Students showcase projects at annual AV Union High School District STEM Expo

Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

Happy winners: Students pose with their well-deserved awards during the third annual Antelope Valley Union High School District STEM Expo at Eastside High School. Theories and experiments covered many aspects of life including life on Mars, how an egg can be helpful in learning about osmosis and kidney dialysis, and how to build a filter to save marine life from dangerous oil spills.

Approximately 125 students participated in the third annual Antelope Valley Union High School District STEM Expo at Eastside High School where they competed in seven categories: Environmental Agricultural Innovation, Invention, Reverse Engineering, Rube Goldberg, Robotics and Computer Science, Science Fiction and Scientific Inquiry.

“This showcases what kids are doing, not just in science class but across the spectrum of categories. Kids are smarter these days, technology is changing and these kids are keeping up,” said Greg Nehen, assistant superintendent of educational services for the Antelope Valley. “Every year the kids put more and more into their products.” Nehen said he is very thankful for the 25 judges that participated. “We have judges that are scientists from NASA, the Air Force Research Lab, and all types of aerospace engineers that our kids can talk with — it is very good for them.”

Students came up with projects that answer practical, everyday questions such as, “What makes the best homemade fertilizer?” and “What toothpaste whitens best?” They discovered that egg shells, coffee grounds, banana and orange peelings work better than Miracle-Gro and that Coke is one of the worst products that stains teeth; however, Arm and Hammer is the best toothpaste to brighten those Coke-laden smiles.

Alexander Garcia and Major Ortiz, sophomores at SOAR High School, demonstrate Rube Goldberg using ten transfers of energy during the third annual Antelope Valley Union High School District STEM Expo at Eastside High School. Ortiz surprised his mother on her birthday when the contraption “dropped” her a gift. Both students would like to work for Northrop Grumman or Lockheed Martin.

Devon Woolston and Joey Beam, sophomores at Quartz Hill High School, won the grand prize with their laser engraver that they created by scavenging parts from a computer’s CD player, DVD player and a few other items costing a little over $20. Using Python and a Raspberry Pi Computer, the team came up with a laser to engrave paper.

Michael Millings, district expo coordinator and chemistry teacher at Quartz Hill said that the community is pulling together to make each year bigger and better. “We live in an area where there is a huge demand for aerospace engineers so we decided a few years ago that we needed to put this together for students around the Antelope Valley to show their skills, network and maybe even land an internship.”

Prizes included trophies, medals, MacBook Air computers, Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and huge bragging rights.

Dylan Clayton and Osiel Albarran from Pete Knight High School used their engineering and design skills to build a Rube Goldberg machine.