Today was a bittersweet day at Liberty Science Center, because we said goodbye to some graduating seniors from STEMCivics charter school in Trenton. For the past four years, this group has grown with us, both as scientists and as people.
The STEMCivics and Liberty Science Center partnership enhances the students’ science education with hands-on experiences at LSC, since their facilities lack lab space. Over the last four years, the students have used LSC's labs, experienced Electronic Field Trips, participated in LSC's Live From Surgery program, and more.
"In an environment like we're in, where we have limited resources, something like this can monumentally impact the kids," said Kathleen Banko, the school's health and physical education teacher. "You can’t learn from a book what you learn right in front of you.”
Physics instructor Erik Szwed agreed. "LSC showed the students the power of the ideas that they learn," he said. "You can talk about math and abstract ideas all day but unless you actually see something happen it doesn’t really sink in.”
Their final visit today, June 8, was packed with activities.
First, the students saw three demonstrations: a magnetic levitation track, an experiment exploring the angular momentum of childhood toys like Yo-Yos, and a look at fluid properties and pressure. Next, they enjoyed homemade liquid nitrogen ice cream, made in front of them by LSC staff.
Ending the day was a special presentation of our Nikola Tesla Lightning Show, where the students were amazed that two million volts of electricity were dancing to iconic graduation song "Pomp and Circumstance."
Deepa Shah, the manager of specialized STEM programs at LSC, reflected on her favorite memory with this group of students, which was during their sophomore year when they approached her about their options for attending college. “It was really special to see that they are considering college and interested in learning more about opportunities in STEM," she said.
The students’ favorite memory? Learning to dissect a cow eye, said student Elena Leon, without hesitation.
Her classmate Abdiel Ramirez agreed. “It’s not something we would’ve done on a daily basis," Ramirez said. "We were always doing new things here, it was never boring.”
Student Emely Montepeque added that they learned a lot about science, but also the importance of responsibility – both with materials and the world around them.
"We grew up here," said Montepeque.
All three students said they hope to continue science in the future, pursuing careers in electrical engineering and forensic science.
With one successful graduating class finishing up, LSC’s relationship with STEMCivics only grows. The original group was 100 students, and now the program has grown to nearly 600. In the future, the program will include even more experiences that are career-oriented and applicable to life in the workforce.
Congratulations again to the class of 2018! We can't wait to see all the incredible things you accomplish in your careers.