Middletown High students start online STEM club

MIDDLETOWN — When classes were canceled, so was everything else — from extracurriculars to clubs to sports. That left students with more time and no outlet.

That fact was the driving force behind the STEM Organization of Delaware, a club started — while schools went remote — by three Middletown High School juniors.

“When the quarantine started, what happened was all the clubs that we’re a part of got shut down, obviously,” said Raaj Pednekar. “We wanted to give students that were interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) something to do during this time. So we banded together and decided to make the organization.”

The STEM Organization of Delaware endeavors to connect students interested in STEM with like-minded peers, while giving them an outlet for their passion and interests. Since the organization comes in response to remote learning, its purpose is to be accessible online while students aren’t in school. The students are using platforms like Zoom and Facebook to connect.

The organization also comes with a competition component where students design a project. For science, students create a lab experiment and a lab report explaining what they sought to discover. In technology, students are tasked with finding a problem to solve through programming. Contestants in the engineering competition must design and build something that addresses a problem. The mathematics project asks contestants to research a problem or theory and use mathematical models for a solution.

“Our organization basically connects students interested in STEM, and we have a lot of online resources for our members to use and we allow them to network digitally as well,” Collin Bowers said. “We just want to expose them to the exciting opportunities that the STEM field provides.”

The organization is open to all high school students across the state. After launching the first week of May, the group drummed up more than 50 members and 15 different schools.

“The process leading up to it actually was way longer than getting people to join because we had to create a website, make it look formal and then we also had to formulate a response to [school] counselors, and emails — and we had to gather all that information,” said Victor Shi.

Membership is free. Students have until June 15 to submit their projects for judging. Raaj, Collin and Victor aren’t participating, and STEM professionals are judging. For instance, University of Pennsylvania graduates will review science and engineering projects.

First place will receive $150, second place $50 and third place $25. There will also be awards for excellence in design process, and for the most creative STEM project.

They funded the prizes for the spring competition out of their pockets, as a group.

“In the beginning, obviously, we didn’t have a lot of help,” Raaj said. “But we hope after the success we’ve had for this first one — we currently have a sponsor, and we’re looking for more — hopefully [sponsors] can help.”

They plan to hold more contests — in the fall and then the spring — as the organization continues to grow. To prepare for that, they intend to do a brunt of the planning through the summer.

“I feel like we have gained skills along the way, because I don’t believe any of us have actually had this experience before, of creating a club or something like this,” Victor said. “We’re learning how this may work in the real world, or how business may function and how operations go. So it’s a great learning experience.”

Through the clubs they participate in regularly, there are some skills they were able to use, “but to actually work as a team, it hits the real world aspect,” Collin added.

Ultimately, it gives students an opportunity to meet those with shared interests and a place to pursue their passions.

“I know a lot of my friends and people I know are currently bored and not sure what to do, so I think this is like a great outlet for someone that if they win they get money, it’s great,” Raaj said. “If you don’t win, it’s something fun.”

For more information, visit https://stemde.org.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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