STEM Hacks competition teaches youth about science and technology


On January 28, 2017, Mathstronauts, a Hamilton-based not-for-profit organization hosted their second annual STEM Hacks competition. The day brings together 150 middle school students and nearly 80 McMaster students as volunteers and mentors.

Teams of students are given science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) related challenges for a chance to win a prize and bragging rights. Science participants learn about the theory of flight and aerodynamics and were challenged to design an aircraft that achieved the longest distance and a linear flight path. Engineering participants learned how to do computer programming in order to build an autonomous parking lot system that was able to regulate car traffic in a model parking lot. A panel of judges graded projects and the best “hacks” were announced at a grant Closing Ceremony in which parents, families, students, and volunteers all joined to witness their work.

Throughout the day students also meet current STEM professionals and hear myths about STEM programs that often include spending long hours doing lab work, myths which often prevent them from being interested in science and technology fields.

Mathstronauts is changing this perception with middle-school students by delivering after-school programs, special events such as STEM Hacks, and workshops that make the subjects of science and engineering fun, interactive and applicable to their lives.

“As a parent, I believe that Mathstronauts is an incredible creation. It ‘ticks all the boxes’ in terms of what parents and students are both looking for,” said Deborah Eldridge, whose son participated in Mathstronauts for three consecutive years.

“At Mathstronauts we’re building a new STEM-culture, where STEM is the new ‘cool’ thing to do – where kids are driven by a curiosity about their surroundings, and are encouraged to realize that STEM exists in their everyday lives and affects most, if not all, of what they do,” says Sehrish Zehra, Executive Director of Mathstronauts.

Mathstronauts’ goal is to change the landscape of STEM education through innovative and creative experiential learning opportunities.

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