On Feb. 17, Police Athletic League youngsters from all five boroughs participated virtually in the city-wide PAL Tournament of Champions STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Challenge.
Activities focused on STEM featuring engineering, design and physics skills building. Participants were in kindergarten through eighth grades and worked within age groups.
PAL’s annual event is designed to provide young people with valuable learning experiences. Activities encourage creative problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, determination and life skills. Children take on the scientific or design method that connects these hands-on projects to STEM outcomes.
“The academic needs and aspirations of our participants are always our top priority,” said Dana Wheeler, director of education and program development, Police Athletic League. “STEM is a significant part of PAL programming, and we are determined this year to continue holding our traditional, annual events, even if the format and scope has to be changed due to social distancing. The children that took part in the hands-on STEM activities had fun and learned about using the scientific method to answer questions.”
In the Spaghetti Tower Challenge, children in grades kindergarten through second built a tower out of dry spaghetti sticks that could hold weight at the top. They constructed a freestanding structure using no more than 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of masking tape, one yard of string and one jumbo marshmallow. The lesson included a discussion about how standing towers are made and how these items mimic building materials.
In the Marble Track Challenge, kids in third and fourth grade created a paper track, where a marble can build momentum and speed with turns and loops. Children built a machine powered by gravity to move down a track while understanding how the angles of a moving ball effects its speed and inertia. The lesson covered rollercoasters, what they are, what makes a rollercoaster function, how it looks and why people find them fun.
In the Chain Reaction Challenge, PAL youths in grades five through eight found a wide variety of objects and then designed a chain reaction using construction toys or kitchen items. They used items that could help move a rolling ball in a downward trajectory and skip along to a chair, stool and eventually the floor with stacks of books and boxes along the way.
The 2021 Tournament of Champions virtual STEM challenge continued the PAL tradition of holding an annual tournament to foster better understanding and relationships by bringing together boys and girls of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Children had the opportunity to work together on hands-on informal learning experiences and share the camaraderie of team work and achievement.