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A spotlight on STEM projects by Baltimore City students

May 24, 2019

Image: Phil Laubner

Na’zhiy Dorsey loves to eat lunch at school. It’s a time not only to quell a grumbling tummy with a sandwich or chicken nuggets, but also to relax a little and chat with friends. What she didn’t love, however, were the sometimes dirty windows in the Furman L. Templeton Elementary School cafeteria.

“I would want to look out the windows, but they had dirt and stuff on them,” said that third-grader.

Na’zhiy Dorsey shows the scrubbing device she helped design to clean the windows of her school

Na’zhiy Dorsey shows the scrubbing device she helped design to clean the windows of her school (Image: Phil Laubner)

So Dorsey and some of her classmates at the school in Baltimore City’s Upton community took matters into their own hands, designing, and building the “BPB Cleaner,” a robotic brush equipped with a battery and tiny motor that produce a chugging motion that scrubs away dirt and grime with very little human effort.

That project was one of dozens of student-conceived-and-built devices on display at this year’s SABES STEM Showcase, held last week at the Columbus Center near Pier V downtown. The annual event spotlights innovative and creative work being done in Baltimore’s elementary and middle schools as part of the SABES program, which stands for STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools. A partnership between Johns Hopkins University’s schools of Engineering and Education and Baltimore City Public Schools, SABES is aimed at strengthening science, technology, engineering, and mathematics achievement in the early grades.

This year’s event attracted hundreds of visitors, who browsed displays and watched demonstrations by students from seven city elementary schools, as well as activity stations by organizations including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the National Aquarium. The inventions on display are an opportunity to see how SABES students are working to make their own schools and communities better.

“One of the first things SABES students do is to take a community walk to consider what they could change or improve in their own communities,” explained Mary Chapman, a SABES after-school teacher at Dr. Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary Middle School in the city’s Oliver community.

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