Posted May 23, 2012

Area school students unveil apps, wind-powered devices at weekend STEM events

Two events held this past weekend demonstrate Temple’s commitment to advancing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in the community.

On Friday, students from Philadelphia’s George Washington Carver High School for Engineering and Science, Central High School and Harambee Institute of Science and Technology Charter School graduated from a three-month Java/Mobile Apps Design Studio that culminated with the unveiling of applications they had developed for Android mobile phones.

On Saturday at the College of Engineering, students from five Greater Philadelphia area middle schools and four high schools competed in designing and building a windmill device to harness wind energy to accomplish specific tasks.

Both programs were part of Temple’s Math Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) program, an award-winning initiative that promotes participation in STEM coursework  among students from disadvantaged and under-resourced schools.

Students participating in the MESA design studio had spent their Saturdays for three months learning the basics of computer science, Java programming skills and developing mobile applications under the tutelage of Emmy-award winning technologist Dean Harris. As part of their graduation, the students will receive summer internships to teach other high school students computer science skills.

The graduation ceremony featured a keynote address by technology entrepreneur and author W. David Tarver, who worked with Harris when both were engineers with Bell Laboratories in New Jersey.

“It was very inspiring to see (the students’) applications,” said Tarver. “And not only see what they have produced, but to see how excited they were and how well they worked together.”

Saturday’s windmill competition was the first Pennsylvania qualifier for the MESA National Wind Energy Challenge. A team from Philadelphia’s Leeds Middle School was the overall winner and will be sponsored by Temple to compete in national finals in Seattle against schools from eight other states with MESA initiatives. The team from Young Scholars Frederick Douglass Middle School will attend the finals as an alternate.

Jamie Bracey, director of STEM education in Temple’s College of Engineering, who oversees the MESA initiative, said the student teams had been preparing for the competition for the past six months.

“This is the first MESA competition for Pennsylvania, and it allows Temple to leverage its diversity across the university as part of a nationally recognized STEM program,” she said.

Last year, Temple became the lead institution in Pennsylvania for the MESA initiative, which has sites in eight other states through institutions such as Johns Hopkins, the University of Washington and UC-Berkley.