In keeping with the theme, the event featured disease-inspired team names, fictitious public safety challenges, and — it turned out — a silent killer.
The imaginative math and science faculty at Foxcroft that annually creates the event came up with the names, such as Ebola Eradicators, Rabies Rejectors, and Zika Zappers. They designed events that used chemistry to determine the miraculous medicine that could save them and logic to figure out who got sick where and from eating what. They even had an app — and Kindles for every team — that simulated an epidemic outbreak spreading among the teams themselves.
But it was a team from Highland School called the Measles Mitigators that launched the surprise attack, taking the high school division even though they did not win, or even place in the top three, in any of the five challenging events.
Bridget C., Kunyu G., Olivia S., and Lucy W., who comprised the Mitigators, were stunned, too. Georgetown Visitation’s Mumps Menders had won two individual challenges and three different Foxcroft teams each won another. But Visitation finished third overall while another winless team, Foxcroft’s Chicken Pox Challengers comprised of juniors Kenzie G., Bella S., Krissa T., and Joy W., placed second.
“That’s just the way the math worked out,” said Kristine Varney, Foxcroft’s Director of STEM Education and the event manager.
The other Foxcroft event winners were the Cholera Crushers (Scarlett D. ’21, Tam L. ’20, Eunice Y. ’21, and Finy Z. ’22), Dengue Fever Decimators (Nicole C. ’19, Claire H. ’21, Eli K. ’21, and Cassandra T. ’20), and Smallpox Smashers (Grace C. ’19, Leslie W. ’20, Selina X. ’22, and Sylvia Y ’19).
In the middle school division, Norwood School’s Rabies Rejectors (Yanira D.S., Navya G., Rebecca P., and Harper S.) won the overall title, and two individual events. Mercer Middle School’s Ebola Eradicators placed second and the Chicken Pox Challengers of Harmony Middle School were third. Immanuel Christian, Lunsford Middle, and Powhatan also won individual events
A team of female engineers from K2M, Inc
., the Leesburg, VA-based bio-medical company that sponsors the event, creates and conducts one of the challenges each year. Meeting and interacting with role models that “look like me” is an important aspect of building interest and encouraging girls to consider STEM fields that are vastly under-represented by women. In addition to all the engineers introducing themselves and saying a few words to the entire gathering this year, three of the young women fielded questions and shared stories of their engineering career paths with a score of high school students over lunch. Foxcroft Head of School Cathy McGehee moderated the panel session and also conducted two round table discussions with parents of middle school competitors later in the day.
“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.”
The STEM Summit, celebrating its eighth year, remains a highlight of the winter for Foxcroft and many area schools and is always filled to capacity, with teams often requesting spots for the next year as they leave.