Gallery Walk will show­case growth in county STEM pro­grams



— For most stu­dents, this Wed­nes­day’s STEM Cap­stone Gallery Walk rep­re­sents the fi­nal step in the months-long process of de­vel­op­ing their cap­stone project.

But for Elkton High School se­nior Zainab Hayat, there’s at least one more step to go.

Next month, Hayat, 17, will present her cap­stone at the na­tional level of the Stock­holm Ju­nior Wa­ter Prize com­pe­ti­tion in North Carolina. Hayat al­ready won


at the state level of the com­pe­ti­tion for de­sign­ing and de­vel­op­ing a wa­ter fil­ter made out of in­ex­pen­sive, re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als. A win at the na­tional level would earn her the right to travel to Stock­holm and com­pete for the $15,000 grand prize.

Hayat’s fam­ily has roots in Pak­istan. She got a chance to visit the coun­try in 2014, and the trip was an eye­open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, she said.

“In this coun­try we take wa­ter for granted, but it’s not like that ev­ery­where,” said Hayat, who plans to study bi­o­log­i­cal sciences at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park next year. “That’s why I wanted to make a wa­ter fil­ter out of in­ex­pen­sive ma­te­ri­als.”

Hayat’s project is just one of 89 projects that will be dis­played as part of the Science, Tech­nol­ogy, En­gi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics (STEM) Cap­stone Gallery Walk held at Elkton High at 5 p.m. on Wed­nes­day. More than 90 stu­dents in the county’s STEM Academy and in the Project Lead the Way En­gi­neer­ing and

Bio­med­i­cal pro­grams will have their work on dis­play, said Chris­tine Zata­lava, Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools STEM in­struc­tional co­or­di­na­tor.

Stu­dents ap­ply to en­ter the STEM Academy at the end of their fresh­man year and over the next three years com­plete a rig­or­ous cur­ricu­lum of 10 ad­vanced math and science cred­its and a cap­stone project.

The pro­gram has seen enor­mous growth since 14 stu­dents from two schools be­came the county’s first grad­u­ates in 2011. Last year, 47 stu­dents from all five high schools com­pleted the pro­gram and this year that num­ber jumped to 74. The pro­gram also just ad­mit­ted a class of 103 fresh­men, Zata­lava added.

“The good news is we have more stu­dents,” she said. “But that comes with some chal­lenges.”

Some of those chal­lenges are straight­for­ward – next year’s gallery walk will likely be too big to be held at Elkton High – while oth­ers are more com­plex. About two years ago, the STEM Academy was al­tered so stu­dents had the op­tion of start­ing their cap­stone projects in their ju­nior year in­stead of their se­nior year, Zata­lava said.

This has worked well be­cause it al­lows stu­dent to use their cap­stone when ap­ply­ing to col­lege and gives them time to find out­side com­pe­ti­tions – such as the one Hayat is com­pet­ing in – to en­ter. But for stu­dents who start early and want to con­tinue work­ing on their project through their se­nior year, there’s no con­tin­u­ing re­search class for them to take for credit yet, Zata­lava said. CCPS is cur­rently dis­cussing ways to change this.

Ev­ery stu­dent in the pro­gram also gets at least one men­tor to guide them through the cap­stone process and the pro­gram is al­ways in need of more men­tors to pair up with its grow­ing num­ber of stu­dents, Zata­lava added.

Though CCPS works hard to re­cruit men­tors for the projects, some stu­dents find men­tors on their own.

Elkton High ju­nior Austin Glea­son frac­tured the right growth plate in his wrist dur­ing a moun­tain bik­ing ac­ci­dent last Au­gust. He used that ex­pe­ri­ence as in­spi­ra­tion for his cap­stone project – and asked his or­tho­pe­dic doctor to be his men­tor.

Shortly af­ter hurt­ing his wrist, Glea­son went on va­ca­tion with his fam­ily in the Blue Ridge moun­tains. Dur­ing that time his cast fre­quently got hot, sweaty and gen­er­ally un­com­fort­able. So for his cap­stone, Glea­son de­cided to de­sign a 3-D printed in­sert to in­crease air­flow in or­tho­pe­dic casts.

Glea­son’s doctor, Dr. El- li­ott Leit­man of First State Orthopaedics in Ne­wark, Del., helped him learn about the dif­fer­ent types of cast ma­te­ri­als and even put a cast on a model arm that Glea­son can use to demon­strate his in­ven­tion.

Af­ter test­ing, Glea­son was able to demon­strate that the in­sert, when used on a polyester cast, was able to com­pletely dry out the cast af­ter 60 min­utes, mean­ing a pa­tient might be able to shower with their cast on, Glea­son said.

For Glea­son, who plans to study me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing in col­lege, the cap­stone project helped him learn the ins and outs of ev­ery­thing that goes into a large re­search project and his cap­stone is a great ex­am­ple of ev­ery­thing he’s learned, he said.

“I got to do all these kind of real world things that they don’t teach you in school,” he said. “I learned a lot and now I have some­thing to prove it.”


Zainab Hayat, a se­nior at Elkton High School, is one of more than 90 stu­dents pre­sent­ing their cap­stone projects at the STEM Cap­stone Gallery Walk on Wed­nes­day.

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