STEM-based solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic are being developed by some of Lynn’s high school students.
About 90 KIPP students are taking part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Week Challenge — an initiative from the Mass STEM Hub and One8 Foundation — developing apps to help the community deal with COVID-19.
Students begin by thinking through COVID-related problems, imagining an app that could address the issue, designing paper plans, and experimenting with app-design software.
“It’s about digging into the process, figuring out what works and what doesn’t,” said Allen Wang, science department chair at KIPP, who has worked at the school for five years.
Mass STEM Hub partnered with curriculum providers and leading companies to design the STEM Week Challenge, offering different challenges for elementary, middle, and high school students across the state.
This year, more than 300 teachers and more than 200 schools are participating in the challenge statewide, representing an estimated 35,000 students.
The challenge is aligned with the third annual STEM week, which takes place from Oct. 19 to Oct. 23 and features a variety of different STEM-focused design challenges for students across the commonwealth.
Strengthening STEM education in schools across the Commonwealth has been a priority of the Charlie Baker/Karyn Polito administration, which began the annual STEM week tradition in 2018.
Bob Lenz, CEO of PBLWorks, a curriculum partner that helped design the challenge, explained the importance of encouraging kids to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest STEM challenge of our time, and students are experiencing its effects every day,” said Lenz.
The theme for this year’s STEM week is “See Yourself in STEM,” which focuses on encouraging groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields to consider a career in science and technology.
These underrepresented groups include women, people of color, first-generation students, low-income individuals, English language learners, and people with disabilities.
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Wang. “[Representation] is so crucial now because COVID has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. This challenge allows them to be the innovators in their community instead of someone from the outside.”
Increasing representation in STEM is an ongoing battle that Wang says should be addressed by projects like the design challenge, which use STEM to face real-world problems.
“It starts with having strong teachers and rich instructional material that provides a lot of perspective,” said Wang. “And keeping the curriculum current and relevant.”