Recent Posts:        STEMATIX: SLI’s Student Magazine         Robotics Competitions Kick Off!         Tuesday Night Football      Summer Session 2017       NASA Speakers at SCHS       Green Ninja Film Festival

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SLI Students Create Their Own Magazine


This autumn, a group of SLI middle school students took the initiative to start their own student-run magazine, called STEMATIX. The first issue was recently released, featuring articles on a wide range of topics. It includes an interview with STEM industry professionals, a couple creative writing pieces and comic strips with STEM themes, and columns on STEM jobs, toys, and gadgets.

As the editor’s note says, “This is a 100% student run magazine, and is meant to promote STEM and the SLI program at Cabrillo Middle School.” No teacher or administrator was involved; the magazine is a student project from start to finish, including the graphic design, the writing, and the research. As a program, SLI strongly encourages students to take initiative and pursue their passions, challenging themselves to try something new. STEMATIX team, editor and writers all, congratulations on your first issue!

See below for some excerpts from the magazine.

Students Dive Into Robotics Competitions!


It’s autumn and SLI students are deep in preparation for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and First Tech Challenge (FTC) competitions. For FLL, middle school teams compete in two areas: a robotics game and a research project, both centered around a specific theme. Last year’s theme featured endangered species and wildlife preservation; this year’s theme is “Hydro Dynamics,” specifically focusing on the human water cycle (how humans “find, transport, use, and dispose of water”). Using EV3 LEGO kits, teams design and build robots that navigate and complete tasks on a 4’x8’ game board; for each task completed, a certain number of points is rewarded. Teams are also evaluated on their research and proposed solution to a specific problem related to the year’s theme.

Meanwhile, SLI high school students are building robots using a FTC Competition Tetrix Kits.

Like FLL, FTC rewards points to teams for each mission completed by the robot; however, FTC’s challenges are fluid and change throughout the course of a game, thus requiring more dexterity, flexibility, and smarter robots. FTC’s theme this year is “Relic Recovery.”

Now in its fourth year of FLL and second year for FTC, SLI is excited to watch students grow in their robotics skills and their ability to work as a team as they learn, research, and problem solve together.

Students Volunteer at 49ers Foundation's Tuesday Night Football

September 2017

On Tuesday night, six 8th graders represented the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI) at the first annual Tuesday Night Football fundraiser for the 49ers Foundation, a co-founder and primary funder of SLI. Students sold raffle tickets, manned a SLI activity booth, and got to eat dinner in the Levi’s Stadium end zone with Silicon Valley executives and 49ers staff and players. They also got to interview 49ers football players on stage before the attendees. Events like this are wonderful opportunities for students to practice their presentation and communication skills and to meet successful and influential people from different backgrounds. The students and their chaperons had a great night supporting The 49ers Foundation.

For more information about the event, visit the 49ers Foundation website.

Summer Session 2017: Building Computers, Touring Backstage at NASA, and Building with Ten Thousand LEGO parts!

August 2017

Students participated in new and exciting activities, in addition to re-familiarizing themselves with the the lab equipment, using the design thinking cycle, and preparing for the year ahead.

With the help of NASA engineer William Van Dalsem (Deputy Director, Aeronautics Directorate), 10th graders had the opportunity to visit NASA’s Ames Research Center, where they got rare behind-the-scenes tours of the fluid mechanics lab, unitary wind tunnel, the “Space Shop” (NASA’s maker space), and the primary machine shop.

While the 10th graders got to tour NASA, 8th graders built their own computers and customized games on Minecraft with the help of Piper kits. CEO Mark Pavlyukovskyy of Piper and other upper management also spoke with students about running a startup. SLI and Piper are exploring future opportunities for students to work as Junior Developers at Piper.

For all students, Play Well worked with teams composed of students from each grade level on an open-ended team-building project. The company brought in tens of thousands of LEGO parts and had students build something that represented their time in SLI Summer Session. In addition to the large bins of various pieces, tables were set out with specific mechanisms, like conveyor belts, motors, and pulleys, that students were required to incorporate into their final product. Students enjoyed getting to know each other and creating a very diverse array of entertaining designs.

Additionally, with the goal of learning the significance of teamwork and planning, all grade levels worked on a significant design-thinking team project, directly learning the significance of the phrase “fail early, fail often.”

The summer is an exciting time for students to begin building on their knowledge from the year before and to tackle new challenges. Here’s to the year ahead and the experiences, learning and growth it will bring!

NASA at Santa Clara High School

June 2017

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.  More than 300 students from AP biology, physics, statistics, both levels of calculus, and computer science were invited to the conference. The day started with an introductory speech, given by William Van Dalsem (Chief of Intelligent Systems within Exploration Technology), in which 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. 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 Kait Shorrock (SLI Program & Technology Manager at SCHS) who helped to facilitate the event.

Students Participate in the Green Ninja Film Festival

June 2017

We are excited to announce that two of our four SLI 7th grade teams that competed at this year’s Green Ninja Film Festival won top honors at the festival.  One team won the Creative Story Award and another team won the People’s Choice Award.  A total of 24 7th graders participated in the four teams that ended up as finalists. 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.

49ers STEM Leadership Institute is proudly supported by

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