Middle school students from several different campuses returned to Spirito Hall yesterday morning, a week after they previously assembled to participate in the STEAM & Aspire3 event, a series of entrepreneurial activities which culminates in a presentation that addresses and provides a solution to a social or environmental problem.
This two-day event began Jan. 23, where students took part in several lessons that taught entrepreneurship and began brainstorming what they would want to present. Led by BioScience Academy student volunteers acting as team facilitators, as well as facilitator Melissa Carlysle, CEO of SociHacks, the young students would research a common problem, develop a solution, and present to an audience.
Yesterday, returned to see the presentation of their ideas, exercising the process of adapting technology to meet their necessities in presenting.
“So they’re really taking social issues, determining solutions, representing it through technology,” Carlysle said. “Everyone’s gotten a chance to learn it, they’ve all had a chance at one point or another to learn all the apps.”
To represent their social issues and solution, students created a presentation, a video, and either a website or smartphone app to convey their message. Apps such as Weebly, a user-friendly website creation tool, as well as video creation apps Replay and Magisto are used to accomplish this.
“So STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, and so we’re looking to expose students to careers that embed all of those things,” BioScience Academy Director Darcy Duffy said. “So we brought some of those aspects in to give them a taste of what STEAM careers could be.”
Students create their website and video utilizing creative components and design, correlating with the creative design involved with entrepreneurship.
“Basically what they’re doing is creating websites,[…] they’re creating video […], creating the scripts themselves, creating every single piece that will be shown,” Carlysle said. “They decided their websites, they decided their theme, each of that’s a representation of their own ideas. It’s definitely self-creation.”
BioScience students who decided to volunteer, such as senior Tess McLaughlin and junior Anika Hsu, received leadership training prior to the event in order to efficiently lead a team as facilitators.
“So we’re essentially just facilitating the ideas, so we’re helping them in terms of the technology aspect of it, if they have any problems, any questions, and trying to get everyone involved in the process,” Hsu said.
“I think it helps them to gain an idea on possible career opportunities they may be interested in, and to learn a little bit more about what [STEAM] is about and Foothill as a school,” McLaughlin said.
“It’s been amazing to see the high school students, the facilitators, really take a leadership role, to be able to kind of lead the teams,” Carlysle said. “They’ve learned that not everyone is at the same place, so they’ve tried to adjust and make sure everybody is included, which has been great.”
The middle school students enjoyed their entrepreneurship endeavor, such as Anacapa 7th grader Aaron Jaohnson, who addressed the rising problem of excess carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere.
“I really like [this event],” Jaohnson said. “It’s fun, it’s educational.”
As the students reconvened after their lunch break, they crowded around tables with their groups collaborating on their project, using Foothill’s Chromebooks, in addition to their smartphones. As their project neared conclusion, the groups prepared for a presentation.
Anacapa 8th grader Carlos Pena and DATA 7th grader Kate Leung decided to address global warming and how it causes ice caps to melt.
“Well we’ve been working on solutions of how to reduce a bit of global warming,” Leung said. “We’re thinking of kind of just reduce a bit of coal and fossil fuels, and use renewable resources instead.”
“Well, I’ve been to a lot of tables, and they talk about different solutions to helping the environment,” Pena said. “I think [that addressing] global warming will be one of the most amazingly helpful environment [solutions].”
Finally, at 2:00 p.m., parents and family arrived and took a seat in Spirito Hall, where they would see the entrepreneurship experience culminate in their presentation.
Each of the nine groups, named after a famous woman who worked in STEAM, would take turns presenting to their peers, friends, and family. Some groups discussed problems with the environment, problems with education, and even the issue of the mistreatment of animals.
“It’s not about that problem and solution they came up with, it was about the process of them going through this as a team, designing the website, designing the app, designing the video, getting up there and sharing it in front of everyone,” Duffy said. “I was really impressed with how well they did with the short time to come up with all those finished products and be able to share it in front of a pretty large crowd.”
“I would say a lot of the problems they have come up with are very realistic for things we need to address in society,” Duffy said. “But no huge surprises because […] after doing it with my classes, I’ve heard a lot of the problems students brainstorm and they’re all really good ones of things we should be addressing.”
This event was spearheaded by Duffy after she saw a similar event at Cal State Channel Islands, but the spots quickly filled up.
“So we just decided to blend two events, and to target middle school, and let the high schoolers be facilitators,” Duffy said. “That’s where it originated from, so we thought we would give this a try as a model and pilot it out to see if it’s something that could be done in other school districts with their high schools leading and the middle schools being exposed to some of this STEM or STEAM activities.”
There, Duffy and Carlysle collaborated with Sean Bhardwaj, founder and CEO of Aspire3 and Foothill alumnus (‘05), to create this event. Through Aspire3, Bhardwaj hoped to help students find their passion, as well as giving them the skills they would need to become entrepreneurs in today’s society.
“We’re doing more events to get students involved with STEAM and other things, so it’s branched out into a lot of different things, but the core of what we do is the same,” Bhardwaj said. “It’s really empowering students and teachers to help each other kind of realize their passion.”
Overall, they felt that the STEAM & Aspire3 event was a success in helping students realize their possibilities in STEAM careers to students such as Cabrillo 7th grader Megha Chandrasha.
“Before coming here, I never really had much thought about entrepreneurship, but now I guess I do,” Chandrasha said. “It’s inspired me.”
“I’m glad to see so many kids who were here that were a part of it, I’m glad to see so many parents that came to support them, and Foothill Tech High was incredible to host it. It went really great,” said Carlysle.
“What was really neat to see I think alluding to before, is those relationships and those bonds, and I think everyone’s been really kind and respectful, and encouraging of each other, and that’s just something you want to see more of,” Bhardwaj said.
“I think it’s gone really well. Two days have been hard for students, so we might have to think about if we can do it back-to-back, or just have one super long day or something like that, just with their busy schedules and their commitment,” Duffy said.
“But the first day had a lot of energy of students building. It’s brainstorming problems and designing their apps and websites, some even did both.”
The schedules had been shown to be an issue, as several groups reported missing members yesterday.
“So now that they got to touch it, feel it, and experience it, there are less walls up to it of something they might consider,” Duffy said. “That’s been great.”
Duffy was also impressed with the high school facilitators, as they led a team and made sure everyone was included.
“I think what I liked about this event and what was really the driving force behind it is we want the students to really have that discovery, that that knowledge is sort of inside of them, and if not the knowledge, the ability to find that knowledge,” Bhardwaj said.
“And so I think that students have been leading it here from the BioScience Academy at Foothill, and that you have middle school students and they’re learning to find their voice and interact with each other, and there are students from different schools that they wouldn’t have met, I think that’s really powerful.”
After this pilot run, Duffy hopes to continue holding this event next year.
“We would probably add a different flavor to it, maybe a different type, […] so maybe developing a model or having some kind of design contest of building something, that could be fun,” Duffy said. “So may not be in this same format, of app and website, but something else with the same kind of feel to it […]. And I hope to see this expanded county-wide if other school districts are interested as well.”
“We want to continue to have these events throughout all the school system here in Ventura County, so if people are interested in getting some information about it, feel free to contact me,” Carlysle said.
“They really put in a lot of work to pull this together and do all the work beforehand, and also our high school student volunteers who’ve given up their time on Saturdays and all of our students,” Bhardwaj said. “So I think it’s been really good team effort, and I’m really proud of what they’ve done.”
Background Photo Credit: Gabrialla Cockerell/The Foothill Dragon Press