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Port Orange Observer Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 3 months ago

QLH, Volusia County Schools partner with Port Orange to promote STEM education

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The competition will include questions about science, technology, engineering and math.
by: Nichole Osinski Staff Writer

High school students across Volusia County will be participating in a competition that encourages science, technology, engineering and math both in school and in their future careers. 

The second annual STEM Solutions by Students includes six municipalities and several departments throughout the county. For the competition, students come up with real-world solutions related to STEM presented by the different municipalities. 

"We wanted to do something to promote STEM education in high schools in Volusia County and find some way we could be involved so kids would be better hopefully in STEM-related actives and studies and go off to college and come back and bring those skills and talents back to Volusia County," QLH President Brad Blais said.

The idea for a STEM-related initiative was originally spearheaded between Florida engineering firm QLH and Amy Monahan, K-12 STEM Specialist​ for Volusia County schools. According to Monahan, Port Orange City Manager Jake Johansson came up with the idea to have municipalities provide students with the questions in a county-wide competition. 

For example, Port Orange has two questions for students: one asking how to solve the flooding problem on the Horizon Elementary sidewalk off of Yorktown Boulevard; the second being from the Port Orange Police Department asking how to prevent car burglaries using the sources already in place. 

According to event organizers, last year some of the participating municipalities were able to use the answers given by students to solve those specific issues in the area.  

Students who participate in the competition work throughout September to find a solution. They can research and work in groups or by themselves. However, Monahan said teachers may also incorporate the competition into the classroom curriculum. 

"It's very open-ended, that's the beauty of it," Monahan said. "Because in life we don't say if you do this, this and this you'll get an A. These are actual problems in our areas, which is kind of cool."

To participate, students must be enrolled in the competition by Tuesday, Aug. 29 and have until Saturday, Sept. 23 to submit their solutions. Judges will come together on Tuesday, Sept. 26 before the winners are announced on Saturday, Sept. 30 during Port Orange Family Days. 

University High participants from the 2016 STEM Solutions by Students competition. Photo courtesy of Volusia County Schools

Last year's event had 65 students sign up to compete, a number Blais said he hopes to see increase in the future. He noted that programs such as this are ways to help prepare students for careers in STEM, which could include companies such as QLH, which specializes in engineering.  

"There isn't anything like this that I know of and so it's kind of cutting-edge blending the communities with the schools, Monahan said. "Education seems to be this entity out of itself and it really needs to be part of the community and this is a way to blend those."

For more information visit volusiastem.net. 

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