Fun and science — and career — were the words of the day at the 2022 Brevard Public Schools Innovation Games.
The STEM game series for Brevard students in grades 4-12, which took place Friday at Satellite High School, was designed to capture the interests and passions of students interested in STEM.
Sponsored by Northrop Grumman, Jacobs, and L3Harris, among others, the organizers and volunteers hoped their future would also inspire them.
“Some things you’ll never understand. I think it opens their eyes to all the different career paths you can go down,” said Irene Rice, gifted educator at Audubon and Tropical Elementary Schools. “This is exciting for fourth and fifth graders.”
A pair of Audubon’s Rice students had just swept their bow at the Junior Solar Sprint, put on by the University of Florida’s Solar Energy Center and the Army’s Educational Outreach Program, in which runners build and race their own mini solar-powered derby. cars.
It was one of more than half a dozen events on Friday, which also included drone racing, underwater robotics, coding software, eSports, and even a “Shark Tank” competition where students pitched their invention ideas to a panel of judges.
Above the pool, Pearson Mast, Kayden Sivak, and Justin Smith maneuver their homemade submersible robot through an underwater obstacle course, struggling against a malfunctioning motor.
The three seniors at Satellite High—collectively, Team Titanic—were frustrated when a segment collapsed just before the competition. However, Mast said, “We did surprisingly well.”
Designed by the SeaPerch International School’s Robotics Program, the SeaPerch Challenge sees students build their own aquatic robots and pit them against each other in a series of experiences inspired by the real world.
“There are a lot of STEM classes out there, like physics and calculus and all that, but there’s not a lot of practical stuff we can really apply that to,” Sivak said. “With that, you get to have fun and apply those things.”
Laurie and Roger Hickman of Rising Star Leadership Development said they helped bring the SeaPerch competition to Brevard County to inspire students to apply their knowledge outside of the classroom—and even consider STEM careers, in their own backyard.
“We’re trying to help Brevard County, the Space Coast, continue our pipeline” of students in local tech industries, said Roger Hickman.
Lori Hickman said the students were really moved by the competition, which has grown to include 37 teams across the county from elementary school through high school.
“They love it with their hands. They learn how to weld. They dig. They use all the tools to prep and put SeaPerch together,” she said. “It is absolutely amazing.”
Across campus, Rockledge high school senior Stephen Gentile is among a group of students grinding around a series of screens in the media center, taking turns playing the popular driving/soccer hybrid video game called Rocket League.
Gentiles and others are not just players, said his coach Aaron LeBlanc. They are kind of athletic. And these aren’t just video games: they’re esports.
LeBlanc is the head coach of the Rockledge High esports team (pronounced “ee-sports”), and is as tough as anyone you’ll find in traditional school sports like football or soccer.
“Our exams are incredibly rigorous. It’s a long month. Three days a week, you have to come in to practice. It’s very dangerous,” LeBlanc said. “We have practices, tests, scuffles. It’s just like any other sport.”
Esports is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, and one of the fastest expanding extracurricular activities in schools across the country.
While athletes in other sports train things like strength and speed, esports athletes train to improve problem-solving, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination. Just like with other sports, good players can earn college scholarships.
Like other sports, it can inspire more professional interests, LeBlanc said.
“Similar to how a football or soccer player might go into something related like sports management or physical therapy,” he said. “Video games are a magnet for getting them interested in STEM, and some of them go on to careers in STEM fields.”
Gentile said he wanted to go into biomedicine when he graduated from college. He’s hoping to attend Princeton next fall — and maybe join the esports team when he gets there.
“I’ve always played video games,” he said. “It’s always been a part of me, so I’m really excited about that.”
Nora McFarland clashed with a group of fourth and fifth graders from Satellite High. She is usually the executive director of the Brevard Children’s Showcase of Works; Today, she was just escorting.
As she walked across the campus, she pointed to current events. She said people should not be fooled by the fun and flash.
“People can say, ‘Oh, they’re just messing around,’ but they’re not,” McFarland said. “It’s really picking kids’ brains, into robotics, engineering, and math.”
“It’s real business, disguised as fun,” she said.
Eric Rogers is the observing correspondent for FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @EricRogersFT.
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