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Carthage students show math, science skills at showcase

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WEST CARTHAGE — For students in the Carthage Central School District, engineering means fun.

At Carthage Central’s inaugural STEM Showcase on Thursday, students became experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics as they explained projects — such as creating video games or ping pong ball-throwing robots — to administrators and a Clarkson University professor.

The after-school STEM program started this school year thanks to the Army Youth Programs in Your Neighborhood grant, a Department of Defense Education Activity grant, the Watertown Family YMCA and Clarkson University, Potsdam.

“This is the first time I’ve been back down here, and I’m blown away,” said Katie R. Fowler, Clarkson associate professor of mathematics, at the event in the Carthage Middle School library. “This is amazing. And the kids don’t realize they can do this for a living.”

Mrs. Fowler said she and other professors hosted a five-day STEM academy for Carthage teachers at the school year’s beginning.

“We spent a week with the teachers focusing a lot of the mathematical modeling and to encourage students to work on open-ended problems,” she said.

Fifth-grade students Richard D. Allmon and Brecken A. Feldmann took their love of video games to another level by recreating old favorites such as Pong and Pac-Man through a program called Scratch.

The students used advanced math skills to create the games, proving there is a use for algebra beyond school.

“You have to really know math because you have the x and y axis,” said Richard, 11.

A large group of students had built bridges from dry spaghetti using West Point Bridge Design.

To create the bridge, students had to be under a hypothetical $600,000 budget, then built a prototype that would withstand weight.

Like making video games, bridge building required fifth-graders to use advanced math skills.

“We had to learn how to multiply decimals,” said Liya J. Mace, 10.

Her team of three used its interests in engineering, math and technology to create a bridge that held about 4 pounds of weight attached to a dowel.

“I’m into trying new things,” said Naundi O.W. Boone, 11.

Older students showed off more advanced projects, such as robots made in principles of engineering class.

Through the program Vex Technology, juniors and seniors created elevators, a machine that assorts marbles by color and a ping-pong catapult.

“Computer programming — that’s probably the big part we had to learn,” said Benjamin A. Reynolds, 17.

He joined the class because he wanted to learn more about engineering. He plans to pursue computer engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy.

“These were all designed by us,” he said, glancing at a robot operated by a classmate doing circles on the ground. “This one we built in about a half-hour.”

Assistant Superintendent Andrea K. Miller was impressed by the students.

“These are the engineers of the future,” she said. “I was talking to a couple of girls here who were telling their teachers that this is what I want to do — I want to build bridges. I want to become an engineer.”

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