POCATELLO — A team from the Newcomer Center at Robert Stuart Middle School in Twin Falls won first place in the Idaho STEM Action Center’s 2019 Eastern Idaho FabSlam Showcase Feb. 23 at Idaho State University.
One of two such facilities in the Twin Falls School District — the other is at Lincoln Elementary School — the Newcomer Center assists students and families who have recently arrived in the United States. It provides an introduction to American culture and school processes and instructs the students in English and core subjects for about six months or until they are comfortable with school and prepared to transition to their home schools.
The FabSLAM Showcase was the culmination of a project that began in October 2018 when the STEM Action Center trained and equipped coaches from 15 eastern Idaho schools and libraries to assemble teams to vie in the competition. Each team identified a natural resources problem in its community that could be addressed using 3D printing and digital fabrication and developed and documented a product to help resolve it. The teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges and a public audience for review and feedback.
Comprised of students in grades six to eight who emigrated from Chad, Uganda, Tanzania and Mexico, the Newcomer Center team’s solution addressed the need to prevent mud homes in Sudan and Uganda from being destroyed by rain. Dubbed Think Tank, the team included Eca Bilemanga, Cesar Alejandro Hernandez, Ibrahim Ibrahim, Jawabu Kambale, Patience Kauyavu, Grace Kayitesi, Jake Miller and Eric Niyonzima.
Coached by teacher Khrista Buschhorn, the kids designed a rain diversion and catchment system comprised of an awning, gutter, water pipe and storage tank to protect homes during the rainy season and collect the water for use during the drought season. In addition to bragging rights, the students won a 3D printer and a $200 cash prize. For details of the project, go to sites.google.com/mytfsd.org/tfsdnewcomerclass.
Teams from West Minico Middle School in Rupert and Snake River Middle School in Blackfoot tied for third place, with West Minico also earning the Students’ Choice Award. Both teams won $250 for showing, plus West Minico Middle School received another $250 for winning Students’ Choice.
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Teacher Brandi Milliron coached the West Minico Middle School team, which was named WRECS after the garbage-sorting machine it developed called the Waste Recycling Environment Cleaning Sorter. Students included Teely Bott, Oakland Edwards, Reese Evans, Cree Milliron, Kaidence Mitchell and Michael Sonner-Cranney. For details of the project, go to spark.adobe.com/page/uAtCfEZISRNpF.
Launched by the Digital Harbor Foundation in 2013, FabSLAM is designed to engage youth in identifying, designing, prototyping, testing and iterating solutions to real-world problems. The Digital Harbor Foundation partnered with the Association of Science-Technology Centers and the Technology Councils of North America to expand the Baltimore program nationwide, with youth from Idaho participating since 2016. Statewide, 225 students and 58 educators and coaches participated this year.
According to Angela Hemingway, executive director of the STEM Action Center, competitions like FabSLAM are important to the future of Idaho because STEM knowledge and skills are needed for critical and creative thinking, problem solving, innovation and collaboration.
“Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the U.S.; its tech sector is the second fastest-growing in the nation at 6.3 percent; and 80 percent of all jobs will require technology skills within the next 15 years,” Hemingway said in a statement. “Meanwhile, Idaho’s unfilled STEM jobs leapt from 3,800 in 2016 to 6,300 in 2018 which represents nearly $413 million in lost personal wages and more than $22 million in lost state tax receipts.”
Hemingway said the Idaho Department of Labor predicts upward of 100,000 STEM jobs will exist in Idaho by 2024 and that these jobs will represent $6.5 billion in personal income and almost $350 million in tax revenue if Idaho’s workforce is posed to fill them.