2016 STEM Educator Award Winners

A spotlight on the 2016 winners and highlights from their submissions.

Teachers dedicated to making a difference.

A company dedicated to giving them the best tools to do so.

Getting to meet with science, engineering and technology teachers always provides the best reminder of why we do what we do. When innovative and passionate teachers tell us about the different and often novel ways they use our probeware and lab equipment it makes us proud to feel that we played a small part in increasing STEM education in the classroom and beyond.  

A number of years ago we partnered with NSTA to showcase such teachers with our STEM Educator awards. Below is a brief summary of the winners and their entries for the 2016 awards.

We also hope that our new line of low cost and innovative wireless sensors along with the free SPARKvue apps for classroom devices will make it possible for even more classrooms to utilize cutting edge sensing technology and data collection and analysis software as part of their approach to STEM learning. 

View the application for the PASCO STEM Educator Awards

High School Winner

Brandie Freeman
Science Teacher
Woodland High School
Cartersville, GA

Brandie Freeman is a passionate teacher who believes that it is crucial to provide STEM opportunities for every student at every level. Working at a rural, low-SES school she has advanced, on-level and special needs students. All of them benefit from the use of sensor-based technology and being connected to real-world applications through the use of real-time data collection. 

Ms. Freeman's students work through a number of activities that she has created to explore real-world phenomena while integrating technology, engineering and different scientific disciplines.  Her students research the most feasible sources of renewable energy for the production of hydrogen in Georgia, learning about solar and and wind energy and the production of hydrogen via electrolysis. Other students investigate Boyle's Law as part of a unit on syringes and injections to understand how these life saving devices work. Another activity involves creating student understanding of albedo and insolation angle and their role in governing global temperatures. AP Chemistry students are asked to create a hand warmer in an activity that incorporates three dimensional learning in the spirit of NGSS.  Based on calorimetry investigations and a knowledge of enthalpy changes and Hess' Law as well as the cross cutting concept of conservation of energy students are able to accurate engineer a product.  Another of Brandie's activities ties together photosynthesis and respiration of trees with the concepts of the greenhouse effect in order to understand how plants can help mitigate climate change.

Brandie Freeman's innovative and hands-on, sensor-based approach to STEM investigations not only challenges her gifted and talented students but has improved pass rates among high-risk populations of students, increased enrollment of female students in her AP courses and has given all of her students opportunities to increase their science literacy and perhaps pursue a STEM career going forward.  We're incredibly happy to have her as a 2016 winner of our STEM Educator Awards.

Probeware has not only increased the enrollment of females in my AP classes, but it has also improved pass rates among high-risk populations of students behind on their graduation credits."

Brandie Freeman

High School Winner

Jaqueline Fernandez
Science Teacher/STEM Director
LAYC-Career Academy Public Charter School
Washington, DC

At the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy Public Charter School (LAYCCA-PCS), Jaqueeline and her colleagues use a project and inquiry based learning approach in their classrooms and a

STEM approach that provides our students with real-world science application through partnerships with different government and community based organizations.  Working with students that are predominately Latino and African American from disadvantaged background, Ms. Fernandez uses dynamic groupings and a blended curriculum incorporating both lectures and integrated curriculum.

Understanding that the key goal is to spark student interest in the possibility of STEM careers, Ms. Fernandez has had students engage in a variety of activities such as creating applications on health for the iPhone and websites on nutrition, building rovers that can explore the Martian surface, intricately pulling a computer apart to see how it functions, and even volunteering at clinics to educate patients on the importance of healthy eating and exercise. This has led to a 100% graduation rate where school graduates obtain information technology certifications, medical assistant training and scholarships to attend community colleges or universities. Her students currently attending college are majoring in computer science, engineering and nursing. As a group she and her colleagues determine the overarching theme of each session as well as which Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards will be involved. 

Based on the passion she has help create among students the school's STEM Fairs, Astronomy, Robotics and Health Clubs are all thriving. We hope the $5,000 certificate for PASCO products helps in expanding things even further.

"I believe that STEM teachers need to be imaginative, collaborative, well-rounded (especially in terms of their discipline) and most importantly, flexible"

Jaqueline Fernandez

Middle School Winner

Chris McChesney
Science & Engineering Teacher
Pikesville Middle School
Baltimore, MD

Chris McChesney is another teacher who has the challenge of teaching not just students of widely varying ability levels but also of widely different socionomic backgrounds.  As Chris says, "My engineering classes are elective, but all of my classes are heterogeneously grouped. Some of my students devour Grisham novels, some read at a second grade level. Some are homeless and some are living in homes close to million dollars. Meeting all these needs is challenging, but I have been doing it for 23 years and still love it."

Which goes to show that creating innovative lesson plans that use hands-on science and which incorporate cross disciplinary content is an ideal way to bridge gaps and enhance student engagement.

His 6th grade students work on his "Stack 'em and Track 'em" activity where they are challenged to create and test homemade multicell batteries. Students make each cell from a penny, aluminum foil, salt, and water and utilize a voltage sensor and software to see their results in real time.

Mr. McChesney's 7th grade students follow engineering orthographic and isometric drawings in order to build a “Skimmer" - a cross between a paper airplane and an air hockey puck –some of which can travel 20 meters!

His 8th grade Engineering students are tasked with designing and building the fastest air-powered Dragster. Students utilize parametric modeling skills to create the body design on Autodesk Inventor 3-D modeling software. Students output an orthograph as a pattern for shaping their Dragster body from a pine block using power and hand tools. Dragsters are assembled and then tested at 75psi on a 24’ long track. 

Starting this year Mr. McChesney will use the data analysis software and multiple motion detectors to record actual speeds in order to increase validity and lead to deeper analysis.

We commend Chris McChesney for his creative, STEM-based projects and for demonstrating that we can get the best out of students of all levels and from all backgrounds by challenging them with exciting and engaging activities. We're looking forward to talking to him about his lesson plans and his students in person at NSTA 2016