This year, the theme of Foxcroft School’s all-girls STEM competition, Expedition K2M: The STEM Summit, is sick.
It’s not that it isn’t healthy — the February 23 event is filled to capacity with 40 teams of girls from middle and high schools in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, scheduled to take part — but the day will revolve around pandemic diseases. And organizers are confident that participants will find that sick, as in awesome.
“Through movies, history class, and even board games, many students are familiar with the outbreaks of various pandemics throughout history, from the bubonic plague to influenza,” says Director of STEM Education and competition director Kristine Varney. “In this year’s event, students can expect fun and exciting challenges where they use their STEM skills to determine the cause of the outbreak, find a cure, and deliver it to the people who need it.”
Working in teams of three or four, the girls will rotate through challenges in biology, chemistry, physics, logic, and engineering. A winner will be declared for each challenge as well as an overall winning team. In addition, students can answer trivia questions about pandemics and cures throughout history to earn raffle tickets and compete for prizes ranging from gift cards to tech devices, and even a few pandemic-themed gifts (Don’t worry, they’re not contagious). Engineers from K2M, Inc., the Leesburg, VA-based, biomedical company that sponsors the event, will host one challenge while Foxcroft’s outstanding math and science faculty has created the others.
This year, several extra opportunities to learn about STEM careers have been added to the schedule. High school students are invited to a lunchtime career panel with female engineers from K2M. This panel will offer teen girls an opportunity to broaden their views of the field, from how to become an engineer to a glimpse of the many things that they do.
“The opportunity to interact with accomplished, relatable, and well-spoken female engineers from K2M is one of the things that sets this competition apart,” said Varney. “Girls not only have fun using their STEM skills, but they also take another step towards seeing STEM as a viable career option and exciting field to pursue in the future.”
Middle school parents and visitors are invited to two informal roundtable sessions while their students compete. The first, featuring Foxcroft Head of School Cathy McGehee, will explore ways of supporting girls in STEM; the second will feature a panel of K2M engineers sharing STEM career paths.
The high school competition begins at 8:30am with eight visiting teams from seven schools — Georgetown Visitation (Washington, DC), Highland School (Warrenton, VA), Orange County (VA) High School, Valley High School (Purcellville, VA), Wakefield School (The Plains, VA), and two homeschool groups, Cornerstone and Solid Foundations in Math and Science. Foxcroft will field 12 teams, one of which will be designated to represent the School in the overall competition, which Foxcroft won last year.
The middle school division is comprised of teams from Blue Ridge Middle (Purcellville, VA), Grymes Memorial (Orange, VA), Harmony Middle (Hamilton, VA), The Hill School (Middleburg, VA), Immanuel Christian (Springfield, VA), J. Michael Lunsford Middle (Chantilly, VA), Mercer Middle (Aldie, VA), Norwood (Bethesda, MD), Nysmith (Herndon, VA), Powhatan (Boyce, VA), St. John's Episcopal (Olney, MD), defending champion St. Patrick's (Washington, DC), Village School (Charlottesville, VA), and Washington (DC) Episcopal.