MUSCATINE, Iowa–In previous schools years, HNI helped encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, through in person events, such as an on site engineering contest for junior high school students during engineering week in February. With COVID-19 continuing to make hosting safe and enjoyable fieldtrips difficult, HNI looked for alternate ways to celebrate talented STEM students. To this end, they honored two Susan Clark Junior High School eighth grade students, Faith Christopher and Luis Ramirez Sifuentes with Outstanding Student in STEM awards.
Open to Muscatine Community School District students in both junior and senior high school, the Outstanding Student in STEM award sought to recognize the work of students who had done well in a STEM focused class. Laurie Schroeder, a Project Lead the Way teacher at Susan Clark Junior High School, knew exactly which students she thought lived up to the award’s criteria. “Right away, I knew that Luis and Faith shone,” she said.
An English language learner, Schroeder said that Luis started the school year knowing more Spanish than English. However, Luis learned quickly and showed great aptitude in STEM from the start. In his Green Architecture class, Luis enjoyed the concrete nature of engineering and caught onto new concepts well, even helping classmates with them when they needed it. Already a budding engineer, Luis shared with Schroeder that he enjoys STEM projects because, “I love to design and build while using my own ideas to create.”
Though Faith always said she enjoyed math, she admitted to Schroeder that she never really considered herself an engineer. By taking Green Architecture, her perspective changed. Faith not only worked hard to learn each of the STEM concepts focused on in the class but also worked with her groupmates to make sure their projects reflected their understanding as well. As Schroeder explained in Faith’s nomination letter, “Faith became the project manager because she is skilled in helping others without making someone feel like they just do not understand.”
Though HNI could not host a large gathering to celebrate these two students, they sent RCI Engineer Evan Hundley to present each of them with an award. Faith received a first place plaque while Luis received a certificate for placing as a runner up. Schroeder felt extremely pleased with the success of both of her students and grateful for the opportunity to receive recognition from the broader community.