Capitol STEM Challenge: Engaging the Next Generation of Innovators

May 21, 2024

Capitol Technology University hosted its second annual Capitol STEM Challenge on Friday, April 5 at its campus in Laurel, MD — and with over 200 middle school students arriving to participate in STEM activities, it was another huge success! From drone racing to rocket launching to cyber capture the flag to math escape rooms, there was something for everyone in this celebration of STEM education.

Dr. William (Bill) Butler, VP of Cyber Science Outreach and Partnerships at Capitol, spearheaded this year’s event and was thrilled with the collaboration that it brought to life on-campus. “It was fantastic to see such a diverse range of challenges that not only entertain but also introduce middle school students to the exciting world of STEM careers. Providing hands-on experiences like these is crucial for sparking interest and curiosity in young minds.”

A strong goal of Capitol is to make STEM education fun and accessible for our youth, and the university works to establish partnerships, events, and programs like the STEM Challenge, Cyber Saturdays , and CapTech Connect to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists to pursue higher education and career advancement.

STEM Challenge Rocket Assembling

This year’s event featured several exciting activities, including:

Fun With Fixtures: Participants learned data science skills to build a database for an inventory of items related to fun topics (ex. a music or toy collection) and worked together to implement it.

All About Drones: Participants learned uncrewed and autonomous systems skills to safely fly a drone, then competed in a drone race to win their very own drone!

Math Escape Room: Participants worked together using math and logic skills to solve math complex problems and unlock the next set of challenges until an “escape” was made by a winning team.

Rocket Assembly and Launch: A participant favorite, this challenge taught engineering skills that students used to assemble their own rocket and launch it high into the sky!

Construction Challenge with LEGO Blocks: Participants were challenged to design and build a free-standing structure using LEGO blocks to leverage modern construction technology and engineering skills, as well as electronics, drones, and laser survey methods.

Flight Simulator Challenge: Participants used virtual reality and aviation skills to land aircraft in various locations such as BWI and other places based on difficulty within a simulation.

STEM Challenge Flight Simulator

Cyber Capture the Flag (CTF): An event designed and led by Capitol’s own Signal-9 Cyber Competition Team, participants used cyber skills to compete in cutting-edge CTF challenges of increasing difficulty.

ALPHA Observatory & Space Flight Operations Training Center (SFOTC) Mission Control: Participants toured the on-campus observatory to view nearby stars and visible planets, then used astronautical engineering skills to analyze the captured data and identify meteors and constellations.

All STEM Challenge activities aligned with real-world applications to help students understand how STEM is utilized across many skillsets and industries. An emphasis on creativity, brainstorming, and technical skill development was key to making these challenges engaging, educational, and fun.

Afterwards, prizes like LEGO sets, mini robots, pins, and t-shirts, as well as certificates of participation, were awarded and lunch was provided. The day ended with a closing ceremony commending all students for their great dedication to learning.

STEM Challenge SFOTC Group

“It’s wonderful to hear from school administrators that some students left with a newfound passion for STEM, while others simply had a blast participating,” Dr. Butler added. Having partnered with local middle schools for awareness and participation in the event, Capitol was able to reach a wider audience of students and increase their access to STEM education and engagement.

“We are already planning for the third annual event,” Dr. Butler stated, “with even more diverse challenges, showing a commitment to continuing this important work. Events like these play a vital role in shaping the future of STEM education and careers, and it’s heartening to see Capitol Technology University taking the lead in such initiatives.”

Capitol Technology University would like to thank the students, parents, and teachers from Old Mill Middle School, South Central Middle School, and Lindale Middle School (from Anne Arundel County, Maryland) and Friendship Chamberlain Elementary & Middle School, and Friendship Woodridge International School (from Washington, DC) for making this event a huge success!

STEM Challenge Rocketry Workshop in Auditorium

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