June 16, 2024
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TABC STEM Program Continues To Drive Student Innovation and Success

(Courtesy of TABC) Despite the challenges of this most unusual school year, TABC’s STEM program hasn’t missed a beat. The program, under the direction of Mr. Aryeh Tiefenbrunn, offers a variety of courses and extracurricular opportunities for all levels. Students in the STEM program build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, proficiency with many areas of technology, and the self-confidence to know they can bring their ideas into reality and make the world a better place.

Ninth and tenth-grade engineering students had a productive first semester, delving into an in-depth study of various electronics, including motors and different types of sensors, as well as Arduino coding. In a display of authentic interdisciplinary learning, Rabbi Shaya First created an Arduino dreidel to teach his class how to incorporate random number generation into their coding. A random number between zero and three determined on which letter the dreidel would land. The class followed suit by creating their own LED flashing menorahs.

As the semester wound down, freshman engineering students focused on the engineering design process for their final projects by coming up with an invention idea and progressing to a basic working prototype as quickly as possible. This process is the first step toward their end-of-year capstone projects, where they will take an invention idea and develop it by creating not only a robust prototype but also a business plan and presentation, with a strong focus on entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tiefenbrunn’s sophomore engineering students built Arduino arcade games and ended the semester by coding their own original ideas for unique features into their games, such as having their games increase in difficulty each time a player wins, or keeping track of how many consecutive wins a player has achieved. They will also be creating capstone projects, building on the skills they’ve learned over three semesters of engineering to bring advanced invention concepts to life.

The capstone projects created by students in both freshman and sophomore classes will be presented at the CIJE (Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education) Innovation Fair in May, where they will compete against hundreds of projects by students from dozens of Jewish day schools. Last year, a TABC project won the runner-up award in the Arts and Entertainment category and this year’s students are once again poised for success.

TABC’s 12th-grade engineering students also engaged in interdisciplinary learning by developing and constructing automated, self-watering garden systems. These gardens utilize solar panels and soil moisture sensors to keep the plants healthy. A presentation from GrowTorah gave the students important background knowledge that enhanced their ability to grow plants in their gardens over winter break, as well as a Torah perspective on the importance of caring for the environment. Mrs. Cary Reichardt and her students in TABC’s Culinary Arts elective will be incorporating the basil and cilantro the engineering students grew in some upcoming recipes, allowing for a true farm-to-table dining experience at TABC. The senior engineers will continue to plant and harvest throughout the rest of the school year.

In the creative technology division of the STEM program, Mr. Tiefenbrunn’s freshman and junior Adobe classes focused on graphic design and photo editing, learning skills, and using industry-standard software including Illustrator and Photoshop. Students in both classes explored a topic of their choice in the form of an infographic, using charts and illustrations to explain a topic, with an emphasis on the role of graphic design in communications.

One of the newest additions to the STEM curriculum is this year’s AP Computer Science A for seniors. Students in this class are learning to write computer programs in Java, an essential programming language. The skills the students gain in this course will prove invaluable whether or not they choose to pursue computer science beyond high school, as the course focuses on creative problem solving using computer programming.

Outside the classroom, the Robotics Team was tasked with building robots capable of moving, lifting, and placing balls in baskets for this year’s CIJE Robotics Competition. Because of the ongoing pandemic, in lieu of gathering at one location with teams from many different schools, CIJE representatives visited each school and had their robots compete against those of the host school. The TABC Robotics team had a very respectable showing in the league, and the students are excited to refine their designs for the spring competition in April. Students in the Engineering Club have been innovating as well, as they participate in a pilot drone initiative provided by CIJE. Club members will be learning to fly and program their own drones while learning about the many applications drone technology has to offer.

The TABC STEM program has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception three years ago and continues to develop, following curriculum trends, investing in professional development and training, and with input from the students themselves, expanding its offerings to provide a wide variety of opportunities for students to explore the world of STEM.

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