Students Solve Mystery at Norwin Middle School STEM Day

Nearly 400 eighth-grade students participated in fun and stimulating hands-on activities at the STEM Day at Norwin Middle School on Friday, April 25, 2014.At the beginning of the day, students were given a mock accident scenario in which a fictitious person (Jane Doe) became unconscious while driving, causing a car accident. All students were assigned to three breakout sessions in which they used some aspect of science, technology, engineering, or math to collectively solve the mystery of why Jane Doe became unconscious while driving.
Photos by Anne Marie Morgante, Emily Dulak, and Jonathan Szish

During the first breakout session, students explored the roles of the first responder and the emergency room. In the second breakout session, students learned about a laboratory, blood banking, microbiology, and chemistry to assist a doctor in saving Jane Doe’s life and determining what caused her to become unconscious. They discovered that it was due to an infectious disease, later revealed to be tuberculosis, and so as part of the scenario, a hazardous materials team was called. Students donned “HazMat” suits provided courtesy of Allegheny Health Network and the Forbes Hospital Emergency Room. During the third breakout session, students reviewed X-rays with a radiologist.

As the mock scenario unfolded, students were challenged to use everyday materials to build a thermos that would keep an antidote at optimal temperature under extreme conditions. Students used software design to program computers and robots to deliver the medication. The students also saw the need for protecting their inventions through patent engineering.

There were a total of 15 activities run by a combination of teaching staff and community experts from the fields of science and medicine.

This comprehensive educational opportunity required extraordinary commitment from teachers and community members. A lead committee of teachers that included Principal Robert Suman, Mr. Matt Mincucci, Mr. Matt Wyant, and Mr. Brad Zundel began weekly meetings, starting in mid-January, to plan the STEM Day event. In the weeks that followed, the committee expanded to include teachers Mr. Marc Boban and Ms. Hallie Hammond, and later they invited parent volunteers.

“We had numerous responses from parents and tried to use everyone who replied,” Mr. Mincucci said. “The ideas they came up with were phenomenal. It was nice to hear from those outside the education field as to how things could be presented differently from what we normally do.” A Norwin graduate who attends Point Park College, Mike Bowen, also volunteered for the event.

“Students got to explore various engineering and design areas related to healthcare,” Mr. Wyant said. “But it wasn’t just about medicine. It was about patent design, programming, using science as evidence to solve a mystery and to help out their fellow citizen.”

Norwin Middle School is indebted to the parent volunteers who dedicated their time to foster an interest in science. The parent volunteers represented many fields and organizations, including Forbes Regional Hospital/Allegheny Health Network, UPMC, and Excela Health Laboratory. The day was made possible by Middle School teachers Brad Zundel, Candice Hindman, Marc Boban, Jane DeCarlo, Hallie Hammond, Matthew Wyant, Matthew Mincucci, Michele Brooks, and Anna Marie Morgante. Mr. David Brozeski, a chemistry teacher from the high school, also joined to help lead a lesson.