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BPS students take interactive STEM tour of BNMC

Dennis Elsenbeck, regional director for National Grid, makes a point during a talk with West Hertel Academy students during the Buffalo Public Schools' Advanced Manufacturing Day. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By SUZANNE CHAMBERLAIN

Published March 3, 2016

“We take every opportunity to educate students — our future — on energy and advanced manufacturing. That’s why STEM is so important.”
Dennis Elsenbeck, regional director
National Grid

Nearly 90 fifth-graders from Buffalo Public Schools’ West Hertel Academy tested their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills yesterday by 3-D printing model wind turbines, building light-powered LEGO cranes and learning how GPS is used to locate shared bikes.

Sponsored by National Grid, BPS Advanced Manufacturing Day (#STEM_Buffalo) is part of the Buffalo Public Schools STEM Experience, a private-public alliance that uses hands-on workshops, field trips and speakers to interest city students in STEM skills.

“We take every opportunity to educate students — our future — on energy and advanced manufacturing. That’s why STEM is so important,” said National Grid Regional Director Dennis Elsenbeck. “If you understand how to think like a scientist or solve problems like an engineer, then you can make more informed decisions. National Grid is delighted to be a partner in this program.”

As part of the day’s events, Elsenbeck led students through a parking lot on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus that featured a number of energy alternative solutions, including an electric car plugged into one of 21 charging stations available throughout the campus. Students also saw the off-grid lighting that uses wind turbine and solar energy to provide visibility and safety in an energy-efficient way.

“We need to engage students in energy issues and the environment because they will be the ones resolving our next-generation challenges,” Elsenbeck said.

“BPS Advanced Manufacturing Day — as part of a series of workshops and speakers — is a great way to engage younger students with the hope of interesting them in STEM-related research and careers,” said Venu Govindaraju, UB vice president for research and economic development. “UB is glad to work with our partners helping students recognize and begin preparing for the tremendous opportunities that are increasingly available in Western New York’s growing innovation economy.”

Matt Enstice, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus president and CEO, noted how important it is to share with local students the tremendous amount of work in STEM fields that is being conducted on the medical campus.

“What is even more exciting is to consider the future technologies and career options that may be available to these students a decade or more from now,” he said. “We are thrilled to be part of this event to get kids engaged and excited about science and technology today, to help propel them to be the thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs and scientists for tomorrow.”

“It’s critical that we provide our future workforce with the opportunity to see firsthand how transformative a high-tech career in manufacturing can be,” said Michael Ulbrich, president of Buffalo Manufacturing Works. “These students will not only become the problem-solvers industry needs but an invaluable asset to our manufacturing community and regional economy.”

Students work in the training center at Buffalo Manufacturing Works, using 3-D printers to make parts to construct a small wind turbine. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

As part of Advanced Manufacturing Day, students printed 3-D models of wind turbines in the Buffalo Manufacturing Works Additive Manufacturing Learning Lab.

UB student volunteers also guided students through an exercise using solar-powered LEGO cranes to lift their LEGO creations. In addition, participants had a chance to test their wind turbine designs.

“Buffalo is in a renaissance, reinventing itself through various forms of new high-tech industry,” said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash. “STEM careers are opening up, from solar energy to the allied health sciences and applied technology fields. We are making sure that our talented students will be the human capital pipeline that fuels the new Buffalo.”

“UB is a key partner in helping the Buffalo Public Schools develop this pipeline,” said SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin, who proposed creating the BPS STEM Experience and asked UB to develop the initiative, now in its third year.

The initiative creates new programs in response to industry and educational trends while also aligning with existing STEM programs. BPS STEM Experience events include Genome Day, Planetarium Day, Advanced Manufacturing Day, Nano at Work, the Science of Hockey, Solar Energy, STEM Read-Aloud and the ISEP Science Summit.

Coordinating partners include the city of Buffalo, Buffalo Public Schools, Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership, UB, SUNY Buffalo State, Erie Community College, SUNY, New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Buffalo Sabres.

Additional sponsoring partners include National Grid, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, as well as Buffalo Manufacturing Works, Praxair, Thermo Fisher Scientific, EverFi, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, dig, Lamar Advertising, Science Exploration Day and Tech Savvy.