A librarian at Gunn High School in Palo Alto has won recognition for her proposal to showcase student projects by holding online "STEM slams," which she calls "the new science fairs."
Meg Omainsky presented her idea to create global, online science competitions Friday (April 1) at a "STEMposium" at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
"President Obama ... urged Americans to start celebrating scientists like Super Bowl champions, so let's do it," Omainsky said in a one-minute video she created for her initial submission to STEMposium.
The video contrasts traditional science fairs with Omainsky's "STEM slam" idea, in which "students make zany video demonstrations showing how they use STEM in their lives, and people vote online for their favorites."
Among 130 proposals submitted to STEMposium, Omainsky's is one of 12 selected for presentation Friday in San Francisco.
"STEM slam is for all types of students, all grade levels and all levels of ability in science -– not just celebrating the scientifically gifted," Omainsky said in an interview.
"It's to get all type of kids engages in science so they may consider a STEM field as a career, because the workforce will need them in the future.
"It's a chance for all students to say, 'Hey, I can do math. I can do science,' and I think that's the heart of the STEMposium mission."
Regardless of whether she wins prizes Friday that are valued at up to $5,000, Omainsky said she plans to launch STEM slams among students in Palo Alto.
"I haven't launched it full on yet, but I've sent it around Gunn and already have a couple of submissions," including a 45-second video in which students demonstrate how to use the Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the shortest route to class.
Sponsors of the STEMposium include HP, the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, Citizen Schools, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation and the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
Omainsky, who came to Gunn as librarian last year, has worked in education for 12 years. She previously taught English, English Language Development and reading in Syracuse, New York and Salinas.