By Christine Galeone, Contributing Writer
Grafton – Paul Lynskey, executive director of the Blackstone Valley Education Foundation (BVEF), knows how vital it is to capture middle school students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and math. So, seeing students’ reaction to the 10th annual Blackstone Valley STEM Conference was exciting.
“It amazes me to sit in the back of the auditorium, near the close of the conference, and watch 100 middle school students jumping up in their seats and raising their hands to volunteer to be picked by presenter Mac Andrews…and participate in electrical current experiments,” said Lynskey. “These students have just finished six hours of classroom workshops and presentations on a Saturday afternoon, and they appeared pumped up enough to continue for another six hours.”
The conference was held at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University Oct. 21. It was hosted by Tufts and the BVEF, a nonprofit that aims to enhance the skills of the future workforce by bringing schools, businesses and the community together. At the conference, students from various Blackstone Valley middle schools explored careers in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
Danielle Buczek, director of special programs at the veterinary school, said that she feels honored to help the students see the importance of STEM careers. Her office coordinated the primary logistics for the event.
“To be honest, this conference is my absolute favorite day of the year, even though I am exhausted at the end of the day. I love the kids’ excitement…,” shared Buczek. “These kids are amazing; they get up early to spend all day…learning about STEM, and…they don’t want to go home! You can’t help but feel energized after being around such smart, engaged students.”
That engagement was sparked by presentations given by Lynskey, Cummings School Dean Dr. Deborah T. Kochevar, and STEM professionals from the community and the veterinary school. The keynote speech, “Making a New You – The Science of Regeneration,” was given by Julia Paxson, an associate professor of biology at the College of the Holy Cross. Additionally, the workshops included “How to be a Dog Doctor,” “Building a Military Ration: The Science Behind Feeding Soldiers Around the World,” “Exploring the Intersection of Veterinary Medicine and Engineering,” and “Clinical Pathology Lab Detective Work – Partners in Finding the Culprits of Disease.”
Mac Andrews, electrical engineering fellow at Raytheon, presented “Catch the Wave: Electrophysics of Music” and gave the van de Graaff (electrostatic charge generator) demonstration. The senior engineer, who won the 2016 Russell P. Stanhope Distinguished Friend of Science Award, enjoyed the students’ enthusiasm.
“The students were very interested in understanding how the record player could ‘listen’ to the bumps on the record, how computers stored and converted data into music, and how waving their hands near the Theremin caused it to change frequency,” said Andrews. “They now know there is science behind the music they listen to.”