This year's “Galaxy Trek” theme for Foxcroft's all-girls STEM Challenge is out of this world! Designed for middle and high school students, the competition will see girls from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, participate in challenges revolving around space exploration, using their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math to restore failing systems onboard a space station and preserve the astronauts’ scientific endeavors.
“Inspired by the scientists living and working aboard the International Space Station and knowing NASA's Artemis mission is set to send the first woman to the moon in 2024, our STEM Department decided this year's event would take place on a similar type of station in an unnamed galaxy, sometime in the future,” explained Director of STEM Education Kristine Varney. “What might happen if something were to malfunction onboard? These girls are the future scientists and engineers we want figuring it out!”
Working in teams of three or four, the girls will rotate through challenges in biology, chemistry, physics, coding, 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 space and space travel to earn raffle tickets and compete for prizes ranging from gift cards to tech devices. Engineers from Stryker Corporation, a medical technology company in Leesburg, VA, that sponsors the event, will host one challenge while Foxcroft’s outstanding math and science faculty have created the others.
High school students are once again invited to a lunchtime career panel with female engineers from Stryker, where they will be able to ask questions and get a glimpse of the many things that engineers do.
Following the career panel, Foxcroft is excited to welcome Dr. Sandra H. “Sandy” Magnus, former astronaut and current Deputy Director for Engineering within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering serving as DoD’s Chief Engineer for Advanced Capabilities. Magnus will draw from her extensive career and experience living on the space station to speak briefly about the importance of girls in STEM. She will then assist with the awards ceremony after which she will hold a round-table discussion with our STEM Concentration students.
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 Stryker engineers sharing about their own career paths in STEM.
“My favorite part about the STEM Challenge is seeing girls problem solve using science and technology that they have not seen before,” notes STEM teacher and Animal Science Concentration Coordinator Katie Hergenreder, who co-plans the event with Varney. “Teams challenge themselves to think outside the box and find creative solutions to the task in front of them. The excitement over STEM is out of this world.”
The high school competition begins at 8:30am in Foxcroft’s Athletic/Student Center with visiting teams from several schools, including Highland School (Warrenton, VA), Wakefield School (The Plains, VA), Woodgrove High School (Purcellville, VA), Madeira School (McLean, VA), and two homeschool groups, Azer Homeschool and Solid Foundations in Math and Science. Foxcroft will field teams as well, one of which will be designated to represent the School in the overall competition. Foxcroft is looking forward to a rematch with last year’s winners, Highland School, who narrowly beat out Foxcroft’s designated team.
The middle school division in the afternoon is comprised of teams from Blue Ridge Middle (Purcellville, VA), Grymes Memorial (Orange, VA), The Hill School (Middleburg, VA), Immanuel Christian (Springfield, VA), Nysmith School for the Gifted (Herndon, VA), Powhatan (Boyce, VA), St. John's Episcopal (Olney, MD), Wakefield School’s middle division (The Plains, VA), St. Patrick's (Washington, DC), Village School (Charlottesville, VA), and Washington (DC) Episcopal, as well as teams from last year’s top three finishers, Norwood School (Bethesda, MD), Mercer Middle (Aldie, VA), and Harmony Middle (Hamilton, VA).