Recent Posts:      NASA Speakers at SCHS       Green Ninja Film Festival        7th Graders Help Restore Wetlands      Students Present at MakerFaire       Students Visit Levi’s Stadium      Tech Challenge 2017     Students Volunteer

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NASA at Santa Clara High School


A couple weeks ago, several scientists from NASA’s Ames Research Center visited Santa Clara High School to speak to advanced math and science students, including SLI 9th graders. Over three hundred students from AP biology, physics, statistics, both levels of calculus, and computer science were invited to the conference. The day started with a introductory speech, given by William Van Dalsem (Chief of Intelligent Systems within Exploration Technology), where he detailed the history and mission of NASA and the Ames Research Center. Students then rotated through three of eight different workshops given by NASA speakers. These speaker topics ranged from supersonic travel and flying cars to Mars exploration and satellite engineering. Overall, the day was an amazing opportunity for students to learn real world applications of STEM and to imagine beyond the current limits of exploration and technology.

Thank you to all the speakers: William Van Dalsem (Chief of Intelligent Systems within Exploration Technology), Heather Arneson (Research Aerospace Engineer), Chad Frost (Autonomous Systems and Robotics), Sandy Lozito (Chief of the Aviation Systems Division), Nettie Halcomb Roozeboom (Aerospace Engineer in the Wind Tunnel Division), Donald Durston (High Speed Project Engineer), Jeffrey Homola (Human Systems Integration Research Engineer), and Donald Ellerb (Research Scientist). And a big thank you to Ms Shorrock (SLI Program & Technology Manager at SCHS) who helped to facilitate the event.

Students Participate in the Green Ninja Film Festival


Four teams comprised of 24 SLI 7th graders were finalists in this years Green Ninja Film Festival, and we are excited to announce that one  team won the Creative Story Award and one team won the People’s Choice Award. Congratulations!

“This year was the fourth Annual Green Ninja Film Festival! More than one hundred films were submitted from eight U.S. middle schools […] These films were developed as part of the Green Ninja Film Academy (GENIE) program. Eight middle schools and over six-hundred students participated in this five-week intervention designed to encourage scientific storytelling. […] A digital science portfolio accompanied the film to explain the scientific concepts and to reflect on the potential impact of the film’s climate solution.” (Green Ninja website)

For more information, and to view the films, visit the Green Ninja website.

SLI 7th Graders Help Restore the Wetlands


SLI’s 7th graders are currently studying ecosystems, human impact on the environment, and geology; and they recently got the exciting opportunity to get their feet wet (and their hands dirty) restoring Bay Area wetlands. Under the expert guidance of Save The Bay (a Bay Area organization dedicated to restoring Bay Area ecosystems), SLI students spent the afternoon learning about the wetlands and the threat of invasive species. They learned to identify invasive plants and then removed 18 bags worth of them (including fennel, thistle, wild lettuce, and italian radish). During the trip, students saw geese and their goslings roaming the wetlands. It was a beautiful afternoon spent near Bixby Park in Palo Alto, learning first-hand about bay area plants and animals.

As a followup to the wetlands trip, a speaker from the Santa Clara Water District spoke to the SLI 7th grade science classes this week. She taught an exciting interactive lesson about plastic pollution, its dangerous impact on animals, and ways to maintain a clean watershed.

For more information about Save The Bay and their volunteering and plant restoration opportunities, visit their “Get Involved” page.

For more information about the Santa Clara Water District, visit their webpage here.

Students Present Projects at MakerFaire 2017


It’s May, which means it’s time for MakerFaire! A celebration of the Maker Movement, the faire is a unique festival that blends STEM fields, art, creativity, and the design process. This year, SLI students from all three grade levels presented projects that they specifically developed for Maker Faire. Each grade level was given a theme to inspire their projects:

For 7th grade, the theme was “Growth Mindset In, Stress Out;” the 8th graders were given given the theme “Exploration;” and the 9th grade theme was “Philanthropic Fabrication,” inspiring community-oriented, altruistic projects from students.

Students presented all three days of the faire, demonstrating their devices and sharing their creations with the public.

One team used a microscope to look at the formation of colorful ice crystals (created with dry ice, water, and food coloring) in a project that used science to create beautiful, colorful displays.

Another group designed a beautiful painter’s palette and cup; and while the project might seem simple at first glance, they use the ShopBot and the 3D printer (and all the corresponding software) to design, prototype, and build it. The result was a high quality, remarkable wooden palette and cup that was the envy of every artist.

The most interactive project was a meditation cube. The team created a five foot by five foot “room” with fabric walls and a carpet floor. Participants were invited in and using an app that the students designed, they were lead through different meditation exercises, with the options of music and light therapy.

Overall, 26 SLI teams presented over the course of the weekend. It was a fantastic experience for all of them, giving them the opportunity to stretch their presentation and people skills in addition to their imaginations and their comfort with design-thinking.

Levi’s Stadium Field Trip


A couple weeks ago, SLI’s 7th grade cohort got the chance to visit Levi’s Stadium, where they saw and experienced STEM in the real world. The day included a tour of the stadium (which has incorporated several STEM related features into its design) and the 49ers Museum (which features football memorabilia and educational pieces about the science of football); in addition to the tours, students participated in hand’s-on activities, including a motion lab and a gridiron engineering lesson.

The motion lab broke down the physics behind standing jumps and sprints. And student teams played a math game that required critical-thinking and probability (in addition to good ball-throwing skills). The gridiron engineering lab focused on the design-thinking process; students created new designs for the metal face-masks on football helmets (gridirons), then discussed and received feedback on those designs. The exercise served as helpful practice in the design thinking cycle.

Overall, it was a fun trip that gave students tangible examples of STEM and broadened their understanding of concepts that they learn every week in SLI.

Tech Challenge 2017


This last weekend SLI students from each grade competed in the Tech Challenge at The San Jose Tech Museum.

Students were given the following goal: to construct a device to help explorers cross two ravines in an ice field. According to the 2017 official rules, “Explorers must cross each ravine, bringing their entire device across for future use. Self-powered aerial solutions such as planes, drones, lighter-than-air vehicles or helicopters are prohibited.”

At the competition, it was fascinating to see how all the teams tackled the challenge; some teams used remote cars or robots; other decided to use only simple machines to cross the ravines. Across all competing grades and teams, devices struggled to effectively cross the ravines; four devices from SLI teams successfully completed the challenge! And SLI teams received the following awards: Top Tech Challenge Story, 2nd Place in the Video Contest, Outstanding Device Performance, and Outstanding Engineering Design Process. Well done, everyone!

SLI Students Volunteer at Community STEM Events


This past week SLI students volunteered at two community events in Santa Clara. The first event, STEM Central, took place on Saturday at Central Park Library. Fifteen SLI students hosted booths about FIRST Tech Challenge and other STEM activities.

According to the event website, “STEM Central is an all-day, family-friendly event celebrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in the heart of Silicon Valley. Visitors will come face to face with every manner of technology, from printing presses and glassblowing to virtual reality, robots, and drones. […] Younger visitors will get hands-on at interactive Innovation Stations throughout the library, where children and adults can work together to build circuits, learn to write code, and launch their very own rocket.” (Visit the City of Santa Clara website for more info)

On Tuesday, multiple students volunteered at another event, the STEAM Exposition at Central Park Elementary School. The event included different STEAM-related activities and booths that showcase STEAM projects and design thinking. SLI students hosted multiple booths, working to inspire a younger group of STEM students.

49ers STEM Leadership Institute is proudly supported by

John Smith

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Jane Smith

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