35 high school students from around the region have spent the 2013-2014 school year serving on the inaugural Southeast Tennessee STEM Student Council, sponsored by PEF and the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub. These students representing public and private schools from Blount, Hamilton and McMinn counties learned more about careers related to science, technology, engineering and math.
Central High of McMinn County: Lucy Harrill
Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy: DeCaira Hubbard
Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences: Destin Williams
East Hamilton Middle High: Jackie Hwang, Benjamin Lynn and Spencer Slaughter
Girls Preparatory School: Nicki Backus and Story Deweese
HCDE Collegiate High at Chattanooga State: Te'ara Jones
Home School: Adam Rankin
Maryville Junior High: Michael Spitler
Maryville High: Christy Spitler
McMinn County High: Gavin Arnett, Madisen Buckner, Valentina Cifuentes, Peyton Ingram, Mayson Liner, Camila Rodriguez, Kaylee Wilson and Jorge Salinas
Notre Dame High: Christian Cyrul & Gus White
Ooltewah High: Akila Washington
Red Bank High: Carina Stout
Signal Mountain Middle High: Ben Gruber, Rachel Mersch, Preston Miller and Mackenzie Weigert
STEM School Chattanooga: Marketta Collins, Bailey Crittenden, Emily Duncan, Dylan Grant, Price Gray, Katherine Stiffler and Ashton Hall.
William Blount High: Foster Harris and Logan Smith.
"This is a unique program unlike any other in the region. The goal is to give students the opportunity to take on leadership roles in STEM and learn skills they will use when they enter the workforce," said Keri Randolph, the director of Learning for the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub. "Increasing education opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math is an important initiative among educators and employers to prepare students for high demand jobs of the future.
Students spent the year working on group projects together with the help of the STEM business professionals from the following companies: AkzoNobel; BlueCross BlueShield; Chattanooga Technology Council; Chattanooga Zoo; EPB; Henderson, Hutcherson & McCullough; Regions Bank; SimCenter and Thompson Engineering.
Ms. Randolph said, "In the same way we believe STEM education should be driven, this student council experience was shaped by the students. They really had to determine what kind of project they wanted to work on and then own the outcome of their efforts."
During their tenure on the Council, these students have been challenged to think creatively, work collaboratively with teammates across the region, and cultivate partnerships with local businesses. They lead STEM activities for children and organized STEM career fairs.
"Being a part of the STEM Student Council is opening my eyes to a whole new way of thinking," said McMinn County High School junior Madisen Buckner.
McMinn County High School junior Mayson Liner's team led exciting and challenging STEM activities with youth at schools, recreation centers and churches in multiple counties. Liner said, "Our goal is to bring STEM awareness to young people from pre-K all the way up to high school. We want to get them involved in STEM activities and show them what STEM is and how important it is in their world."
On Saturday, the STEM Student Council members were recognized at the Chattanooga Zoo by PEF President Dan Challener and staff from the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub. The students shared what they learned this year serving on the STEM Student Council by presenting videos about their projects to their friends, family, business mentors and PEF and Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub staff.
The team that won the "Innovative Thinking Award" designed and built a hovercraft with the help of business mentor Josh Lewis from EPB. Mr. Lewis said, "I would love to participate in more opportunities like this in the future."
"We want the community to know about this great work being done by students in our region and to hopefully engage themselves in STEM," said PEF's Volunteer Coordinator Kate Skonberg. "Students, parents, educators and businesses can all get involved in our STEM initiative in a variety of meaningful ways."
Video can be viewed here of students building a hovercraft and then testing it out on one of their younger siblings. The students created this video and presented it at the celebration on Saturday at the zoo.
As a group project, five students on the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub's STEM Student Council designed and built a hovercraft with the help of their STEM business mentor, EPB's Josh Lewis. Their group won the "Innovative Thinking Award". The five students pictured are Preston Miller (Signal Mountain Middle High), Spencer Slaughter (East Hamilton Middle High), Christy Spitler (Maryville High), Michael Spitler (Maryville Junior High) and Destin Williams (Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences).