VICENZA - Approximately 1,000 students from both Vicenza Elementary and Middle Schools took part May 17-18 in the annual STEAM Days project. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. The STEAM Committee is comprised of teachers and staff members who are committed to providing hands-on, real world experiences for students focused on the scientific world. The schools began collaborating on their event in January.

Holding weekly meetings through May, the committee chose the theme of "Mission to Mars" and planned the challenges to give to students. "We are very excited that we had two days of STEAM activities with our theme of 'Mission to Mars,'" said VES fifth-grade teacher Beth Favor, Robotics coordinator. Multiple challenges and presentations took place in the school during the two-day event, which was supported by the Vicenza Parent Teacher Student Association and Vicenza Community Club.

"The students at both schools were invited to construct Orion capsule models and tested the structural integrity while maintaining a waterproof dry environment within the capsule. This is very similar to splash tests that NASA has been working on with their Orion capsule," said Favor. The students' goal was to send the capsule in to a container of water and submerge the capsule for 10 seconds with the hopes of maintaining a dry environment. In addition to the Orion capsule splash test supported by the Vicenza Fire Department, students - assisted by their teachers worked to solve several problems centered on colonizing Mars.

"They built rockets, Orion capsules, greenhouses and hydroponics systems," said Erin Goodfellow, STEAM committee chairperson. She added that they also programmed rovers and humanoid robots to help humans get around the Mars surface and build structures needed for habitation. VES students were excited about launching water bottle rockets.

"I liked launching rockets a lot. Mine went high but did not win, but that's okay, life is like that," said second-grader Addison Stuart, while his teammate, Isabelle Buenavente was happy with her rocket "because it had a lot of details."

Another second-grader, Jalani Williams, said, "I enjoyed watching the bottle rockets go up in the sky." Their teacher, Nancy Hacker, after accompanying and assisting them in this project, deemed the STEAM event a success.

"It enabled the children to use their imagination and thinking skills to try and solve a problem: how to make a water rocket out of a bottle, duct tape, and card-board, and see if it could fly successfully," she said.

Vicenza Military Community members joined the schools on the second day to offer more insight into the Mission. "Middle school and high school students offered technical support with green screen access and several experiments to strengthen their science skills," said Goodfellow.

She said she thought that adding another day to the annual event provided students with more possibilities to develop their plans. In fact, on the second day, students reimagined their designs and created new ones to test that day.

"Students had a chance to use the Engineering Design process fully by trying their designs on day 1 and modifying them on day 2. As always, we try to keep our STEAM theme as real as possible. NASA is still trying to put people on Mars, so our students worked to solve some of the real problems of putting people on another planet," she said.

School children were able to see demonstrations and exhibits from the USAG Italy Fire Department, Vicenza Health Clinic, Pharmacy, Dental, CBRN, IT, Food Health, Department of Public Works, Water Purification, Middle School Robotics, High School Video, Parachutes, and much more. They were also able to enter the StarLab and the Mars Discovery Room.