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Hampton students fire up STEAM skills at Ignite

| Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Brenden Capsambelis, a fifth grader at Poff Elementary, shows how to use some of the devices in the STEAM carts.
Submitted
Brenden Capsambelis, a fifth grader at Poff Elementary, shows how to use some of the devices in the STEAM carts.
Abigail Partee, a fourth grader at Poff Elementary, demonstrates how to use some of the devices in the STEAM cart.
Submitted
Abigail Partee, a fourth grader at Poff Elementary, demonstrates how to use some of the devices in the STEAM cart.
Brenden Capsambelis, a fifth grader at Poff Elementary, shows how to use some of the devices in the STEAM carts.
Submitted
Brenden Capsambelis, a fifth grader at Poff Elementary, shows how to use some of the devices in the STEAM carts.
Abigail Partee, a fourth grader at Poff Elementary, demonstrates how to use some of the devices in the STEAM cart.
Submitted
Abigail Partee, a fourth grader at Poff Elementary, demonstrates how to use some of the devices in the STEAM cart.

Hampton students were selected to showcase their skills at Ignite, a recent STEAM-focused event sponsored by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU).

They presented their STEAM carts, which they built last year, thanks to a 2016 grant coordinated through the AIU.

STEAM refers to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The AIU-sponsored annual event on Oct. 24 reveals the culmination of the STEAM grants given to local school districts, according to Tyler Samstag, of the AIU.

New this year were the Ignite talks in which six different districts provided rapid three-minute presentations about their funding, with County Executive Rich Fitzgerald there to kick off the Ignite talks, he said.

“The AIU invited Hampton students to present because we were so impressed with how students took ownership and were at the center of their STEAM cart initiative,” said Samstag.

Hampton robotics teacher Joe Afflerbach accompanied the students to the event.

He is one of the educators at Hampton who worked with the students on the design and building of the carts last year.

These carts are used to hold and transport technological devices around the grade schools.

At Ignite, Afflerbach, who worked with students last year in his engineering design course, said the students were allotted three minutes to discuss their ideas, design and construction of the STEAM carts.

Between the middle school and high school students, the process was start to finish. Along with coming up with ideas, designing on CAD and building the carts, they had to solve problems they encountered along the way. In all, three STEAM carts were presented to each of the elementary schools last year.

Afflerbach said four students presented in front of a large crowd at the Ignite event, providing a PowerPoint presentation and demonstrations of the whole process. It also tested their public speaking skills.

Audience members included numerous teachers and administrators, including Hampton's superintendent Dr. Michael Loughead, as well as politicians, business professionals and grantors, Afflerbach said.

“The event went great. The students, although nervous, did an awesome job presenting,” Afflerbach said. “They received a very positive response ... I am so proud of my students. They made Hampton proud.”

Hampton has been the recipient of several funding avenues to build labs for these STEAM projects, including from the Hampton Alliance for Educational Excellence. The AIU granted the district $20,000 made possible from Chevron, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation, which was used toward this project.

Students included at the Ignite presentation included: eighth-graders Mia Conte and Rachel Dolan; sophomore Ben Horvat, and junior Nick Michielli, who talked about the Engineering Design Process.

Two elementary students, Brendan Capsambelis and Abigail Partee from Poff Elementary were also at the exhibit demonstrating how to use some of the devices in the STEAM carts, said Afflerbach.

It was a key educational experience for them, said Conte, 14, who “learned how to work on a big group and to work under pressure.”

Horvat, 15, agreed.

“It was great to work collaboratively with the middle school and my high school teammates,” he said.

Hands-on projects are great for the classroom, said Afflerbach, a former engineer.

“It's always good for students … to struggle and find a solution. That's something that we don't always have the time for in classes,” he said.

Natalie Beneviat is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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