Fifth-grader Jaymila Baldwin watched nervously as the judges checked the strength of the gumdrop and toothpick structure her team had created by seeing if it could hold a trophy.
When it did, Jaymila breathed a sigh of relief.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it really worked!’” she said. “I was excited and scared, but we did teamwork, and it worked.”
Throughout the five minutes of competition at Collins-Rhodes Elementary in Eight Mile, Jaymila said she kept repeating her teacher’s advice, “practice makes perfect,” as her team had several unsuccessful attempts before creating the final product.
“We tried and tried until we got it,” Jaymila said.
For the school’s First Quarter STEM Day, all of the fourth- and fifth-graders were challenged, in small groups, to create a platform that would hold a trophy with as few toothpicks and gumdrops as possible. It was an exercise in engineering and economics as they were given a real-world scenario of having to keep the cost of project low.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Fifth-grader TyKeith Logan and his team also created a successful platform.
“It was amazing, but it was complicated at the same time,” TyKeith said. “We kept ours simple, thinking that the higher it was, the less strong it would be. So we made it lower so it wouldn’t fall.”
And by making it lower, they used only four gumdrops and five toothpicks.
Principal Marshall Hunt said he was proud of all of his students for using their critical-thinking, problem-solving and communication skills during the grade-level competitions.
Kindergartners and first-graders competed to see who could make a boat that would hold the most pennies and still float. Second- and third-graders used their STEM skills to see who could create the tallest tower out of marshmallows and spaghetti noodles.
Students from Vigor High School came to Collins-Rhodes to mentor the younger students.
While the students weren’t doing the grade-level competitions, they created Lego structures, did computer coding, and learned how to fly a drone.
“It’s just a great day,” Hunt said.
This was part of an effort of Collins-Rhodes to become STEM-certified by the Alabama Department of Education. Hunt said his faculty set a goal of increasing the amount of hands-on science activities at the school and to become certified in three to five years.
The school has STEM Fridays and once a quarter will have competitions.
“Part of it is that we just want to slow down and make sure our students have opportunities to practice and do more STEM activities,” Hunt said. “This gives our students a chance to show their gifts and talents outside of reading and math.”