Traveling STEM museum makes stop at B.F. Norton School

Traveling STEM museum makes stop at B.F. Norton School

Kindergartners at B.F. Norton Elementary School listen to Mark Bishop, STEM administrator for Mobile Ed Productions, speak about the robot NAO. (Valley Breeze photos by Jessica Boisclair)

CUMBERLAND - The gymnasium at B.F. Norton Elementary School was bustling with excitement last week as Mobile Ed Productions transformed the room into a mini science museum aimed at teaching students about the national STEM program.

STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, has been a major focus in schools nationwide.

Since 1979, the production company has traveled the country hosting school assembly programs and hands-on workshops in a variety of subjects for students. Mark Bishop, administrator for Mobile Ed, said this is only the second year that the museum has visited schools to teach students about careers in STEM.

"A lot of the jobs today and in the future have to do with maybe one of those different things or a couple," he told the students. "When you think about it, you do math everyday. Whether we're counting money or doing music and trying to keep the beat."

Jennifer Bernardo, PTO president, said the PTO thought the traveling museum would be perfect for the students since the school is focusing largely on its science curriculum.

"Some kids have not been to a museum, so we brought it here and this is the hands-on thing we don't have a lot of time for in school these days," she said. "I think that the hands-on exploring and some of the concepts have a direct tie into what they are learning in school right now."

Each class at B.F. Norton was given an hour during the day to visit the gymnasium and interact with the nine displays.

While some displays were simpler, like Newton's Cradle and pictures of holograms, others, like the bicycle station, were more complex.

At the first station, students rode a stationary bicycle that was attached to a light. As the students rode, the amount of energy they produced would light up different sections of the pole. This, Bishop said, teaches the students about Sir Isaac Newton's first law of motion, "An object in motion stays in motion."

Other stations available taught students how to build an arch, create friction, see how engines run and engineer a structure with K'Nex toys.

The main attraction, however, was a humanoid robot named NAO.

Bishop said Aldebaran Robotics in France developed NAO as an educational tool. This small robot is equipped with a 1.7 GHz chip, 1 GHz of memory, two cameras, four microphones and sensors to stop it from walking into objects.

"It can also be programmed for autistic children as well. It's endless what it can do on the educational level," he said.

Bishop demonstrated NAO's ability by having it speak with the children, sing "Happy Birthday", do sit ups, lunges and karate moves.

Mia Donahugh, a 4th-grader at B.F. Norton Elementary School, is able to light up the pole by riding the stationary bicycle, above.
From left, B.F. Norton Elementary School 4th-graders Skylar Almeida and Elijah St. Pierre roll cans down a slope to learn how different textures create friction.