Amazing Displays At the 2016 DC STEM Fair

If, you missed today\’s 2016 DC STEM Fair at Dunbar High School, then you missed an amazing display of talented youth, exciting exhibits, big smiles from proud parents, and enough high energy to fill a stadium. The DC STEM fair touts itself as the \”premier student competition in the District of Columbia\”. If you doubt them, spend a few minutes with Jackson Allen of DC Public Charter School.


Listen to the pride as he tells you about the motorized EV 3 he built out of Leggo ® blocks. It also has sensors to detect objects in front of it and change its course.


Or spend some time with Christopher Smith and Cabrel Foyet of  McKinley Technology High School. They demonstrated paper machines and a plastic prosthesis they are fabricating as part of their senior project. The enthusiasm and passion are hard to escape as they discuss the mentoring program they are involved in. They work with elementary school students to pass on the passion they gained \”at a very early age\” taking things apart and not always successfully putting them back together in their \”younger days\”. These two seniors are looking forward to continuing their post secondary education pursuing degrees in Electrical Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering……and that was only the first floor!

DC STEM Fair Student Exhibits

The first thing that struck me when I stepped into the students exhibit area was the diversity of the displays. They were colorful, somewhere incredibly designed, others were more hand-made but they all had an undeniable similarity – the passion for Science and Technology! But just as I had been inspired by the students on the first floor, it was this younger group of exhibitors I had a chance to speak to that was an overwhelming treat for me. It started with Isaac Porter and his experiment on Enhancing Plant Growth where I learned that glucose is a key ingredient for plant growth. His experiment identified sugar-free Red Bull ® as the second best enhancer to plant growth. He found that Gatorade ®  and Power Ade ®  didn\’t provide an environment for plants to grow. One for its excess glucose and the other for its low levels of glucose.


Bryce Hampton displayed amazing engineering aptitude as he described his experiment to determine \”Which Bridge Design Supports the Most Weight\”. He built a very elaborate expansion bridge out of what appeared to be nothing more than Popsicle ® sticks, rope and cardboard. He compared this to an arc bridge and then proceeded to figure out which would \”destruct or collapse\” first as he applied sand filled plastic bottles to each.


Genesis Young\’s experiment was on the effects of a substance,  she very adeptly pronounced, called cyanoacrylate (super glue to me and you!) on fingerprints.  That was enough right there to let me know that I was in over my head but when she informed me that \”fingerprints are formed inside the mother\’s stomach as the baby moves around touching various parts of the wall around it\”, I tried very hard to keep up. The experiment showed that if cyanoacrylate was heated too long the fingerprints blurred. If they were heated too short, they were faint or blurred. I walked away thinking that I had spoken to a future  forensic scientist

Then there was Jovanie Rosario and \”The Effects of Global Warming\”. He used a most simplistic representation of global warming – an oven. At varying temperatures and times his plants either survived for very short periods or didn\’t grow at all. When asked what he got out of the experiment, he replied in an innocent yet commanding way \” I hope that people use more environmentally safe products that don\’t continue to destroy the ozone layer\”.

My tour of the second floor of the DC STEM Fair ended with Raina Johnson from the Howard University School of Science and Mathematics. Her \”Rainbow Fire\” experiment was fueled by her curiosity of why fireworks explode in so many different colors while fire tends to stay only certain colors. Coupled with her study of the Periodic Table, and brave parents, she tested several chemicals to see their reaction to fire and the colors they produced. She concluded that wavelength and frequency effected to color intensity of different chemicals.

Like I said, If you weren\’t at the DC STEM Fair today you missed an amazing display of talented youth, exciting exhibits, proud parents, and smiles, curiosity, and high energy to fill a stadium. Take a glimpse of what you missed!


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