Local schools Wakefield School (second) and Foxcroft (third) earn top finishes in the high school division during the annual science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competition.

MIDDLEBURG, VA – Bullis School from Potomac, Maryland, and Edlin School from Reston, Virginia, each claimed the top prize in their respective high school and middle school divisions during Foxcroft’s 12th annual STEM Challenge. Designed for middle and high school students, the competition saw 109 girls from 14 schools in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math to take on issues like sea level rise, pollinator habitats, recycling, and more as they participated in challenges revolving around this year’s “Be Green” theme. 

The Solar Superstars from Bullis School, composed of Victoria Deal, Jiselle Jenkins, and Victoria Marshall, received a solar-powered robot kit and unique medals designed and fabricated by Foxcroft STEM students in the School’s Innovation Lab as their first-place prize in the high school division. Second place in the high school division went to the Terrific Turbines (Julia Austin, Meira Barnaby, Emily D. Cooper, and Alexandra Fuhs) from Wakefield School in The Plains, Virginia. Foxcroft’s Recycling Rockstars (Ryleigh Borror ’23, Rebecca Cramer ’23, Cameron Hazard ’23, and Sneha Kaylan ’23) took third.

In the middle school division, Edlin School’s Super SuperNovas (Varsha Ayala, Anya Crevits, Lyla Hutchison, and Maya Shreedhar) took home the middle school trophy. Second place went to the Composting Crusaders (Samantha Deibler, Gracie Jacobs, and Catherine Risen) from Norwood School in Bethesda, Maryland. Third place went to the Sustainable Sirens (Susanna Hoopes, Amel Johns, Ava Johnson, and Phoenix Sinclair) from Washington Episcopal School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Energy and enthusiasm filled the campus as the teams worked through five unique challenges. Each year, event sponsor Stryker Corporation brings several of their female engineers to not only administer one of the challenges but also to share their experiences and answer questions from the young competitors during a career panel. The Stryker team’s engineering challenge, “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” involved students evaluating blueprints of a device that separated cans and bottles. 

In the Chemistry Lab at the “Turning the Tide on Sea Level Rise” challenge, competitors investigated the cause of sea level rise in two mini-experiments. They analyzed data on sea level rise temporally (in time) and geographically (in space). Finally, the competitors observed the impact of sea level rise on different types of shorelines and engineered their own shorelines based on their observations. In the Briggs Biology Lab, “Pollinator Paradise” had teams imagine a world where milkweed was extinct and then construct an ideal alternative for pollinators. 

In the Athletic/Student Center at the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” event, students had to harness the power of the wind to complete two tasks. First, they had to build a wind turbine to power a light that would alert the scientific community of the dangers of climate change. Next, they had to create a vehicle that could travel using wind power. These “sail cars” raced across the floor of the Dance Studio, and the winner was the team whose car traveled the furthest. In the math-coding challenge “Recycling Robots,” participants programmed a human robot to navigate a maze and collect eco-friendly materials while avoiding non-recyclables! Teams were exposed to algorithmic thinking and collaborative coding to write the most efficient program and find the optimal routes for their human robots.

Between challenges, students used Kindle Fires supplied by Foxcroft to answer questions about climate change and earn raffle tickets for prizes ranging from gift cards to tech devices. Participants in the middle school competition also took tours of campus and learned a little more about Foxcroft’s focus on girls in STEM during a session with Head of School Cathy McGehee.

A leader in STEM education for girls, Foxcroft recently announced construction on the Mars STEAM Wing to enhance its program to encourage girls to pursue studies in STEAM fields. The School offers an innovative curriculum that addresses challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce and provides relevant and stimulating learning experiences. A signature program at the school, the STEM initiative emphasizes inquiry-based labs, using technology with confidence and ease, and hands-on problem-solving that extends well beyond the classroom. The annual STEM Challenge showcases Foxcroft’s innovative focus on the STEM fields.

Photos courtesy of Christine McCrehin.

Posted on: March 9, 2023