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Navajo Prep plays host to STEM Exploration Day
Students encouraged to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
FARMINGTON — Each successful flight by a drone across the front lawn at Navajo Preparatory School today produced cheers and high fives from students.
Among those to try their hands at operating one of four Sky Viper drones was Tydon Tsosie, a sixth-grader at Crownpoint Middle School in Crownpoint.
"I don't know what I did," Tsosie said after directing his drone in an unintended direction before reaching the finish line.
Providing students hands-on experience and insight to technology was one reason Navajo Prep and the Navajo Transitional Energy Co. organized today's event, which focused on programs and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
The STEM Exploration Day offered interactive activities and information to students in sixth through 12th grade from schools in San Juan and McKinley counties.
Kirtland Central High School sophomore Tatelyn Manheimer said this was her first time flying a drone.
"You got to learn how to control it," Manheimer said after completing two flights.
Logan Reano and Xander Jones, both juniors at Navajo Prep, volunteered to oversee the drone race and instructed students about the remote controls.
By using drones, students learn about technology, engineering and radio frequencies, Reano said.
"I hope it sparks interest in engineering," he said.
Blaine Tsosie, a sixth-grader at Crownpoint Middle School, was at the event to further his interest in mathematics and science.
With Reano's assistance, Tsosie controlled his drone to fly between cones and across the lawn.
Inside the auxiliary gymnasium, several students tried the hands-on activities offered at booths set up by companies such as Raytheon Co., the Arizona Public Service Co. and Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.
Carl Woolfolk is an adjunct professor for the industrial process operator program at San Juan College's School of Energy. At the college's booth, students tested orange juice, bleach, soda, bottled water and distilled water for pH and conductivity using a handheld testing device.
After the samples were poured into the device, Woolfolk asked students for the results.
"We hope that we're promoting science, math, engineering, technology," he said.
In another part of the gymnasium, students tried a penny boat challenge. The challenge required students to create a boat from a sheet of aluminum foil, then place the boat in a bowl of water.
The next step was to fill the boat with pennies until it sank. The student who collected the highest number of pennies before the boat went under won.
Shelby Brown, a Kirtland Central High School sophomore, saw her second attempt pay off with a boat that held 118 pennies.
"I observed the kids' boats that got the highest number of pennies, and I tried to mimic their designs," Brown said.
Shawndeana Smith is the west region coordinator for New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Inc., a statewide program that prepares middle and high school students for college majors and careers in STEM fields. Navajo Prep, along with schools in Bloomfield, Gallup and Grants, comprises the west region for the program.
"That is where our world is developing, around STEM," Smith said adding it is important for students to realize there are programs available that can introduce them to such careers.
Students often have the interest, but they need help developing confidence to step out, she said.
"Seeing the clarity in their eyes that they have the spark to do something," Smith said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.