Picatinny STEM Office holds outreach at Franklin Elementary
The U.S. Army installation at Picatinny Arsenal has a robust outreach program to provide science demonstrations for various audiences as a way to encourage careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. In the photo, Picatinny Arsenal scientist George Fischer speaks to students from Franklin Elementary School. His colleagues Stephanie Maruca Donnelly and Nolan Banfitch, shown standing, were also on hand to provide science demonstrations. Courtesy photo. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

A rapt audience at Franklin Elementary School was recently treated to science demonstrations as a way to encourage student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as to boost the number of females in technical careers.

“Students were amazed as they watched nitrogen and oxygen, normally in the gas state, become liquid and solid under high temperatures and pressures, and enjoyed witnessing the magic of super conductors in action,” said Stephanie Maruca Donnelly, a physicist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center, one of the U.S. Army’s premiere research and development facilities located at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.

“Keeping our experiments fun and accessible helps students build an interest in STEM, which ultimately shapes the future of the STEM community,” she added.

Maruca Donnelly and her team of scientists, including George Fischer and Nolan Banfitch, demonstrated changes in pressure, volume and temperature through a series of experiments.

Science experiments spark student interest
Two scientists from Picatinny Arsenal, Nolan Banfitch (in foreground) and Stephanie Maruca Donnelly, show students liquid nitrogen in Dewar flasks as part of a science demonstration at Franklin Elementary School. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo ) VIEW ORIGINAL

The demonstrations were part of a Pizza & Science Night for Franklin Elementary School students and their families. The event on Nov. 8 was the result of a collaboration between the Franklin Elementary School Parent and Teacher Association, the Picatinny STEM Office and Boonton Girl Scouts.

“The purpose of science outreach events such as this is to spark an interest in science at a young age and encourage exploration of matter in the world around them,” said Ariel D’Anton, a quality engineer at the DEVCOM Armaments Center.

The gathering at Franklin Elementary is the first of many similar events to follow. The theme of the night was “Temperature and Pressure”. “The Franklin PTA worked with Picatinny STEM to create a series of hands-on stations to explore molecular movement and have a better understanding of the concepts taught by the scientists,” said D’Anton.

Students witnessed how food coloring moves faster in hot water, measured temperature of liquids, and created diagrams to understand how molecules are arranged in solids, liquids and gases.

Students participated in experiments to explore molecular movement. They also learned about 3-D printing and saw the nationally recognized “Liquid Nitrogen Road Show,” sponsored by the Picatinny STEM Office.

Science stations engage student
Girl Scouts and PTA volunteers host science stations to aid student understanding of temperature. Above, Bronwyn D’Anton and Aaron Mills facilitate student interaction and offer predictions about the food coloring race experiment. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo ) VIEW ORIGINAL

Girl Scout Cadettes from Troop Boonton–96538 volunteered to assist students at the science stations and lead a career exploration activity. The troop also provided any Girl Scouts in attendance with an opportunity to earn their level-appropriate Science Career badge.

Although women participation in the STEM workforce has increased over the years, it remains a male-dominated field. “The troop has championed events that allow our scouts to model the STEM competency to younger students. Our work helps to break through gender stereotypes and provides students with strong female role models who have excelled in the STEM fields,” said Tiffany Mills, a Picatinny engineer and troop leader for 96538.

“Through these events, we hope to create excitement and encourage confidence in future STEM courses and careers for all,” Mills added. Troop 96538 has focused on enhancing STEM outreach as part of its mission. The troop held two workshops in July to simulate interest in STEM as part of Bronze Award requirements.

Attendees at the Pizza & Science Night included 50 Franklin Elementary School families, along with about 80 children from kindergarten to 4th grade. Franklin Elementary School Principal Brian Hamer said he was impressed with the educational presentations. “The students were engaged and learned a lot of great things about the world of science,” said Hamer.

“The event would not have been possible without the tireless support of Franklin Elementary School PTA Board members and volunteers, and the administration at Franklin Elementary School, who worked hard to coordinate the event logistics,” said D’Anton. The Franklin Elementary PTA hopes to collaborate with the Picatinny STEM Office again in the spring for a show with the theme of “Optics and Lasers.”