Public 2-Year Schools

Ocean Takes Lead on STEM Activities for Middle/High School and College Students

Ocean County College’s (OCC) School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has been active in reaching out to middle and high school students – not only in Ocean County but throughout the State of New Jersey.

Most recently, Ocean County College was awarded a grant, to sponsor a regional high school science competition, from the Junior Science & Humanities Symposia funded by the US Department of Defense. The South Jersey Junior Science Symposium (SJJSS), a two-day event, March 30-31, was held on the College’s Main Campus in Toms River. According to Dr. Lisa DiBisceglie, OCC Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, the Symposium promotes research and experimentation in STEM at the high school level, and publicly recognizes students for outstanding achievement. The event brought in 300 attendees each day to the campus.

Sixty-eight students, from 29 high schools across the State of New Jersey, submitted research papers, which were rated by SJJSS reviewers. Finalists attended an orientation session and were interviewed by OCC journalism students. Information from the interviews was used for the program brochure and marketing materials. Among the 68 student papers, 10 were chosen as presentation finalists and six as semi-finalists who participated in an evening table-top poster competition.

Student research paper presentations included a cancer drug study, an evaluation of natural killer cell functions, and a mathematical study of the central motor control system. Presentations also focused on chemistry, electricity, sustainable energy, thermoelectric systems, and photovoltaic cells, to name a few. Student poster presentations studied road traffic safety, lipid imbalance, electromagnetic levitation apparatus, transitory light curves, and athletic wrist range of motion, among others.

“Students selected to participate in the Symposium represent New Jersey’s finest,” explained Dr. Jon H. Larson, President of Ocean County College. “Their interest in and understanding of the sciences, engineering, and mathematics are outstanding, as exhibited in their research projects selected for the presentation. The wide-ranging and comprehensive subjects highlighted at the Symposium were impressive; more importantly, they represented the commitment the students have made, the knowledge they have gained as a result of their hard work, and the success they will enjoy as they move into the future,” he concluded.

Reviewers, mentors, and judges of student papers included representatives from Centenary University, US Army Armaments Research & Development Engineering Center (ARDEC) – Picatinny Arsenal, US Army Communications-Electronic Research, Development, & Engineering Center (CERDEC), Monmouth University, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Naval Weapons Station Earle, NJ Sea Grant Consortium NOAA – James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory at Sandy Hook, and Ocean County College.

According to Captain Jay M. Steingold, Commanding Officer, Naval Weapons Station Earle, this is the 55th anniversary of the junior science symposium and the first at Ocean County College. “It remains clear that developing our nation’s budding generation of scientists, engineers, and researchers is as important as ever. Only through our continued commitment to America’s youth, as represented by these most amazingly gifted young men and women and devotion to innovation in the vast number of research fields presented here, will our country be able to retain its place as the world’s leader across the spectrum of technology development,” Capt. Steingold said.

Elsewhere, Ocean County College hosted 69 Toms River High School South juniors, who participated in STEM workshops as part of the STEM Academy grant funded by Investors Bank. Detective John Turner, Toms River Police Department, presented “Crime Scene Evidence.” “Wind Power” and “Bouncing Balls” experiments were conducted by OCC science and technology faculty. And a workshop on “Comets and Stars” was conducted by staff members of the Robert J. Novins Planetarium located on OCC’s Toms River Campus.

In addition, Ocean County College hosted Neptune High School’s IEEE Mini-Engineering Academy. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a national professional association that helps to advance technology. Approximately 100 students from 25 Monmouth and Ocean county high schools participated in a session on alternate energy with an emphasis on wind power. The high school students constructed 90 tabletop windmills and conducted tests to determine how various propellers and the number of propeller blades influence efficiency.

Also, for more than 25 years, Ocean County College has hosted the annual Math Counts Middle School Mathematics Competition, which is sponsored by the Ocean County Society of Professional Engineers. Eight middle schools participated in the event and OCC math faculty volunteered to help with grading tests.

However, while Ocean County College is reaching out to middle and high school students, it certainly hasn’t forgotten its own students! During the past several months, OCC students have been busy with a variety of STEM activities at the College.

For example, the Makers Club, a college student organization, has been busy building and demonstrating its three-D printer. The group also paired up with other student organizations, helping to show how STEM can cut across different fields. Pairing with the Environmental Club, the Makers Club started an aquaponics project with the construction of freestanding planters that will grow flowers and vegetables without soil. And in a joint presentation, the Makers Club and Music Club demonstrated the magic of “Makey Makey” during a workshop offered to high school participants in the Ocean County Teen Arts Festival held on OCC’s Toms River Campus. A Makey Makey is a device that uses the power of electricity and technology to make any conductive surface (e.g. tin foil or a computer) resonate music in a variety of timbres. One of the demonstrations allowed students to turn the staircase in the Student Center into a digital piano! Each step represented a key on the piano, which played the corresponding note as it was walked on, allowing students to make their own music.

In addition, Ocean County College Professor Yuan Xu coordinated the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges spring semester student mathematics examination competition. Thirty-six OCC students participated, 11 of which were women. Top students may advance to the state competition.

And, five Ocean County College students participated in the Future Health Professionals’ (formerly Health Occupations Students of America) State Leadership Conference. Among 1,000 students from across the state, all five OCC students placed in the competition! First places were earned for “Job Seeking Skills,” “Extemporaneous Writing,” and “Clinical Nursing.” Second place was earned for “Medical Assisting” and fourth place for “Medical Terminology.” OCC students will go on to compete at the International Leadership Conference in June.

All in all, Ocean County College has been working continuously to show how vital STEM is to both current and future college students. By starting out in middle and high school, it is hoped that more students will choose STEM majors in college, graduating to work in the exciting fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Watch a 1-minute video on STEM that Ocean County College produced for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges here: