Chatham’s 4-H STEM club explores science

Posted 5/10/19

PITTSBORO — Once a month, between four to eight Chatham County students meet at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center to discuss STEM, elements the group find interesting, and learn …

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Chatham’s 4-H STEM club explores science

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PITTSBORO — Once a month, between four to eight Chatham County students meet at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center to discuss STEM, elements the group find interesting, and learn about science in an applied way.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The club meets to encourage and educate participants to engage in the world of STEM and see its effect on everyday life. The program is led by Rob Bergmueller, a volunteer with both the STEM club and the NC Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardner Program. The STEM Club works in a collaborative style, allowing the interests of the students involved to dictate where the discussions will go next.

The club held its first meeting in February with an introduction to STEM, what it means, and what it could mean for their future. From there, the students decided that they were interested in learning more about electricity so Bergmueller developed programs in conjunction with Chatham’s 4-H Club to ensure the programs meet scholastic requirements.

Bergmueller discussed safety when dealing with electricity, learning the basics of Ohm’s Law, and built a lamp over the next several meetings. During that discussion, Bergmueller talked about other ways that electricity affects the world, including communication. When Bergmueller mentioned Morse code, it sparked an interest. So now the students are learning Morse code and researching semiconductors as they move closer to applying their skills in amateur radio.

“Never give up,” Bergmueller said to the students. “If someone tells you that you are not good in math, but you really like math, then prove them wrong.”

Bergmueller believes part of the problem with math is that students are not being taught how to use calculus, geometry in a way that’s relateable. He feels that the way it is currently being taught, it’s hard to envision how learning calculus would be useful. When exploring a topic with the group, Bergmueller tells great stories weaving science, medicine and engineering together while showing how each of these disciplines are important to be, for example, a heart surgeon. He never talks down to the students, but explains things, concepts, and connections in ways that are simple to understand, allowing the students the opportunity to take it all in.

Club member Eric Sullivan, an 8th grader, has always been interested in science. When he heard about the 4-H STEM club, he jumped at the opportunity. That was the case for each of the other members, as well. Sarah Sessoms, a senior at Northwood, wants to go to N.C. State to study veterinary science. The STEM Club, she says, gives her an opportunity to expand and explore skills that could help her not only in her future career, but in doing things around her home too.

Deon Bailey, a 7th grader from Pittsboro, is new to the area. He joined because he had been a member of the STEM Club at his previous school. The STEM Club gives him a chance to explore things he’s interested in while getting to know new friends. Finn Cobler, the youngest member, is in fourth grade and wants to work on computers when he grows up. His favorite thing about the STEM Club is that it gives him something different to do and he really relished the chance to build his own lamp.

The 4-H STEM Club meets at 6 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month. For more information about the STEM Club, contact Victoria Brewer, Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development at (919) 545-8303 or via email at victoria_brewer@ncsu.edu.

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@chathamnr.com

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