Students celebrate math, science, technology at annual STEMfest

By Jessica Barzilay and David Lim

The annual STEMfest showcase Monday, May 23 during activities period was a “celebration of the role of science, technology and math in our lives” Committee Head and Math Department Head Paula Evans said. STEM is an interdisciplinary initiative promoting science, technology, engineering and math.

“Students present their work, answer questions and encourage others to commit to excellence in STEM fields and especially commit to research” during the event, which was organized this year by students in the Topics in Calculus and Statistics class. Studies in Scientific Research classes, the Environmental Club and the Advanced Topics in Computer Science classes all participated in the showcase, Evans said.

The new Harvard-Westlake Sports Medicine Research Initiative, which seeks to involve student researchers in the ongoing study on overuse injuries in high school athletes, was announced in a presentation organized by volleyball player Milena Popovic ’11. Student athletes have been invited this past year to join the study on overuse injuries in high school students, coordinated by Strength and Conditioning Coach Greg Bishop and run by sports medicine researchers at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. Another addition to this year’s STEMfest was a booth helping students acquire summer internships run by Noor Fateh ’11 and Courtney Hazy ’11. There was a more comprehensive presentation on applying for internships third period in the Emory Room led by Chair of the Board of Trustees Chris Hazy (Steven ’00, Charissa ’03, Trenton ’05, Courtney ’11).

This year’s festival also emphasized the new theme of “harnessing the power of STEM fields for humanitarian issues” with a series of posters showing how technology can give young people a voice in government and with the involvement of the Environmental Club and Genocide Awareness Club, Evans said, all encourage political action on STEM issues. Many students are not aware of the program’s long-term projects and goals. The program was started in 2008 to increase students’ interest in and prepare them for careers in STEM-related fields. This effort comes on the heels of a recent national trend emphasizing interdisciplinary studies involving science. STEM simply formalizes the school’s commitment to something that has become a national issue and part of President Barack Obama’s platform, math teacher and committee Co-Chair Kevin Weis said.

The STEM program’s reach extends far beyond the annual festival. Along with middle school co-chair Sandra Wolchok, Weis and the committee supervise all STEM-related projects at the school, like last year’s Newtonian Fluid walk during which students walked across a starch and water mix. In a less direct way, the Science Bowl, Math Club, Math Team, SSR classes and advanced science classes also fall under the STEM umbrella. The STEM program also hosted two guest speakers, Scott Becker ’05 and Jeremy Martin ’92. Both former students, the two lecturers shared with students the actual day-to-day experience of a professional career as a mathematician or computer scientist.