Thermo Fisher Scientific STEM competition challenges students to create solutions

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A team from Providence Elementary with their maze for the Thermo Fisher Scientific STEM  competition.

Fifth- through eighth-grade students from all around Cache Valley and neighboring communities were put to the test as they were challenged to create an engineering design for the fifth annual Thermo Fisher Scientific STEM competition, held in mid-March. Thermo Fisher values the ‘pay it forward’ mentality and demonstrates that by giving back to Cache Valley schools through this competition each year.

STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, is a national curriculum initiative which promotes the education of these economically vital subjects. Its purpose is to generate interest and recognize excellence in young scholars through fun, engaging activities.

Students spent the first six weeks of the school year preparing for this year’s Thermo Fisher Scientific STEM competition, which continues to grow each year. There were 25 teams of 5th-6th graders and 5 teams of 7th-8th graders. Working in small teams of four to six, and with a mentor from the local Thermo Fisher branch, participants tackle a challenge that revolves around STEM. The challenges vary year by year, and this year students participated in a coding challenge that used Sphero balls.

Together, students worked to program the Sphero ball to travel through a maze of onboard sensors and to make decisions of where and when to turn. Student projects were scored based on creativity, the ability of the students to answer the judges’ questions, submitted project journals, and demonstrated teamwork.

“The students learn a lot of skills that will benefit them in future education and employment,” said Providence Elementary sixth-grade teacher Todd Simpson. “We look for students to become flexible and cooperative while having the confidence to share their ideas to collaborate and improve on what might have been accomplished individually. We try to teach them to become more detail-oriented, flexible, critical thinkers, creative, and great communicators. We want them to show initiative and leadership by drawing on each other's skills and talents to come up with the best solution they can design. This is what science, technology, engineering, and mathematics needs from its future graduates. This is what our world needs in order to design solutions for all the problems our world faces.”

As a reward for their team’s achievement, schools around the district won differing amounts of money to go toward STEM supplies. In total, Cache County School District schools were awarded $8,000 by Thermo Fisher to be used towards STEM education! An additional benefit from the competition is that the product bought for each group to participate can be kept afterward.

Congratulations to the following teams in Cache County School District:
(2nd place) Summit Elementary B $2,500
(3rd place) Providence Elementary A $2,000
(5th place) Canyon Elementary A $750
(6th place) Cedar Ridge A $750
(7th place) North Park Elementary B $500
(8th place) Birch Creek Elementary A $500
(10th place) Cedar Ridge Elementary B $500
(11th place) Summit Elementary A $500
(12th place) Providence Elementary B $500

Many thanks to Thermo Fisher Scientific for providing competitions and challenges such as these for students to explore STEM subjects!