Two Students Share Their Experiences of the STEAM Expo at Central Park STEAM Elementary

May 2018

Written by R.B. (8th Grade Student)

On a Tuesday in May, Central Park Elementary school held an exposition in which they showcased their own work and other STEAM projects. They invited students of various grade levels from the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute to present cool projects that they created, in order to show the next steps the elementary students can take in their STEM education.

One student group showed off their “Multi Purpose Prosthetic Arm” which has multiple attachments including a kendama and a ping pong paddle.  There were many more great booths such as a tessellation stamp station put on by a group of four 8th graders.

The young kids walked by in awe of all the stations about robotics, coding, etc. while the parents inquired about the SLI program and how their kids can sign up when they reach the minimum age.

It was a great experience for parents and kids from Central Park, as well as the presenting SLI students as everyone gained a bit of new knowledge. For the elementary kids, it was the knowledge of technologies and projects that they could work with if they continue in STEAM; for the parents, it was knowledge of how to guide their kids down a STEAM path; and for the presenting SLI students, it was more great practice on presenting as the event provided the challenge of engaging a younger audience with a million questions to ask.

Overall, everyone who attended the event took something away that made their time worthwhile.

Photos by SLI Student J.W.


Written by S.S. (8th Grade Student)

The STEAM expo was a success with SLI students volunteering to teach kids at Central Park STEAM Elementary on a Tuesday evening. SLI hosted a few booths in the science-fair-like setup. The projects presented were interactive and had been built using various STEAM tools, like the laser cutter, vinyl cutter, or 3D printer.

The SLI students presented topics like tessellation stamps, DIY derby cars, and inexpensive prosthetics. All the projects targeted STEAM curriculums. The tessellation stamps focused on math, technology, and art as they were made using a laser cutter and student made tessellations. The derby cars incorporated science in the form of drag, weight, and acceleration. The inexpensive prosthetics were an excellent example of technology and engineering since they were student designed and 3D printed.

The elementary school students were very interested in the interactivity of the booths and were able to understand how STEAM can be useful in one’s life.

The main goal of the booths were to inspire young students to be passionate about STEAM. The SLI students found that the elementary students were truly interested in the STEAM topics and found the activities exciting.

It was fun for the SLI students to present at the Central Park Elementary STEAM Expo as well as to host the elementary kids’ (and parents’!) interaction with the projects.

Photos taken by SLI student V. A.

SLI Students Showcase Research at SVCC

Written by J.C. (8th Grade Student)

April 2018

“Silicon Valley Comic-Con brings together America’s two greatest superheroes: Pop Culture and Technology.” — SVComicCon.com

Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC) is a yearly comic convention, hosted by Steve Wozniak, and took place this year from April 6th to April 8th. At the event, fans were able to attend panels, meet their favorite celebrities, buy collectibles from their favorite shows, and much more. To encourage STEM education and to represent ingenuity and imagination of the young minds, SVCC invited projects from this year’s Synopsys Science Fair that fit in the categories of Transportation and Robotics or Healthcare/Basic Human Needs.

This year at the convention, my teammate and I presented our Synopsys project, an attachment quick-disconnect system for prosthetics. I enjoyed both presenting our project to Comic Con attendees and exploring the event with my classmates. Getting to present my project was a great experience, and I received a lot positive feedback about how I could make it better. After we were done presenting, we were able to explore the event with our families. It was huge, with over 65,000 attendees and hundreds of booths where you could buy merchandise, play videogames, and get autographs from celebrities like Stan Lee.

Overall, SVCC was a great experience and I would recommend visiting it to anyone who has an interest in comics, video games, or a favorite television show.

Students Help at EdTech Pitch Games

Written by S.G. (8th Grade Student)

March 2018

On a Wednesday in February, SLI 8th graders has the opportunity to participate in the Pitch Games. The event is designed to give STEM educators an idea of the innovative and exciting EdTech products that are on the market. If they like the products, they will have an opportunity to pilot them in their classrooms over the following three to four months. Each product company had two SLI students paired with it. Those students were able to test the product in real time, so that educators get a realistic sense of how it will work in their classes. Teachers and school district leaders will have an opportunity to interact with students to get their opinions on what works well and what needs to be improved. At the beginning of the event, each company had to give a 1 minute pitch. A few of our students, had the opportunity to give the company pitch, which they did very well.

This opportunity gave the students an excellent viewpoint on how the world of EdTech works. They were able to test products, and give feedback to the educators. Two of our SLI representatives were able to reunite with Piper, after beta testing them in the summer. Another two SLI students represented VidCode, a bridge between Scratch and real programming. At the end of the Pitch Games all the students talked to the educators about the pros and cons of having technology in the classroom.

In conclusion, this opportunity gave our SLI students a great view of the world of Ed Tech. Our students have gained the knowledge of pitching to others in a short amount of time, as they improve their communication skills.


Three Students Write About Their Experiences at MathCounts

February 2018


A.R. (8th Grade Student):

This weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a math competition at San Jose State University called MathCounts. It was a day-long event, and we did different types of math problems throughout the time we were there. There was an individual event, a team round, and there was even a game-show style competition with a buzzer. MathCounts really showed me the beauty today mathematics. The problems were sometimes seemingly impossible, but when you drew some lines, or found for special properties to solve the problem, it just goes to show how interconnected math really is. Not to mention that the is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from that. Many kids today feel like math is all about rote calculations, memorizing formulas, and learning things that will never be used in their life. While those things may be a small part of it, I see math as an art form, with the color of numbers working in perfect harmony to form the unbreakable rules of nature and this universe. The world will go on, but math will be forever, because it’s not tangible. It’s abstract. And I think that’s why I like the MathCounts problems so much. They taught me to think abstractly and outside the box. They made me a better problem solver, in math, but in life, too. Math is concrete, it never contradicts itself, and it always has an answer. That taught me that any problem can be solved, if you work hard enough on it. We can use math to help us in life, in ways that don’t involve complicated formulas. It’s just not in the way people think.

T.L. (8th Grade Student):

Math counts. It truly does. Math will count for the rest of our lives, and we all will use it in our jobs and careers. I got the chance to explore my passion for math further at our MathCounts competition at SJSU this past weekend. MathCounts is a math competition for 6-8th graders from all over the Bay Area. It was a jam packed day, with lots of interesting math problems. We began our day with the Sprint round, which is a lot of problems in a short amount of time. Next, we did the target round, which is fewer problems with more time for each. After that, we moved to the team round, where groups of up to 4 teamed up to solve many challenging problems.

Following hours of testing, we had a lunch break, where free food was provided! After that, we all went to the Countdown competition. The countdown section has simple problems, but it’s a race against other kids to answer the question first. This one for me was the most enjoyable. I wasn’t one of the students competing, but I loved to see the students up there scrambling to get the answer. That competition was the most interactive, and all the audience members could compete.

It was the experience of a lifetime. It was lots of fun, and I got to do it with my friends. The math problems were quite challenging, but it was rewarding when we got it right. Our whole team had a great performance too. Too bad I’m an 8th grader, since I wish I could do it again next year!

T.M. (8th Grade Student):

The Countdown at the MathCounts meet was what we spent most of our time on. Right after the amazing lunch that was provided by MathCounts we went to the same auditorium we started in. The announcer gave us the rules for the competition and the people who would be competing in it. It was definitely the most exciting part of the day because we were all at the edge of our seats rooting for our team. Even though I didn’t compete I really felt like I was part of the competition and we were still proud of our teammates who competed even though none of us moved on. Most of the day was spent on this. Here is a rundown of what happened. Basically, there are multiple rounds in which eight students competed on a time crunch. The top two of the round went on to the next round. This kept on happening until the final two were up. This was the most breathtaking part. Before the announcer finished saying the problem, one kid hit the buzzer! I barely read the first word! He spit out the answer while all our mouths dropped in astonishment. We all cheered for the smart kid. After the Countdown round prizes for the top teams and students were handed out. The Countdown round was amazing and I could say with complete confidence that it was my favorite part.

Perspectives on the FLL Season

Written by A.B. (8th Grade Student)

January 2018

The First Lego League,  a competition sponsored by 3M, the Lego company, National Instruments, and Rockwell Automation, gives students a chance to compete against other teams in a robotics competition. FLL was a lot of fun for all the STEM teams and was approached with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement this season.

Humble Beginnings……

This FLL season began with 12 STEM teams, 6 from the 7th grade and 6 from the 8th. As soon as the season began the students were up to the challenge. They worked hard during extended hours, open lab, and even met outside the school to get the job done. The teams competed at FLL tournaments in Santa Clara High School, Intel, and Google. Of the 12 teams that went to the Qualifying Tournaments, competition 5 teams qualified to continue on to Regionals. The teams were: Sophisticated Sea Otters (8th), Hydrosaurusrex (8th), The Subs (8th), S.S. Starfish (7th), and my team Royal Flush (8th).

Where It All Began…..

At the Northern California District Qualifying Tournament at Google, teams Royal Flush and Sophisticated Sea Otters waited anxiously for the results at the end of the day. The judges were announcing the names of the teams who would move on to Regionals. When Sophisticated Sea Otters were called there was much joy and shouting from the other teams showing their support. “We felt out of words…and we were thinking, ‘Oh My God! We made it!’ ” said a memeber from the team Sophisticated Sea Otters. As the judges continued on, explaining what the final award (The Championship Award) was, the team Royal Flush sat quite dismayed that they hadn’t won anything….but then it happened. The judges announced, that the winner was Royal Flush. There was loud cheering as the team stood up, shocked, and went to receive the reward. “I remember, [another team member] and I were sitting on the top of a couch when they called out our team number and name I was honestly shocked. I half fell off the couch dragging [her] with me and we both exclaimed ‘WHAT’ in disbelief. I honestly thought that we had heard wrong or the judges had made a mistake” said a member of team Royal Flush.


Two months later the 5 teams competed at the regionals: In the end, the S.S. Starfish won the award for Gracious Professionalism and the other teams returned, unfortunately, empty-handed. Of all the things that FLL has taught me my first year of being part of this competition is that it doesn’t matter what you actually win. What matters is what you learn and the experience you gain. Because there’s no bigger reward than a lifetime of experiences.

SS Starfish 2

SLI Students Pitch Impressive Passion-Based Projects in Various STEM Fields

Written by J.V. (10th Grade Student)

November 2017

STEM Leadership Institute’s young leaders, competing in Exploravision, have recently hosted an essentially thrilling event: Panel Presentations. Students were up early touching up their web presentations and communication skills. Their mission is to pitch their idea to either two medical experts or two Oceanography, Earth Science, and Social Science experts within the time span of 3-5 minutes. Afterwards, an intense Question and Answer session will occur.

“Presenting in front of Experts has really improved the content in my group,” says a STEM 10th grader. “Their critical questions and feedback has added more depth in our project.”  

Students pursued a variety of research-based projects, interested in topics such as Earth Science, Human/Plant Anatomy, Nanotechnology, and Biology. Whether it is using rice paper to relieve burns from victims in wildfires or avoiding overpopulation with solutions in ocean colonization, the diversity of the ideas created are vast. Another group is interested in using the Fab Lab’s very own 3D Printer to manifest Improved Bio-Printed Heart Valves. “Our goal is to give a second chance for people who aren’t able to receive donors from alternative treatments,” states a 9th grader.

One Exploravision group was passionate about the cure of Alzheimer’s. However, they found out that there is no apparent cause of the dementia. With the guidance of reliable sources and experts, their group is now focusing on the regeneration therapy of Alzheimer’s. “We have 3 steps in our project,” notes a 10th grader in the medical field. “Analyzing the location of the affected area, injecting the nanofibrous scaffold, and repairing the damaged tissues of the cells in the spinal cord.” This solution can become reality with the development of Nanotechnology in the next 20 years.

The future is bright with the immense and ambitious ideas of these STEM students.   

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My Experience with FLL

Written by N.S. (7th grade student)

November 2017

First Lego League Robotics is a competition where you program a robot to complete a series of tasks called missions. The software used to program the robot is ev3 mindstorms. There is also a project and a core values portion for the competition. The project portion is where you create a problem related to the year’s theme and find a solution to the problem. The core values part is where you explain challenges your team had and how well you worked together.  

After a few months of work time and preparation, the competition had come. My team was registered for November 4th the earliest competition date. That means some of the other teams had a week or even two more than us. On the actual day of the competition, we had a busy schedule. The tournament was from 8:00-5:00, so it was a full day competition. In the competition, you get a trial run, three robot game rounds, a project presentation, a core values presentation, and a robot design presentation. My group was doing pretty good up until the second round of robot game. We had a corrupted file so our robot didn’t move. We ended up getting a 0 because we couldn’t do anything. We handled the situation pretty well. There was no finger pointing or yelling at other team members. We ended up solving the problem and we got some points on the last round. We unfortunately didn’t get any awards or advance to the championship but we had a good time. I learned a lot throughout the day especially during our robot game rounds. I enjoyed the whole competition despite the disagreements our group had and I think everyone learned something valuable and walked away with something.


Students build DIY computers

Written by R.B. (8th grade student)

December 2017

During the summer session, the startup based out of San Francisco Piper came and showed the eighth-graders an awesome new product. The “Piper Computer Kit” is an awesome DIY computer kit to teach kids the basics of coding and circuits. Integrating the open source computer, Raspberry Pi, makes the kits easy to put together and fun to use.

Representatives of the company, including the CEO, came and gave everyone kits to build and everyone had a blast. From the time the students pulled out the large blueprint, to the time they were all playing minecraft, everyone was excited and enthusiastic about making this kit. One student said, “It was an extremely fun way to learn about hardware, software, and computers!”

For more information, check out the Piper Website

Image credit: Piper (https://www.playpiper.com/)


Field Trip to PayPal Headquarters

Written by A.H. (8th Grade Student)

November 2017

In October, a portion of STEM students visited the PayPal headquarters for a tour and introduction to their company. PayPal created a way to make financial transactions digitally and safely anywhere and with anyone in the world. The SLI students that went on this trip are participating in a project called Exploravision. Exploravision is a contest in which the participants write an essay about a solution to a problem in the world. It requires innovation and creativity. Due to the fact that PayPal focuses on innovation, the Exploravision students were given the opportunity to visit their campus.


During their trip, students were given a tour of the showroom, a model of how PayPal is used in stores and in the outside world. They were also given a preview of new impending technology such as virtual reality glasses that allow you to see prices and make transactions virtually and all through technology. Also, they were taught how you can use PayPal in your daily life and at stores locally. In addition, they were given the opportunity to sit in a replica of Captain Spock’s chair from the T.V. series “Star Trek.” The visit to PayPal was beneficial and educational for the students because it showed them how a simple idea could become a very successful company, an example of innovation and how it can be applied in the real world.

49ers STEM Leadership Institute is proudly supported by

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