner of Mass STEM Hub, in a written statement.

This year, high school students were tasked with creating an original app to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. Cameron’s principles of engineering class was one of many to participate.

Many teachers, including Cameron, have found it difficult to engage with students in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Cameron has been teaching principles of engineering, physics, and AP physics at Wakefield Memorial High for three years. But this is the first time she has had to navigate teaching while adjusting to a hybrid model format.

“[It’s been] challenging. I think it’s especially challenging in the engineering class because it’s typically a hands on class so it’s difficult to completely replace that with the virtual materials,”  said Cameron.

This year in particular seemed like the perfect opportunity for Cameron to have her class participate in the STEM Week Challenge.

“I feel like the material is so current and it’s a good opportunity for students of this level to really make a difference and feel they are contributing to an existing problem that doesn’t currently have a solution,” said Cameron. “It’s very authentic and I think it’s very powerful for them to feel that they can be part of the solutions to the challenges that society is experiencing.”

Cameron’s students began working on the project in the beginning of the fall semester. After her students were presented with the challenge, they worked their way through statistics of COVID-19 data to gain a better understanding of the existing research. Students then identified potential users by conducting interviews, and formed prototypes of the app before delivering their final presentation.

Overall, Cameron said she was proud of how her students were able to connect with the challenge and contribute to society.

“I think it helps them [students]  have a little ownership not only of the problem but also of the solution and help them identify themselves as a participating member of society,” said Cameron.

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