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STEM Pathway on Display at Santa Clarita Student Showcase

As he stood in Emblem Academy, Anthony VanPuyvelde was a little nervous.

He was there to demonstrate two robots he’d built as part of class at Arroyo Seco Junior High School, and explain his work to business leaders, college professors, and other leaders in the community. The eighth grader wasn’t exactly sure how he would describe the claw-machine robots to his audience, but as he quickly found that the words came as easily as the robots moved.

“We went to show how in this class we learned how to put robots together using simple tools like Allen wrenches,” Van Puyvelde said. “You hook the brain of the robot up to a computer, type up the code and put it into the robot, flip a switch and it follows the code and does the actions we want it to.”

VanPuyvelde, who has taken five engineering courses at Arroyo Seco, was one of the students who participated in the Santa Clarita Student STEM Showcase (S3) March 7 at Emblem Academy. The event featured students from elementary school through college demonstrating their STEM skills to local business leaders and educators.

Students showed projects in areas including 3D printing, Scratch programming, and computer-assisted design — just to name a few.

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The showcase was the culmination of years of work to solidify the STEM pathway across the Saugus District, Hart District, College of the Canyons (COC), and California State University, Northridge (CSUN). The pathway focuses on the areas of computer science, networking, engineering, advanced manufacturing and prepares students for careers in those fields.

With support from the participating community colleges, universities, and Project Lead the Way, students are able to begin learning crucial STEM skills in elementary school and continue up through a college degree in a field that’s in demand.

When Emblem Elementary in Saugus closed its doors for renovations seven years ago, the District surveyed the community to ask parents what type of school they would like to see when it reopened. The overwhelming response? Something STEM focused.

The school reopened as Emblem Academy in 2013 and now serves as the foundation for the STEM pathway that also includes Ethics and Entrepreneurship (ESTEEM).

“One adult attendee was amazed at how articulate a fifth grade student was when describing how she uses Tinkercad and 3D pinting to design and print a class projects,” Baker said.

Baker had eight elementary students from Emblem Academy participate in the showcase. He’s received great feedback from attendees about how well prepared the students were for their demonstrations.

“One of the adults in attendance was amazed that one how the students articulated how she used tinker cad to create something on a 3D printer and she was in fifth grade,” Baker said.

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Arroyo Seco had seven students participate in the showcase, covering the areas of automation, coding, robotics, flight, and space technologies. Assistant Principal Catherine Nicholas said this is the school’s third year participating in the STEM pathway and the students were excited to show off what they’d learned to the community at S3.

“This showcase was a good way to get industry to see what we’re doing and see if they’re interested in helping us get to the next level,” Nicholas said.

On the college side, students from both COC and CSUN participated in the S3 event. They were able to show their work to the community, and to the younger students in attendance.

Paula Hodge, Deputy Sector Navigator for Information and Communication Technologies at Santa Clarita Community College, helped organize the event said about 100 business and community members attended the event.

It was held over the lunch hour to accommodate their schedules and also included a keynote from Maria Blue, a first grade teacher at Emblem and a member of the California Science Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee

Hodge said the first STEM pathway students will graduate high school this spring and move on to college, so the timing seemed right to showcase the progress that’s been made thus far.

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She also hopes to use the pathway as a prototype for the other community colleges in her sector.

“We can show our partners that education is listening to them and we’re trying to bring competencies to the students at a very young level so they can explore careers in STEM,”

Hodge said. “Planting those seeds is something I enjoy doing and the school systems will take it from there.”

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