Out Of This World

BVT Global 1

Seen here (left to right) displaying a self-sufficient garden capable of growing vegetables on the International Space Station are: Haley Andrews-Tognazzi of Northbridge; Amanda Anderson of Millbury; Matthew Forget of Mendon; Evan Donovan of Sutton; Kyle McColl of Milford; Austin Brodeur of Uxbridge; Haley Linnehan of Mendon; and Sarah Ducharme of Millville.

From high schoolers in Russia to astronauts orbiting Earth, students at Blackstone Valley Tech are collaborating with individuals across the globe and among the stars thanks to the growing success of the school’s Global STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education program.

Valley Tech launched a pilot of the program in 2014 in partnership with the Global STEM Education Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that partners schools with other countries, corporations, scientists, and engineers to develop and participate in STEM projects. In the program’s first year, under the instruction of Electrical instructor Craig Allen, BVT’s Electrical students partnered with high schoolers in Arkhangelsk, Russia to collaboratively study topics largely centered on green technology and energy conservation. The program has since expanded to include BVT’s Auto Tech, Electrical, Plumbing, and Culinary Arts programs.

In a most appropriate choice for a program that has taken off like a rocket ship, the BVT Global STEM Education program recently concluded its year-long exploration of the science, technology, and multicultural collaboration behind the International Space Station (ISS). Valley Tech and Russian students worked together to research and develop proposals to improve everyday life for the American, Russian, European, Japanese, and Canadian astronauts working on the ISS. Using their technical expertise, Valley Tech students developed a self-sufficient gardening system capable of growing carrots and lettuce in the International Space Station’s zero-gravity environment. BVT’s students and their Russian teammates also researched the psychology of color and constructed a lighting system that can influence the astronauts’ moods by emitting specific shades of red, blue, yellow, and green.

With their Russian partners appearing live on the classroom Smartboard, Valley Tech students recently gathered to present their final projects to a group of teachers, parents, and special guests. Video recordings of the presentations were shared with Dr. Frank Martin, a former recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal whose career with NASA and Lockheed Martin includes science mission operations on Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 and responsibility for servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope. In an email to Valley Tech, Dr. Martin applauded the Global STEM program and said he was “much impressed with what had to be learned/understood by the students to produce such professional looking presentations.”

Global STEM Education Center CEO and Founder Larisa Schelkin commended Valley Tech on becoming the first vocational technical school in Massachusetts to complete three consecutive years of the Global STEM Education program. In recognition of the school’s willingness to “write the guide book,” BVT Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick was awarded a certificate of appreciation at the third annual Global STEM Education Center Symposium, co-sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The Global STEM program’s focus on energy efficiency also contributed to Valley Tech’s receipt of a 2016 Excellence in Energy and Environmental Education Award from the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs. 

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