Students lead inaugural STEM week

The first Computer Science and Engineering Week (CSEW) in the school’s history, which consisted of over 20 student and faculty hosted workshops and activities related to STEM, took place this week.
Ranging from Alumni Nora Nickerson’s ’18 workshop on Microbots and Ants, to Manisha S. Gandhi’s P’12 P’26 workshop about women in STEM, the variety of topics reflected numerous aspects of STEM.had something to capture every interest. Though all with different scopes, all of the workshops pertained to the central theme of “Multicultural Innovation through the Disciplines.”A member of the planning committee, Angie Cortez (12) hopes the workshops helped bridge the divide between the humanities and sciences, she said. “You don’t have to be just a ‘math person’ or an ‘English person,’ you can be both,” she said. “It’s not that black and white.”
“It’s frustrating when people stop themselves from pursuing certain things because they created a false binary between two different hobbies,” Libby Mather (12), another member of the planning committee, said. “We want to make sure that people feel free to pursue whatever they’d like.”
Last year, Cortez’s independent study on the history and evolution of computers led her to start the CSEW at the school, she said. “I thought it would be great if we could do a day or a week dedicated to computer science and engineering that showcases a connection between humanities and STEM.”
Computer Teacher, Glenda Guerrero, used her network of contacts to plan and organize CSEW, she said. “I think it is important that Computer Science, along with the other disciplines taught at Horace Mann, deserves a moment to showcase to the community the works of our students,”Guerrero said. STEM is an interdisciplinary field, and it is powerful to be immersed in it, she said.
The CSEW planning committee met every Thursday for a few months to work on their proposal for the week and brainstorm what they imagined the week would look like, Mather said.
“We knew that there were a lot of really passionate students and teachers at the school who would have a lot to say for different workshops,” Mather said. “We want the CSEW to be an annual event that’s on the same level as music week or book day.”Annabelle Xing (11) hosted a workshop where she talked about weSTEM, a nonprofit organization she founded with Alexis Fry (11).
Xing created weSTEM to help bridge the gender disparity in STEM fields, she said. “We want to be able to encourage girls across the country to pursue their STEM passions,” Xing said, “Through this workshop we hope that students can become more aware of the issue.”
Along with her peers, Claire Goldberg (10) hosted a workshop about the benefits anddrawbacks of technology. At the workshop,students debated issues of technology in medicine, classroom, polling, politics, and in surveillance. “The idea behind our workshop is to cover a wide variety of topics so that people can see that technology is really infiltrating all of our lives and permeating every single society,” Goldberg said. “How are we going to adapt to it, and what should we be aware of?”
“You’d be surprised how many of our presenters were from the humanities and they did not necessarily need to step out of their comfort zone,” Guerrero said, “They just recognized that their passion and interest can be enhanced with this additional tool called technology.”
Spencer Rosenberg (10), who attended Goldberg’s workshop, realized how much
technology impacts our lives, he said. “It made me wonder if the pros of technology outweigh the cons.”
Pratham Gandhi (12) hosted a workshop that taught people to use shop tools such as bandsaws, drills, and belt sanders to create fun but manageable projects, he said. “During the first workshop, we built catapults and held a competition amongst attendees to see whose catapults could launch the farthest,” Gandhi said. Gandhi hopes that the students took away the idea that seemingly complex things can be made with the simplest of tools, he said.
In addition to workshops hosted by faculty and students, the CSEW planning committee contacted and invited guests to host workshops, Cortez said. Comedian Mark Vigeant hosted a workshop called “Finding the Comedy in Computers.” In the workshop, Vigeant performed a stand up show about the intersection of comedy and computer science.
Speaking as a member of the robotics First Tech Challenge team (FTC), Mathers feels that the FTC taught her team leadership and professionalism–tools that helped her plan the CSEW, she said.
“One thing that CSEW has in common with FTC is that you can come in knowing absolutely nothing, and still take away something from it,” Cortez, who is also a member of the FTC, said.
Ultimately, the CSEW planning committee hopes that students gain a new insight on computers and engineering as well as feel a sense of empowerment that they can access and pursue whatever they want, Mather said.