LANL extends deadline

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By Tris DeRoma

In order to help students who have been contending with state testing as well as getting ready for spring break, Los Alamos National Laboratory officials are extending the registration deadline to April 12 for the Los Alamos STEM Challenge.
It’s a contest meant to highlight LANL’s 70th birthday, as well as what students know about science, technology, engineering and math.
According to the STEM Challenge website, stemarts.com, the contest is only open to students in grades six through 12 or home school equivalent.
LANL officials prefer that teachers register the students as a team, but home school students are also welcome to join.
After students register, the next step is to write an essay, create a video, design a poster or design an app and turn it in by April 30, according to Janelle Vigil-Maestas, an education specialist with LANL’s Community Programs division.
The four categories must reflect these STEM categories: biology, chemistry, computer science, Earth science, environmental science, physics robotics or space technology.
LANL employees will judge the designs for creativity and ingenuity. While the designs don’t have to necessarily work, they should be feasible enough to.
What the officials are mainly looking for is that “spark” that most reflects the contest’s motto, “envisioning the next 70 years of discovery.”
“We are leaving it up to their creativity,” Vigil-Maestas said.
“They could propose an app that could run our supercomputer from their iPhones ... it’s totally up to the students to come up with something that lives up to their creativity.”
She emphasized that they are looking for concepts only. “We are just looking for designs, we aren’t actually looking for something that’s been registered and tested.
“We are just looking for their creativity, something that says, ‘this is what I would do as a project of the future,’ ” she said.
And yes, there will be prizes. All four categories will have one top prize for each middle school and high school, which will be $300 for the school.
There will also be best-of-show prizes for each middle school and high school category, where each student on the winning team receives either an iPad Mini or a Kindle Fire.
According to Vigil-Maestas, teams totaling 32 students from schools in Questa, Taos and Española have already registered, but they are still looking for Los Alamos to register teams.
“We think spring break and SBA (Standards Based Assessment) testing had some impact on the registering,” Vigil-Maestas said.
“Once that is over and done with, we should see more.”
Susan O’Brien, curriculum coordinator for the Los Alamos Public School System, said the teachers have been notified of the contest and entries should be forthcoming.
“From a curriculum perspective, I think it’s fantastic,” she said.
“It gives kids an opportunity to create and to show that STEM is not just about careers, but there is a creative aspect to it, which I think is very important.”
For more information about the contest, log onto stemarts.com.