Surrounded by nanotechnology labs and engineering classrooms in Stinson-Remick Hall on the picturesque campus of Notre Dame last summer, the idea of a Family STEM Night was just a burgeoning inkling in the minds of the Saint Patrick Catholic School Trustey STEM Fellows. Tasked with constructing a blueprint for furthering STEM opportunities in Wolfhound country, the team knew they wanted to hold the inaugural, interactive family event in the late winter, as a way to kick off the second semester. After months of planning and collaboration, the evening of February 27 found the gym and dining hall transformed into a busy world of experimentation and discovery as the first annual STEM Family Night was held!
Former engineer and current Middle School science/math teacher Louise Schaeffler, an old pro at organizing STEM events for the Girl Scouts and the Virginia Air & Space Museum, led her Trustey colleagues Chris Chagnon, Ashley Costanza, and Amber Seeley in planning events specific for a variety of age groups in our community. From raisins dancing for preschoolers to dividing cookies with our elementary friends to dropping eggs safely from the second floor with the middle schoolers, activities were aimed at getting participants to think critically, creatively, and apply STEM--science, technology, engineering, and math--to solve real world problems.
The 20 tables between the two venues on campus were led by Saint Patrick faculty/staff, community volunteers, alumni, and even current 8th graders. Ten visiting Engineering students from Old Dominion University manned their own table where they demonstrated the different principles of engineering in action with robotics. Perhaps the most popular table of the evening was the liquid nitrogen ice cream station, helmed by Mrs. Schaeffler and Dr. Rick Strauss, Middle School Biology/life science teacher. The demonstration using the cloud-like nitrogen gas was captivating...and the product was delicious!
Despite being the first annual Family STEM event held at Saint Patrick Catholic School, the community support was overwhelmingly positive. Over 70 families RSVPed for the event, with roughly 250 people visiting the grade-leveled stations. Looking ahead to the 2019-2020 year, the STEM Team has already started pondering the next theme, possible community partners, and potential tasks. Since quality always improves, the team is committed to building this dynamic event in the future, establishing it as part of our unique Saint Patrick culture and community for years to come.