2022 Maine State Science Fair Brings Together Talented Young Researchers from Across Maine

Pictured (L to R): Ogechi Obi, a student from Bangor High School with James Crowley, a judge from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Students were thrilled to be back together in person to share their science and engineering projects at the 2022 Maine State Science Fair, held on Saturday, March 26, at Colby College.

This year’s Grand Award winners, who will represent Maine at the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair are:

  • First Place: Cuthbert Steadman of Bangor High School. Cuthbert’s engineering project used computer programming to create an inexpensive and non-invasive blood glucose monitoring and automatic insulin injection system.
  • Second Place: Emma Markowitz, a homeschooled student from Boothbay. Emma experimented with a non-invasive approach to treating White Line Disease in horses using poly-wrap and manuka honey.
  • Third Place: William Xu of Bangor High School. William developed a computer program that uses medical imaging to better diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

The full list of awards, including over $875,000 in college scholarships and $1,800 in prizes from local and national organizations, is available on the Maine State Science Fair website.

The event convened 144 students from 22 high schools and two home schools. Another dozen students participated virtually.

“After two years of virtual events, we’re glad we can give students a chance to meet each other and share their ideas and passion for STEM,” said Stefany Burrell of Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance. Laura Muller, her counterpart at The Jackson Laboratory, commended the students for their resilience, creativity, and perseverance as the event drew to a close. The two organizations were the presenting sponsors of the Fair.

For more information about the Maine State Science Fair visit the website.

Pine Tree District FIRST Robotics Competition to be held In-Person at Thomas College in March

The Pine Tree District FIRST Robotics Competition’s 2022 official season kicked off on January 8th with 24 teams registering to compete later this year. The event will take place from Friday, March 11th through Sunday, March 13th at Thomas College in Waterville.

After two seasons on hold from in-person competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will be in-person, with no on-site spectators. 

FIRST Robotics is powered primarily by volunteers. Professionals from the community serve as mentors for high school team members. Each team is responsible for their own fundraising, and are judged on many criteria from the building of the robot to the sustainability of the team. 

According to a description by First Inspires, “under strict rules and limited time and resources, teams of high school students are challenged to build industrial-sized robots to play a difficult field game in alliance with other teams, while also fundraising to meet their goals, designing a team ‘brand,’ and advancing respect and appreciation for STEM within the local community.” 

The Pine Tree District FIRST Robotics Event is not affiliated with any one team, but is organized by a group of volunteers from several teams to hold the only qualifying event being held in Maine. The event is funded entirely by corporate and private donations.

For more information or to get involved as a supporter or volunteer, contact the planning committee at pinetreeregional@gmail.com, or visit www.pinetreedistrict.org

Integrating Podcasting at Caribou Community School 

Creation and innovation are core elements to middle school learning, thanks to Kim Barnes and Heather Anderson, who both teach 8th grade English language arts (ELA) and social studies at Caribou Community School. In a recent unit of study about resiliency, Mrs. Barnes and Mrs. Anderson had the creative idea that podcasting would be a great way for students to demonstrate their knowledge on the topic. 

Mrs. Barnes said the idea was conceptualized from the work she did with the revised ELA Standards and thought that podcasting was a truly “authentic way to braid [the] standards into the work [they] were already doing.” 

Though they knew they wanted to use podcasting in their unit, Mrs. Barnes and Mrs. Anderson also felt they needed some support with teaching their students the more technical aspects. They reached out to the Department of Education’s Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI) Ambassadors who were able to create and present lessons to the Caribou 8th grade students. This all-day event focused on supporting the work Mrs. Barnes and Mrs. Anderson were doing in the classroom, as well as leading the students through the process of podcasting on their Chromebooks. The Ambassadors explained the value and possibilities of podcasting and then demonstrated how to create and edit podcasts using WeVideo. Students then practiced the process of podcasting in pairs or small groups by choosing a topic of their own, or just discussing a predetermined prompt. One group took the opportunity to begin a sports podcast, where they discussed recent events in sports and even planned out how often they should record the podcast in order to continue with it. 

From this experience, Mrs. Barnes noticed that the engagement of the students skyrocketed. Students reported that they really enjoyed the creative part of making podcasts and, immediately, many of them began listening to other podcasts outside of class for fun. Some students were also motivated to begin a school podcast.  

The busy day proved to be quite fruitful. Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Barnes felt that the event not only helped the students, but it also really energized them, as teachers. One student shared that the work with podcasting “is changing [his] perspective about reading and writing to a more positive one as ELA has always been a struggle for [him].” 

This story was written and coordinated by MLTI Ambassador Rob Dominick as part of the Maine Schools Sharing the Success Campaign. To learn more, or to submit a story or an idea for a story, email rachel.paling@maine.gov. 

Maine FIRST Lego League Championship Event Highlights Maine Students’ STEM Skills

The 22nd annual Maine FIRST Lego League Championship on December 18th was a hybrid event that offered teams from across the state an opportunity to compete in-person or remotely.  Messalonskee High School in Oakland hosted the in-person part of the event with a half dozen teams in attendance.  The virtual part of the event included another seven teams that connected over Zoom.  This also allowed judges to connect from as far away as California and Israel.  The streamlined day ended with a fifteen minute Awards Ceremony over Zoom.

The Champion’s Award went to the “Smart Fun Engineers” for the fourth consecutive year with a high score of 335 points, of the possible 670, for their robot’s performance.  The team from Farmington was certainly ecstatic to learn about their win this year.

The Champion’s Finalist Award went to the Lego Legends from the Brewer Community School.  This diverse team with members ranging from eight to thirteen even includes a member from nearby Orrington (who does not have a Lego Robotics team) who showed up with personalized team t-shirts and matching hats.  Their coach, Joarly Arnold, received the Mentor Award.  Joarly, who works for General Electric and is part of their corporate team of GE Girls, said she is passionate about getting children engaged with STEM, including robotics.  She has been working with the team for four years, and due to her background in information engineering, she believes kids “should have an early introduction to STEM, as it teaches them not only science and mathematics, but increases their critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills; skills that they will use regardless of their future career path.”

FIRST LEGO League Team 32423 from Brewer Community School.
FIRST LEGO League Team 32423 from Brewer Community School.

The Robot Design Award went to the Fort Fairfield RoboTigers, which had to overcome many challenges around team members quarantining throughout the season.  They were among the teams connecting virtually, and found the experience of interacting with the judges to be highly beneficial.

The Innovation Project Award went to the Veazie Viking Robotics team who proposed carbon fiber shipping containers.  The team researched the material and its potential for making shipping of goods more fuel efficient due to the lighter weight, and more cost effective due to improving manufacturing processes.  Other teams designed ways of transporting goods and medication to rural parts of the state.  The team from Fort Fairfield focused on a way to prevent the region’s favorite product, the potato, from bouncing out of trucks as they travel down the road.

The Core Values Award went to the Lego Coop Kids from the Berwick area.  This group of seven included five sixth graders and two fourth graders who were competing in the FIRST Lego League for the first time, after recently forming.  The judges were highly impressed by their ability to work together and have fun, which are key aspects of the Core Values.

RSU #52 teacher Geoff Cyr, who has been involved in the FIRST Lego League for eight years in numerous capacities, received an Outstanding Volunteer Award.  Geoff, who serves as the Volunteer Coordinator, is always looking for individuals to get involved in the FIRST Lego League in Maine.  While experienced referees and judges are always needed, there is always a need for more.

Members of the Leeds Central School team present their projects to judges Jon Graham (Maine Department of Education) and Dr. Laura Gurney (Husson University).
Members of the Leeds Central School team present their projects to judges Jon Graham (Maine Department of Education) and Dr. Laura Gurney (Husson University).

The Maine FIRST Lego League did have a different look and feel than previous events held at the Augusta Civic Center, but dedicated volunteers, judges, coaches and teams have been able to keep the spirit alive through a difficult and unpredictable period.  The opportunities for students to come together as a team, work through multiple challenges and present their projects is vitally important to their success in school and beyond.  Hopefully the success of this season will encourage others to form or revive robotics teams at their school.

Madison Memorial High School STEM Geometry, STEM Lab & Sustainable Agriculture Project Recognized by Samsung

Madison Memorial High School (MSAD/RSU 59) STEM Geometry, STEM Lab & Sustainable Agriculture project has been named Samsung’s Solve For Tomorrow 2021-22 Maine State Winner.

As part of Maine’s state-wide career exploration program, Madison High School’s project helped kick off the Franklin and Somerset Counties’ STEM Pilot Project which aims to fund vocational and innovative programs in science, technology, engineering, and math. The project also helps connect students in Franklin and Somerset Counties with career exploration programming, paid internships and scholarships for Maine Community Colleges serving students from these counties.

The Madison Memorial High School STEM Geometry, STEM Lab & Sustainable Agriculture Project was highlighted by Samsung for their hard work to develop a STEM solution to an issue that impacts their local community.

“The innovative practices of fostering the Engineering Design mindset, using 3D technology as well as sustaining and regenerating natural systems will help address local food insecurity and contribute to the overall reduction of Madison’s global footprint,” said Kathy Bertini, MASD/RSU 59 Curriculum Coordinator, STEAM Person, and 2019 Somerset County Teacher of the Year.

“In order to give MSAD 59 students the best opportunities moving forward, it is critical that we connect innovation with technology,” said Madison High School Principal Chris LeBlanc. “Our students will have a skillset that allows them to use the area’s natural resources in a way that ensures sustainability while enhancing the local community.”