A bridge to the future Kids spend summer learning basics of engineering

If you asked certain students in the Bayonne School District what they did for the summer, they might tell you they were building bridges.

They would not be lying, although most of their efforts were model-sized and made out of thin wood. Their goal wasn’t to supply transportation, but to learn the basics of engineering.

Students from nearly every Bayonne public school took part in the Summer 2008 Proyecto Science Consortium Program.

“The Bayonne School District Proyecto Science Consortium Program is an academically intense five-week science, mathematics, and technology summer program for elementary students. [It] which takes place at New Jersey City University and was designed by NASA to attract minority and female students to pursue careers in mathematics, science, and technology,” said Dr. Ellen M. O’Connor, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The program stresses the development of abstract reasoning, problem-solving skills, and their application through the study of high school and university level mathematics, computer science and engineering, along with numerous applications of technology such as online learning, graphing calculators, and related educational software.

Along with the theoretical, students also learn practical skills such as web design, career awareness, and a variety of computer skills. But not to take the fun out of summer with all hard science, the students also got to play chess, take field trips, and even take part in a musical ensemble.

The Bayonne school district has participated in the Proyecto Science Program since June of 2001. In the past, it had the continuous financial support of the Provident Savings Bank, Bayonne Educational Foundation, and several elementary schools parent/teacher groups.

“For two years, the Bayonne Board of Education has also received additional support from individual, corporate, organization, and private sectors. For this, the Bayonne Board of Education is extremely grateful for their generosity,” said Dr. Patricia L. McGeehan, superintendent of schools. “The impact of this partnership is two-fold: short and long terms. In the short term, Bayonne’s participants in Proyecto Science excel in the program and become role models in their own environment at home, school, and community as a whole. The City of Bayonne gains national recognition as a member of Proyecto Access, and its students go on to higher education and are extremely successful.”

McGeehan said the program also has a long-term impact that could provide students with the opportunity to become part of a highly scientific technical workforce who will replace the scientists and engineers in NASA or become educators in the sciences, mathematics, and computer science. Students are eligible if they have the interest and potential for careers in mathematics, technology, science, or engineering. To participate in the program, a student must get permission from a parent, have a satisfactory grade average in mathematics (as well as a satisfactory overall grade average), get recommendations from two teachers, and produce a well-written essay about the student’s desire to participate in the Proyecto Science Program.

‘Engineering Day’

About mid-point during the summer, students gather for what is called Engineering Day, which was held at Midtown Community School on July 18. Students had the opportunity to design and build their own wooden bridges.

Julio Guillen, professor of mathematics at NJCU and the director of the program, said students develop skills in mathematics, science, and technology.

This year, the program drew about 155 students from Bayonne, Jersey City, and Passaic, of whom 86 students were from Bayonne.

Jason Tyler, a mentor for Proyecto Science, said students take the program for three years. He said this is the 11th year the program has been conducted, although funding has changed since NASA originally established it. Local funding has become much more important since 2005.

The program itself has changed over the years. Originally, only students with an A- grade average were allowed. Now students with a C + or better can apply.

Perhaps the most notable graduate of this program is Eric Delgado, who went on to obtain county, state, and national honors for his work in engineering and science.

The bridges

Tyler said kids needed to construct their bridges out of flimsy basil wood, and the design had to keep the bridge from collapsing.

Clustered into groups of four, five and six, students held intense discussions on how to put together their bridges – often disagreeing with each other.

Antonio Martinez of Vroom School found the program challenging. He said his parents like the idea of him attending the program, which offers more advanced classes than he has in school.

Bishoy Fanous, who graduated from Mary J. Donohoe School in June, said this was his second year in the program. He also called the program challenging, and said he hopes to go to medical school someday.

Daniel Veronese, a seventh grader at Midtown Community School, said this was his first year in the program.

“I already learned more in math,” he said, hoping to pursue a career in genetics research.

Abraham Dawove called physics the hardest subject he has studied so far.

Each of the students had theories as to bridge building, too, hoping to prove that their design would bear weight.

Hes Ham Ali said he was pretty confident in his design, and even might consider a future as a civil engineer.

email to Al Sullivan


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