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BISB STEAM Team back from MIT, BOSTON

17 May 2018

The Bratislava STEAM Team have returned from an amazing week in Boston, Massachussets, where they found out what happens when art meets science……everything!

The STEAM Team from Bratislava were Seohui Bae and Henry Sloboda from Year 6 and Sara Cristau and Ismee Scholten from Year 5. These four students had not only expressed an interest in promoting STEAM throughout BISB by applying to be on the committee, they also took part in a gruelling selection challenge. This special challenge involved nine children who had to independently design a waterproof shelter with a limited amount of materials and then work in groups to build and test their designs. Henry, Sara, Seohui and Ismee were selected to represent BISB at MIT because they were able to work very well collaboratively as well as apply their scientific knowledge in a creative, aesthetically pleasing way.

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We spent our time at MIT working with 100 children representing 25 other schools from the Nord Anglia group. The first day involved problem solving and orienteering around the MIT campus before having lunch in the main MIT campus canteen. The choice and quality of food was phenomenal and ensured we wouldn’t starve that week.  In the afternoon, we all met a research scientist, who taught us how to properly evaluate designs and models – and that afternoon, we evaluated and tested toys and considered their success criteria. We used our knowledge of circuits to make a hot wire cutter and sculpted blue foam before an hour of team sports and then headed off to Boda Borg – an amazing maze of differently themed escape rooms which teams of students and teachers all tried out (and failed many times before succeeding!).

Our second day was equally busy, starting with a fascinating talk from another MIT scientist. Danielle Olson wasn’t that interested in science when she was at school, but she did love writing stories and was good with languages. After getting into coding she discovered what everyone at MIT was trying to impress on us all week: that science and the arts are not mutually exclusive; that everything created, investigated and explored has required not only a certain amount of knowledge, but equally importantly, a healthy dose of imagination and creativity. Danielle created virtual reality programs to train military personnel in communication and conflict resolution and she was a real inspiration. Our groups then headed for an investigation into circuit bending – essentially, breaking electronic toys apart and tinkering with their circuit boards to change the toys’ sounds and motions. After another fantastic lunch, we headed to a workshop which involved us designing and making items of clothing out of recycled materials! Each of the BISB STEAM Team paired up with children from other schools to create a skirt, a dress, a fetching pair of trousers and a very colourful ”sunbrero”! We played games outside in the sunshine before dinner and a fascinating lecture on robotics where we found out how the Mars rover worked and the next space adventure planned for the MIT robotics engineers.

Day three was all about the 2.009 challenge. We were told that this was essentially what MIT was all about: IDEATE, MODEL and TEST were the key words (i.e. come up with a design, build it and then test it). The day was spent in a gymnasium decked out with colourful tables covered in fancy accessories and balloons as if it was a colour-coded party! And so the Bratislava STEAM Team was again divided into other groups and all 104 children were working with boys and girls from other schools they hadn’t worked with before then. Each team was led by an MIT PhD student and they spent an incredibly hot and sticky day in the huge gymnasium. Their task: to design and make an amazing game or a toy. After lunch, these toys were evaluated by CEOs of big toy companies. Following the expert advice, the groups remade their toys and prepared a presentation which they then gave to everyone: MIT puts great importance of good presentation skills and all students take a course on the development of public speaking skills in their freshman year. At the end of this exhausting day, we went to the theatre, where those who weren’t jet lagged were able to keep their eyes open to watch an excellent play, “The Women who Mapped the Stars” which told the story of, Cecilia Payne, the first person to discover that most of the universe is made of hydrogen (instead of the sun being made from iron, as was previously thought).

On day four, we met four MIT students who told us about their research and how each one was inspired to create something that would make our world a better place. Then, the Bratislava Team spent the morning learning about different types of light and how light can be manipulated. They ended up learning how a hologram is made and the intricate process involved. After lunch, we had more hands-on fun at the excellent Museum of Science, where we could have spent several days! A sushi dinner followed and then we all toured Boston on a Duck Boat – a highly entertaining experience, where all the children had chance to operate the boat on the River Charles!

Our penultimate day in Massachusetts was spent at the MIT Museum and then the other university of note in the Boston area: Harvard. We enjoyed travelling on the T line (the underground system in Boston) to get there and after lunch, we had a very informative and interesting tour of the beautiful and historic campus. Our day finished with a pizza party, quiz and disco in the ballroom on the 14th floor of our hotel, which was great fun and gave the children opportunity to reflect on a superb week and say their goodbyes to their new friends.

Before flying back on the Saturday, the Bratislava STEAM Team enjoyed a walking tour of Boston, guided by a man in colonial costume. A delicious burrito for lunch finished off our amazing week and we returned home, exhausted but incredibly inspired.