STEM Week 2016

October 17 - 21, 2016

An incredible week of learning, Solebury School’s math and science departments hosted our 2nd annual STEM Week to engage all of our students — and to possibly inspire future careers — in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math. The week culminated with a fun school-wide activity.


Using our 3D printer, students created multiple copies of our official STEM Week medallion to give to each STEM guest speaker throughout the week.

Mita Heble, Pharm D. (shown holding her STEM Week medallion, with math teacher Dr. Jennifer Perez), described her day-to-day work as a pharmacist at Walmart, including her career history. She then answered questions from students, from the treatments of common illnesses to the differences between viruses and bacteria.

That afternoon, we welcomed Tina Dura and Andra Garner, both postdoctoral researchers with the Sea Level Research group in the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, as well as meterologist Dr. Gregory Garner of Princeton University. Each shared presentations about their work, then opened the floor for discussion with the students about scientific research, the pursuit of science in higher education, and careers in the sciences.


A rather spectacular start to the day, students learned first-hand the science of hot air balloon flight from Bob, Marie and Mike of Up and Away, Inc. During the workshop, they covered the history of hot air balloons, the different types of fuel used, how wind patterns are navigated during flight, and even oddities such as why they avoid flying directly over farms (so as not to spook the animals) and why it's tradition to bring a bottle of champagne to the owner of field where you land.

That afternoon, Solebury School parent and environmental scientist Michael Zolkewitz gave a presentation on his work on the "turtle cam" below, which was created to study endangered leatherback turtles as they fed on jellyfish. (That's Michael and son Josh at left.)

Michael also touched upon the traits necessary for a STEM-related career: discovery, innovation, collaboration, creativity and order.


"This song is part Native American, West African, techno-tribal, Australian, cosmic, Celtic, dance, rock and Egyptian," electric violinist Caryn Lin told us during her presentation before launching into the tune. She gave our students an informative and thoroughly entertaining lesson on the science of sound. Students got to try looping sounds and working her sound-altering pedals.

Bringing STEM into the humanities, our American Studies students engaged in some analytical thinking in honor of STEM Week. Teacher Angelo Coclanis assigned them inventories of estate (essentially wills, or lists of all possessions) from the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Based on what was listed on those inventories, students had to deduce as much as they could about the socio-economic status, geographic location, occupation, etc. of the inventory holder, as well as the society in which he/she lived.


Former Solebury School student and federal wildlife officer Mike McMenamin (shown left) came back to campus to speak about his career, which uniquely combines both law enforcement and wildlife biology.

Mike works to protect endangered wildlife, he tracks animals, and he surveys landscapes. He also assists local law enforcement with search and rescues for people.

Actuary Joel Weiner covered topics such as scientific thinking, probabilities, trend vs. independence and risk vs. reward. In his session with students, Joel underscored that math is for everyone, and that it can be applied to many careers.

What will you do when you retire? Bill Brady, dad of alum Riley Brady '13, built the airplane shown in the photos below! During our visit with him at the Doylestown airport, he explained that he'd wanted to work with his hands and was always interested in aviation, so he gave it a try. (The plane does fly.) Bill discussed lift, drag and thrust — forces of flight.

We also made time for catapult wars!


Guest speaker Chris Rains, a healthcare professional and father of Solebury School student Abbie (both shown left), led a fascinating discussion with students about bioethics.

We covered the "compassionate use" of medicines versus "appropriate use," ethics related to vaccines (and those who choose not to vaccinate), testing drugs on animals and more.

Sara Jahn, a plant manager at 3M, gave students a realistic view of what life is like as an engineer. After some solid career advice, she offered students an engineering challenge of creating a structure made of marshmallow, tape and dried spaghetti.

Eva Karkas '75, an ethnobotanist at Riverbend Farm, discussed the relationships between humans and plants (herbs) and how they can interact holistically to complement Western medicine. (That's Eva at left.)

Erik Perez, a chemist and cousin of Solebury School science teacher Dan Perez, described his work at Dupont, sharing examples of how chemists problem-solve, and how he shifted into securing patents for his company's products.

The Culminating, All-School Activity

We closed out our week with an all-school activity. Earlier in the week, students were posed the following question to solve: How many buckets would the entire school's shoes fill? When making their predictions, students had to take into account variables such as who would be present or absent at school that day, if the weather would dictate larger boots or smaller sandals, etc. Everyone gathered and shed their shoes, which our math teachers scooped into buckets and measured.

Dr. Jennifer Perez's Algebra I class had the closest estimate: 14 buckets (the answer was 12 1/2 buckets). The class won a pizza party!

At the event, students and faculty also showed off the "STEM socks" they spent time decorating throughout the week...

See STEM Week 2015