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Sandy Journal

Beehive students engaged in projects for STEM Expo

Mar 31, 2023 10:35AM ● By Julie Slama

In the first year of elementary, students at Beehive Academy, youngsters demonstrate the water cycle at the school’s STEM Expo. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Beehive Science & Technology Academy sophomore Malen Ursua demonstrated magnetism with a bottle of water and ferrofluid added as a layer on top.

“I had some magnets so when someone pulled the magnet into that bottle, then it created really pretty shapes and they could see the shapes really well,” she said, adding that children and families who came to Beehive’s 10th annual STEM Expo found that appealing.

It was the international student’s first time using ferrofluid, which she said is “basically like motor oil” and commonly used for computer hard drives.

“I also had a petri dish full of this fluid and a string of magnets connected so they could see it that way too,” she said. “The experiment is fairly easy, but it allowed us to learn more about magnetic fields and why it becomes magnetized. Basically, the electrons in the iron begin to align with the flow of the magnetic fields that the magnet creates. That’s why it becomes magnetized.”

Ursua appreciated so many people coming to learn about STEM at the expo, demonstrated through the hundreds of students’ experiments.

“We don’t have anything like this at my school in Spain. It was nice seeing everybody with their experiments. We’ve been working on them since October,” she said. “Seeing all the little children come by was neat because most of the experiments are easy to make so they could make them at home. One girl, I think she was in third grade, really liked my experiment so I ended up giving it to her.”

Beehive’s first STEM Expo was held at the school, but outgrew its space at its former campus and expanded to the Mountain America Expo Center. Since then, the Expo has attracted a greater crowd, upward around 3,000 people, said school STEM Coordinator Kerrie Upenieks, who added that it was held virtually in 2021 during COVID-19.

This was the first year elementary students participated after the addition of lower grades to the school at the new campus that opened this past fall.

“The elementary students were in groups; so in kindergarten, they all did the same project,” Upenieks said. “Each group demonstrated their project for 20 minutes, because three hours is a long time for them. Their lead teacher was there to help the students, and they were able to see other experiments, and get excited. Like the other students, they were able to explain their project and understand it, and describe it, but not necessarily in scientific terms.”

Secondary students selected their projects from a database or come up with an experiment on their own, with the approval of Upenieks.

“The idea is that the students are to talk about what the science is, what’s happening or the math of it, or what is the connection to STEM and then they talk about society, where this may be used or applied,” she said.

Many students decide on their project in September.

“The first step is creating a short PowerPoint to show their research of the science and what places it can be used,” she said. “Our students are self-motivated and want to research to find that information. One year, a student had a hard time with identifying the application of bubble art. We talked about the cohesion of the water and allowing the bubble to stay formed; and we talked about the stickiness of being able to use that when we make things float and the strength of the bonds. It’s more than ‘I’m doing this because it makes me happy.’”

The next step is for students to identify or gather materials for the project. By October, they make a video of their experiment and explain the science behind it. They write the scripts as part of their English classes.

“It gets them prepared for the Expo when they’re doing the demonstration for the public. So, when somebody comes in and asks them a question, they’re knowledgeable about their project and they have ownership in it,” Upenieks said.

With that video, students sit down with other peers to evaluate their project and presentation and can make changes before presenting it to the class. Then, during the winter, students create a e-portfolio on their website about their project. 

“Each step allows us to make sure they’re on task and it gives us ways to check on them to support them; they take ownership and feel proud of what they’re doing,” she said. “These students are showing that they really understand their projects and have a connection to society, which could lead them to careers.”

At the Expo, students wore matching Beehive shirts to make the presenters more identifiable and to bring in art into science, Upenieks said. The front was designed by junior Ashely Pedersen, with the back of the elementary shirt, by third-grader Alfie Murphy, and the back of the secondary shirt, by ninth-grader Isa Beltri.

Also, several businesses and organizations took part in the STEM Expo, such as Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, Hawk Watch and The Leonardo.

“The Expo allows people to learn about so many different sciences and they can build rubber band-powered rockets and they can understand simulators for flying aircraft. Then, they can understand the care and science of the animals so it’s not just looking at the technology of flying,” Upenieks said. “They’re learning there is a whole world of things out there that are related to science.”