Baylor Celebrates National STEM Day at Area Schools Through Partnership with Transformation Waco and Connally ISD
Baylor research faculty engage students at area elementary, middle and high schools through hands-on projects to illuminate interest in STEM education
By Derek Smith, Baylor University Marketing & Communications
WACO, Texas (Nov. 7, 2023) – Baylor University is partnering with local schools on National STEM Day (Wednesday, Nov. 8) to provide engaging science presentations for area students and teachers and connect Baylor researchers in the community. In partnership with Transformation Waco schools and Connally ISD, Baylor research faculty will present grade-aligned, experiential projects on National STEM Day to students at J.H. Hines Elementary School, G.W. Carver Middle School and Connally High School to help encourage an affinity for science, technology, engineering and math in local students.
Additionally, Baylor has provided a circuit-light card project to Baylor alumni middle school teachers across the nation to incorporate into their own classrooms, with a downloadable version available online for any educator, student and family.
National STEM Day is an annual day of recognition on Nov. 8, designed to encourage participation in the STEM fields. The day provides an opportunity for schools and organizations to illuminate STEM opportunities and spark interest among students through projects and activities.
“Baylor University wants to ensure that we’re helping raise up a community of students interested in science, technology, engineering and math, and to promote a diverse STEM workforce,” said Stacey Smith, Ph.D., assistant vice provost for research-research development in Baylor’s Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR). “We’re excited to connect our tremendous Baylor faculty to serve students and teachers with engaging STEM projects and are grateful for the opportunity to partner with area schools to make science come alive.”
Seals, water and air
This year’s Baylor faculty researchers participating in National STEM Day activities represent the disciplines of biology, environmental science and engineering. Each has earned a national reputation as a leading scholar in his or her field, and all have built significant research portfolios. The Office of Broader Impacts within Baylor OVPR partners with faculty to create grade-appropriate adaptations of their work to help students throughout the community better understand and be inspired by the opportunities to learn and, someday, work in a STEM field.
“We are excited to welcome Baylor University professors back into our classrooms to inspire students and celebrate National STEM Day,” said Transformation Waco CEO Robin McDurham, Ed.D.. “Our students loved working with faculty and students in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science last year. We sincerely value our partnership with Baylor and this unique and inspirational learning opportunity for our students.”
Participating in this year’s National STEM Day activities are:
- Sarah Kienle, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, a global expert in the facial structures and feeding of seals and other pinnipeds such as sea lions and walruses. Her work has taken to her to research destinations including Antarctica and been published in Frontiers in Marine Science. On STEM Day, Dr. Kienle will work with fourth graders at Waco’s J.H. Hines Elementary School with a presentation involving “stations” that help students measure inflatable seals, read their markings and discover what these marine mammals can tell researchers.
- Lulin Jiang, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Yang Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental science, will visit with students at G.W. Carver Middle School. Their research provides understanding of, and potential solutions for, the impacts of climate change and human health. Both are part of a $1 million pilot project, in partnership with the City of Waco, to help the city reduce pollutants and convert waste into energy at Waco’s Hannah Hill Landfill. At G.W. Carver, Dr. Jiang and Dr. Li will use water, dyes and more to help students visualize the impact of emissions and human health.
- Sascha Usenko, Ph.D. professor of environmental science, will assist students at Connally High School as they measure air quality, pollution and more through hands-on experiences with state-of-the-art scientific equipment, including CO2 meters and a high-tech trailer used by the Department of Environmental Science at Baylor to take accurate data measurements around the United States. Dr. Usenko conducts scientific outreach for the Smithsonian Institution and has been featured in outlets like National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Nature and more. At Connally, he will work with students outdoors on the equipment before sharing more in a classroom setting about what they learned.
In addition, Baylor students from each professor’s laboratory will join them at the schools and work alongside younger students participating in the activities.
“Connally High School is fortunate that Baylor is willing to work with our students on National STEM Day,” said Hermann Pereira, principal of Connally High School. “Our students will be exposed to best-practice relevant research that will have a profound impact on their educational journey. We are incredibly thankful to be able to partner with institutions like Baylor University to help provide our students with opportunities to see the wide variety of options that are available to them in the world of STEM. This collaboration helps show our students all that is available to them as they continue their academic and professional developments.”
In addition to use in schools, a circuit-light project is available for families and teachers to download and use. Leading up to National STEM Day, Baylor made the project available to alumni who teach middle school and received overwhelming response from alumni educators, with dozens of kits distributed across the nation.
Teachers and students can still find downloadable cards with Baylor imagery, designed to support the project and for students to color afterwards. The project is appropriate for fourth graders and up and allow students to build their own circuit by using a battery and copper tape to illuminate a light diode.
A demonstration video and instructions are available online, and parents and teachers can print the cards and get the needed items for their children to do the projects in classrooms or at home. The project items include some found at home like tape, pencils and crayons or colored markers, and a few inexpensive items available online or through craft and hardware stores: copper tape, a light diode and a CR2032 coin battery.
“As a former educator, I know how hard it can be to find cool hands-on activities that are aligned to state standards and meet those needs within the scope of the work teachers have to do,” Smith said. “Baylor faculty do incredible research across a variety of disciplines, which presents us with so many great options to connect to students locally. National STEM Day is a perfect day to make these connections, and we’re only scratching the surface of what is possible.”
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.