K12 STEM Summer Program Gears Up at Tandon


June 11th marked the first day of preparation before the Center’s summer programs begins at NYU Tandon. During the last two weeks our instructional teams, made up of current (or recent) undergraduate and graduate NYU students in engineering and computer science majors, are meeting to plan their courses and activities for the summer. The programs’ goal is to introduce high quality STEM education to middle and high students and teachers from all around New York City’s boroughs, who may not have the opportunities otherwise.

Preparation for the summer has differed from group to group, depending on their course objectives. In Science of Smart Cities (SoSC), instructors, co-lead by graduate Integrated Digital Media student Jason Charles, worked together to create a water syphoning activity using straws and cups to illustrate methods of water conservation. The day after, the instructors focused on another civil engineering based activity, in which structures made of sticks of balsa wood were evaluated and judged based on their ability to withstand force. 

ieSoSC, an offshoot of SoSC, has also been working on applying engineering and technology to urban life and cities. Lead by PhD students Ana Elisa Mendez and Yu Wang, their team’s notable activities include a device which measures the purity of water using sensors and circuits, as well as a trash can that uses a Seeeduino circuit board and Wifi to alert users when it is full and in need of replacement. These activities for students are designed to demonstrate practical examples of smart city technologies that use microcontrollers, sensing, and cloud computing for every day applications.


Another program coming to life is Creativity in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CrEST), where the focus so far has been on making Arduino circuit boards fun and easy to understand for kids. During the academic year, CrEST is taught to high school students who then intern at Tandon, under the supervision of our own students, and go on to teach one week workshops to middle school students.

If connected correctly, the boards will reward the builder by vibrating, lighting up, or even playing music. The creativity from these completed circuits has endless potential and is focused on getting kids involved in a tactile, immersive way. Karen Beltran, a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student and the lead instructor for CrEST, says “Working with circuits is especially fun, because they’re very hands on and the kids are immediately surprised at how easy and accessible they are. Also opening this opportunity to them while they’re young gives them the early confidence and ability to open their future potential when it comes to wiring and robotics in general; It’s very important but very fun as well”

The robot Karen holds above is a vibrating battery, connected to an on/off switch. Once the circuits are arranged correctly, the device vibrated the cup with markers attached, which then drew colored paths on paper as the device ran.

Outside of building and experimenting with curriculum, all our student instructors also spent a day working together to ensure their classrooms are as inclusive and learning-friendly as possible. In a session designed and led by Dr. Sheila Borges and Katherine Salamone, the Center’s Assistant Director and Projects Manager respectively, instructors completed activities together as well as ran through various trainings and culturally relevant pedagogy. In these, instructors created their own class rules, solved hypothetical situations through dialogue, learned essential protocols, and took bias training to ensure classrooms were as inclusive and participatory as possible. Here, instructors came away with a greater sense of community with one another and took the next major step towards leading the summer programs.

In the next week, this prep will be expanded with the help of folks from the Irondale theatre in Brooklyn.  During these sessions, the groups will participate in improvisation training to inspire the instructors and provide them with helpful presentation and public speaking skills for teaching.


Summer 2018 is gearing up to be the most significant season in the Center’s history, with goals aimed towards expansion, inclusion, and providing the best possible STEM education for NYC’s young people.

For more updates on the programs, activities, and people, follow the center on Twitter and Facebook!

Written by Nicolas Parada, Media Specialist NYU K12 STEM Center