ENpowered Games help students solve challenges with STEM centered exercises
By Tia Carol Jones
Cheers and the sound of clapper toys and boom sticks filled Wintrust Arena on Wednesday, May 3rd, for the ENpowered Games, hosted by Project SYNCERE. During the Roll Call, the schools were shown on the Jumbotron and their schools were called out. As the students arrived on the floor, they were greeted with high fives and cheers from the volunteers. One of the students likened the experience to being in the NBA.
It was the sixth time Project SYNCERE hosted the event, where students from nine schools worked to create a machine that packages a product and troubleshoot code to get the machine to operate properly. ENpowered Games is part of Project SYNCERE’s school-based programming where the organization goes into schools for 10 weeks, engage the students in an engineering discipline and at the end of the 10 weeks, the schools compete for the title of Best Engineer.
Students from Mariano Azuela Elementary School, Dunne STEM Academy, Amelia Earhart Options for Literature, Writing and STEAM School, James E. McDade Elementary Classical School, Adam Clayton Powell Paideia Community Academy, Charles Sumner Math & Science Community Academy, Henry O. Tanner Elementary School, West Park Elementary Academy, Robert L. Grimes Elementary School participated in the event.
Project SYNCERE, which stands for Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experience, was founded by Jason Coleman, George Wilson and Seun Phillips in 2008. The goal is to introduce and expose young people to careers in STEM fields early and provide pathways of opportunities to build knowledge, understanding and confidence so they can be successful in college within STEM fields.
“We started this because we wanted to create an environment that allowed students to come together to competitively compete in engineering, but also incorporate opportunities for them to engage with mentors and volunteers and really understand what a career could look like to them,” adding that the location of an arena was chosen to energize the students when it comes to careers in STEM.
Adrianne Wheeler, Director of Programs for Project SYNCERE, said the goal of the ENpowered Games is to expose students to engineering through critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork. Prior to the ENpowered Games, each school received 20-22 hours of instruction from two teachers, who are either STEM professionals or STEM graduates with engineering or science degrees. With the challenges in the games, the students learn to think algorithmically and mechanically.
Sheena Birgans-Wright is a science teacher at McDade Classical. She said Project SYNCERE prepared the students to compete in the ENpowered Games with the weeks of instruction the organizations provided. The teacher, Birgans-Wright kept the students encouraged, letting them know they were doing a good job.
“They learned how to code, they learned how to build. STEM is our future and as educators our job is to prepare them to be competitive and being a part of programs like this gives them a leg up on the competition,” she said. For more information about Project SYNCERE, visit projectsyncere.org.