Full of STEAM!

The steamy August weather didn’t damper spirits for the 2nd annual STEAM Symposium held at Westlake High School on August 15-16, 2018.  Nine months of planning culminated with two action packed days for students with an interest in the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics).  Professionals from across Westchester County were lined up to share their expertise with more than 50 attendees who ranged from grades 7 - 10. While most workshops were filled to capacity and all were well received, the hot, humid weather certainly made the ice cream making (food science) workshop one of the most popular!

Event co-coordinators, Janet Matthews and Mary Knopp, along with the STEAM committee, worked hard to create an event that would inspire students to consider a career path in one of the STEAM disciplines.  Ms. Knopp, the Westlake Library Media Specialist, explained that making “the connections between what they are learning in school and the real world by bringing in the professionals is really great for them.”  

The symposium kicked off with breakfast for students and presenters (generously supplied by one of the many sponsors) after which the keynote speaker, Nick Sceusa from the Digital Arts Experience in Scarsdale, NY, captivated the audience as he discussed how to become a successful YouTuber.  The teens in attendance ensured that it was a lively discussion. From there, students were led by student ambassadors (STEAM students in grades 11 and 12) to the first workshop of the day.  With over 20 workshops offered, there was something for everyone. Students could choose six workshops over the two day symposium in subjects such as 3D animation, hydroponics, sports medicine, architecture, game coding, physics and many more.  Each 90 minute workshop was small enough to allow for extensive interaction between the student and instructor and well as hands-on activities. Katie Summers, a rising 9th grader, claimed “I think it’s cool because I don’t love learning from a textbook. It’s very hands on.”  In the workshop entitled “Art and the Unseen World: Artistic Interpretation of Scientific Images”, WHS art teacher Carolyn Frawley shared with students the beauty that can be found under a microscope.  She taught them how to mix acrylic paint and apply it to a canvas in the proper way to recreate such images. One student raved about the workshop claiming “it was a fun and interesting way to combine art and science...to create a unique piece of art that I could take home.”

Another popular workshop was “A-mazing Spheros” taught by Stefan Birek of the STEM Leadership Center in which students programmed Sphero Robots to complete obstacle courses. Combining math and engineering skills was necessary in order to be successful, including measuring distances, calculating speed, and finally coding that information into the software.   Jenna Cain, a rising 8th grader, commented “The Spheros workshop … was fun, interactive, and allowed us to figure things out for ourselves”

Day two offered an exciting surprise for each of the symposium attendees.  Fujifilm Corporation, located in Valhalla, NY, donated a mini Instax camera and several rolls of film to every student.  Kids had fun posing for pictures and watching the images magically appear on the print out. The amazing give-aways didn’t end there.  Thanks to the many wonderful local and regional sponsors, including several Westlake alum, the STEAM Symposium committee was able to raffle off items such as a $300 scholarship to the Mercy College Center for STEM Education, Home Depot toolkits and even a Hewlett Packard laptop!  Raffle winners or not, each student was thrilled to go home with a bag of swag including games, puzzles, museum tickets and more.

The two days proved to be a tremendous success with positive feedback all around.  One parent responded that his son loved the workshops and he wished all school learning could be so hands-on.  He explained it was “ a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn in a workshop, mostly hands on environment without the stress of memorizing, studying, homework and grades... an opportunity for student brainstorming in the truest sense... this is what they respond too.”

With the interest in STEAM learning continuing to gain momentum, symposiums such as these are sure to continue to be successful.  The goal of the Mount Pleasant Central School District (“Educating each child today for endless possibilities tomorrow.”) marries well with the goal of the STEAM Symposium which is to inspire and empower students to follow opportunities in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics and to fuel their curiosity, inspiration, and wonder.   Incoming junior Johnpaul Lasalle agrees. “It’s really useful for the younger students to have the chance to learn about these things so they can get an idea of some of the classes they might want to take.”

As for next year?  The possibilities are endless!

2018 STEAM Symposium Sponsors

Thank you to all our generous sponsors.  In addition to the corporations listed below, a sincere thank you to the following Westlake alums for their support.

Tom D’Angelo

Assistant Professor at Western Carolina University;

Priceline, Former Senior VP of Finance & Controller

Keith Mancini

Westchester County Forensic Laboratory, Forensic Photographer;

Co-Author: Fundamentals of Forensic Photography

Lawrence Perretto

STEM Leadership Center, Founder & Executive Director

Nick Ponton

Shades of Grey LLC, Principal and Executive Producer