B.E.S.T. Academy hosted its first-ever STEM invitational on Feb. 27, a day-long event where 50 boys from TAG Academy, M. Agnes Jones, Cleveland Elementary, and Centennial Academy flexed their scientific and technological muscles while participating in various coding and robotics competitions.
Sponsored by the Atlanta-based Henry and Beverly Respres Foundation, the program was designed to serve as a pipeline opportunity for STEM education while exposing and providing younger students with hands-on science, technology, engineering and math activities.
During the event, students participated in circuits designed to teach the basics of coding, as well as robotics, mechanical engineering, and computer programming. In addition to making DIY lightsabers and learning about electricity, students also mastered the basics of programming a robot to make a square and travel through an obstacle course.
Other activities included creating makeshift cars using rubber bands, Popsicle sticks and plastic bottle caps to mimic a wheel and axle, as well as assembling airplanes to fly straight across the room.
STEM coordinator Marlon Alfaro said the program was designed to enhance students’ learning in a fun, yet stimulating environment.
“I want students to think that STEM is cool and fun, and that it’s interesting when they see the application,” Alfaro said. “I also want them to feel empowered that the things they’re learning in school they can apply that knowledge and have the ability to do those things. When they learn they can do it, there’s a sense of accomplishment.”
Jeremy Stready says he said a fun time learning new skills.
“I like it,” said Jeremy, a fifth grader at Cleveland Avenue Elementary School. “It’s something new.”
“I like that we can do so many things with coding,” said Randy Rios, a B.E.S.T. Academy sixth grader, who was on hand to assist the elementary students. “I also like that we make planes that can fly.”
His classmate, Vozjeon Cook, helped students build a rubber band-powered car.
“I love building new things, and I love using rubber bands,” he said.
According to Principal Dr. Timothy Jones, the program also served as a recruitment tool to attract prospective students who are matriculating through a STEM pathway.
“We are celebrating achievement and academics, and all the components of a STEM education – whether it be coding, engineering, the design process, innovation and creativity – as an opportunity for kids to work with our students,” Dr. Jones said. “We’re excited. This has been a real foundational opportunity for us to become a direct feeder for STEM pathways for grades 6-12.”
Assistant Principal Dr. Yamilsa Roebuck agreed.
“We wanted to provide seamless transition and let students know that there are options for them,” said Roebuck. “B.ES.T. has always been the best kept secret. We want parents and students to know that B.ES.T. is here, and we are working and pushing through, and we have a lot of options for our young men.”
Following the event, three students were crowned winners and received drones as top prizes. Sidelharth Gupta of Centennial Academy took home first prize, followed by second-place winner Anthony Daniel of M. Agnes Jones Elementary School. Justin Mohammed, who attends TAG Academy, placed third.