Sulphur Bluff X-TEEMS learn valuable lessons 

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov 11, 2007 - While their study may not have gone according to plan, the Sulphur Bluff team still had plenty to share at Saturday morning’s X-TEEMS Academy Fall Expo 2007 at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

The Sulphur Bluff High School Project STEEM team has fun together Thursday afternoon working on their X-TEEMS project, a presentation of an environmental study they did on bacteria in 1A schools. Pictured (left to right) are students Minerva Marquez and Josh Formoso, math/physics teacher Andy Jones, science teacher Gerry Young, students Cody Clawson and Fatima Basrai.

The SB students didn’t get much to grow from the swabs taken at Sulphur Bluff, Cumby and North Hopkins schools, but they learned not only how important planning and organization are to research, but also valuable information about the research process, and how environment and outside factors can both negatively and positively impact that process, the students said this week.

�We�re kind of disappointed, we didn�t get much at all,� said Minerva Marquez, who along with fellow sophomores Jackie Blake, Trey Henderson and Cody Clawson, junior Josh Formoso and senior Fatemia Basrai, and lead teacher Gerry Young and teacher Andy Jones fill out the Sulphur Bluff X-TEEMS crew.

The students sent letters to the other county schools similar in size and student composition. North Hopkins and Cumby agreed to let them take swabs. They ordered the materials. They made 30 swabs.

�Some dried up, others not,� Marquez said.

�Most dried up and turned green and crispy,� said Blake

The students said it was a great learning experience they can draw from not only as  they start work on the spring expo when they will either continue their current project to see what bacteria grows at what locations in local schools, or will present a totally new project.

They learned what to do to prepare a mix and get the lab ready. They got practical experience with swabs. But, due to shipping factors beyond their control, their incubator came in a week late, and they suspect the auger in which they mixed their swabs in hopes of growing bacteria in their petrea dishes, which were be placed in their incubator, was old. But this is life. So, they were unable to grow much in their dishes. They did learn what happens if you touch your finger to the dish; they were able to observe top and bottom growths, see bacteria grow spontaneously from the air in the lab;  and they learned the impact of temperature on such projects. The students also learned to careful when working with the dishes as holes can easily be torn in the most needed materials.

As for the cultures taken from the secretary and library check out desks at the schools, “some dried up” and there was “not much” growth in dishes among others. So, overall, there was not enough results from the 20 swabs from each school for significant study results regarding bacteria in areas commonly touched by students and school staff.

Although the team of six students and two teachers have been meeting every Tuesday since school got in full swing, their advice to the 10 schools who will be selected to participate in the project next year, will be to really get things under way “a lot earlier” so they’ll “have more time if they don’t work out” and be “more organized”, Minerva, Jackie, Trey and Fatima, recommend.

Andy Jones, who took over as math instructor at the start of the school year, said that while having a replacement teacher and two replacement students step in at the beginning of the school year could have slowed things down, it wasn’t really a problem for this group. Lead teacher Gerry Young, science, explained that the students’ interest in technology, engineering, education, math and science fields or like senior Fatima who is more English-language arts oriented are dedicated to the project.

The one draw back is that being from a small school.  the well rounded students are involved in a number of other activities, which sometimes conflict with their weekly X-TEEMS meetings. This weekend however, sophomore Trey Henderson (who attended the 4-week STEEM Infinity Institute at TAM-C over the summer, and along with Jackie stepped in to fill two slots when two team members moved out of the district this year) had to decide between competing in a state cross country event or participating in the expo Saturday.

For those who plan to continue in science or math related fields — Trey is interested in math and physics while Minerva hopes to become a doctor, nurse or other healthcare worker and Jackie would like to research to find new or better cures to illnesses or other improvements in the medical field — the experience has been valuable. 

They said the hands-on, experience learning has been fun, and were looking forward to swapping ideas with X-TEEMS members from the 9 other participating schools  — and seeing how the other projects developed — as well as the next expo.

�I think it will be interesting seeing all the other kids, what they�re doing,� Blake said.

�It�s pretty interesting the things the other schools are doing,� Marquez said.

They said one school was supposed to explore a type of grass that would help reduce the number of mosquitoes in a local park there, while another was looking into alternative fuel sources, 

After setting up, the students were to attend a lecture by guest speaker Steve Hasting from Northrop Grumman on “encouraging engineers” as well as “Catapulting into the future” then would view student X-TEEMs projects, and just prior to the lunch hour would participate in sessions such as “The Medieval Battle of the X-TEEMS,” “Infinity Crypto-Knights with Dr. Kreminski,” or “Planetarium Show — Kaluoka’hina, the Enchanted Reef.” A college application, scholarship and financial aid workshop was offered for parents, who along with the students, teachers and their friends were invited to the Project STEEM Expo Day hosted by Project STEEM and the Greater Texas Foundation at TAMU-C. 

Although they won’t officially begin work for the spring expo until later this month, students and teachers alike seem to be leaning toward a whole new project for the spring presentation.

Jones, whose area of specialization is physics, said that while he’ll lend support, answering questions and helping as best he can, he’d be thrilled if the students selected a project more in line with that. 

So would Henderson, who expressed interest in further pursuing math topics, especially physics. Another student expressed interest in possibly doing a psychology project.

Basrai said that like the summer session the SB students attended at TAMUC she would be agreeable to projects in science and math.

�I think it�s interesting to work in science and math, outside my comfort zone. I�m better at English, that type thing,� Basrai said, explaining that she became involved in the project at the recommendation of her former Beta sponsor. She took pre-calculus last year, and after viewing the list of possible activities for the summer program, taught mostly by graduate students, thought the experiments would be interesting to try.

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