STEM Outreach and Community Engagement – 4-VA Grant Supports Future Engineers and Scientists

by Linda Lane Sheridan

Dr. Cynthia Smith and Dr. Remy Pangle at the SEAS event KidWind competition. Photo by Kathleen Copeland Fish.

A Mason 4-VA grant supported a STEM Outreach and Community Engagement project that helped to bring 800 Northern Virginia PK-12 grade students to the 4th annual School Environmental Action Showcase (SEAS) held on campus April 9. The SEAS event provided a “fun and educational way to develop budding engineers and future scientists that could help solve our environmental problems,” according to Dr. Cynthia Smith, the event organizer and grant PI. Dr. Smith is an assistant professor in Mason’s Environmental Science and Policy program, and Education Director for the Potomac Environmental Research & Education Center (PEREC).

The grant provided funds for community outreach and paired the initiative with 2 credit EVPP 490 focused on STEM outreach. The course was shared with Dr. Remy Pangle from James Madison University’s Center for Wind Energy. Students in the shared course coordinated the logistics for the SEAS event and served in organizational and leadership roles. Final projects submitted by students in the class were uploaded to YouTube. Two examples of the class submissions are Shelby Galvin’s video reflection and Elizabeth Sponn’s presentation.

One highlight of the SEAS event was the KidWind Challenge. Sixty students from participating middle and high schools designed wind turbines that were then tested at the event for energy output. The top 3 teams competed April 25th in the regional event held at James Madison University Center for Wind Energy.

Another event at SEAS, Caring for our Watersheds, is a competition among the participating schools to demonstrate new ways to help improve local watersheds. George Washington Middle School, Lanier Middle School and Kenmore Middle School took home a total of $6,000 in cash prizes. Other events included a school mascot competition utilizing recycled materials.

Providence Elementary School's Panthers win the Recycled Mascot Challenge! Part of #NOVASEAS15 April 9.

Providence Elementary School’s Panthers prize winning  Recycled Mascot Challenge.  Photo by Linda Sheridan.

The SEAS event not only showcased the students’ talents but also gave them the opportunity to tour the Mason campus and STEM facilities. 4-VA grant funds also paid for bus transportation from schools representing underserved communities, Title I schools, that otherwise may not have participated in the event.


Linda Lane Sheridan is the Deputy Campus Coordinator of the Mason 4-VA program

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