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Young Scientists Create Their Own Comets, Build a Coliseum and Make Science Rock

Love of science may STEM from early exposure, say happy kids and proud parents.

Jackson Young, right, a fifth-grader at Deep Run Elementary School, shows off his Lego structure to fourth-grader Nezar Chandi at the school's STEM night Thursday. |Credit: Jennifer Donatelli
Jackson Young, right, a fifth-grader at Deep Run Elementary School, shows off his Lego structure to fourth-grader Nezar Chandi at the school's STEM night Thursday. |Credit: Jennifer Donatelli

On a table at Deep Run Elementary School in Elkridge, the Coliseum had been transplanted so it was next to Seattle’s Space Needle and Jackson Young’s “Amazing House.”

Of course, it helped that all three were replicas made out of Legos.

The school’s fifth-graders built the creations as part of the school’s STEM night on Thursday. STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, is an effort in education to get students interested in possible careers in those fields.

The STEM night replaces the school’s science fair as a way to introduce those topics to students, said Robin Stevens, an instructional technology teacher and the school’s STEM coordinator. Deep Run will hold a STEM night later in March, in which the children will display projects they learned about starting with Thursday’s event, she said.

All grades participated with projects geared toward their age level, and it’s never too early for even the youngest children to learn about STEM, Stevens said.

“Getting them started early builds interest in something they might want to pursue as a career,” she said.

So that meant projects like the Lego contest, in which all grades participated. Fifth-graders built a structure using 300 Legos. Other grades built letters, cars, robots and symbols of Maryland, using varying amounts of Legos.

Jackson, 10, showed off his building he dubbed “The Amazing House,” which took a couple days to build and had special windows so “you can see if someone’s trying to break in.”

Next to the house was Andrew Datz’s replica of the Coliseum, but the 11-year-old was too engrossed in making sure the pieces didn’t fall to talk about it. His mother, Michelle, said she was proud of him because he did it by himself, other than asking for help on the Internet to find an image of a structure and deciding on the ancient Roman ruins.

“It’s a good, creative outlet for kids,” she said, adding her son has talked about architecture as a possible career.

The cafeteria with the Lego projects was just one room filled to capacity with parents and students. Wes Patterson and Carolyn Ernst, who work at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, were creating comets in the music room.

Yes, comets, although these were made out of soil, dry ice and water, Patterson said.

“It’s fun to introduce kids to science ideas like comets. It’s not something you’d think of: ‘Hey, I could make a comet,’ but it’s easy,” he said.

Students and parents alike craned their necks for a better look as Patterson and Ernst donned heavy gloves and mixed the components together. The dry ice caused a reaction with the water, binding all three together.

It appeared as if the parents were having as much fun as their children.

Colleen Darling and her 7-year-old daughter, Molly Ross, a second-grader, took turns inspecting a telescope from the Robinson Nature Center as volunteer Bob Savoy looked on. They also liked working with a cypher disk an employee from the National Security Agency brought.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I could do this,’” Darling said of using the disk.

And some of the exhibitors, many of whom were parents of students or knew school employees, said they hoped the event would spark an interest in STEM among the children.

After Isaiah Thomas was excited about the comets, Tammy Thomas, his mother, laughed and said, “Future scientist.”

“Well, that’s the idea,” Patterson replied.

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