Novato students explore STEM studies at new center

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  • San Marino High School students Ryan Wu and Banna Yohannes carry part of their team’s Rube Goldberg project to the new STEM building for an event on the Novato campus on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marino High School student Caetano Laliste embarks on his team’s Rube Goldberg contraption during an event at the new STEM building on the Novato campus on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • San Marino High School student Caetano Laliste embarks on his team’s Rube Goldberg contraption during an event at the new STEM building on the Novato campus on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Visitors to the new STEM building at San Marino High School on the evening of Rube Goldberg in Novato on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

As they have done for the past eight years, the freshmen of San Marino High School presented their creations at the Rube Goldberg this week to relatives, friends and other members of the public.

In the tradition of the designer of the same name, 63 students used rudimentary engineering and physics principles to create 16 convoluted and overly complicated automated machines that perform a simple and unique task.

But the real draw of Tuesday’s event was the location. The event was the first large public gathering at the Novato School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – or STEM – $ 13.1 million building.

The center was completed in September 2020 but was not fully utilized until this fall due to COVID-19, according to Nick Williams, chair of the faculty of the science department, which has 11 members.

Williams said the 18,000-square-foot center replaces four portable classrooms that have been moved elsewhere.

“We now have 10 classrooms and science labs for STEM teaching and learning,” Williams said. “There is also a common area for students with tables.”

Other features include a positive pressure cleanroom and student relaxation areas.

“It has an indoor-outdoor workflow model that is conducive to collaborative learning,” said Williams.

Williams said the new building serves as a touchstone for STEM Marin, the school’s magnetic science program.

STEM Marin is one of two such programs within the Novato Unified School District. The other is the Marin School of the Arts, a program based at Novato High School.

STEM Marin offers three courses: engineering, biotechnology and comprehensive. The first two courses are for science students and include two science courses per year, Williams said.

The complete course is intended for students of the general course and includes one science course per year. Students from all three streams have classes in the new building, according to Williams. In addition, the professors of the science department alternate between the different science classes now centered on the site.

“It has a very professional feel,” Kylie Voelker, a San Marino senior in the STEM engineering track, said of the installation. “It’s a very good learning atmosphere.

Voelker said she appreciated the building’s space, natural lighting and the large windows.

“There are big whiteboards for presentations,” she added. “It’s well put together and well designed.

The STEM Marin building is one of many new campus centers in the Novato Unified School District being built with funds from voter-approved bond measures. Earlier this year, the district unveiled new performing arts centers at both high schools and a variety of classroom and athletic field upgrades.


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