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Senators head to Portsmouth Middle School to promote education in STEM

By Ken Johnson

Former Staff Writer

PORTSMOUTH – Friday morning Portsmouth Middle School (PMS) was awash with the sounds of cheering, laughter and hip-hop, all in the name of Sir Isaac Newton.  The students at PMS were watching the show “FMA Live! Forces in Motion” as a means to inspire students’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

Both of New Hampshire’s Senators, Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen, were in attendance at the “FMA Live!” Program and encouraged students to consider STEM-related education.

STEM education is designed to get students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, as the acronym implies.

“We need more of our students to get involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics so this [show] gets them excited about it,” Ayotte said.  “But in fact science, physics, technology is fun and interesting and you can solve real-world problems with it.”

“So I think this is the kind of program that just gets them excited about this topic–lets them know that this is something they can do and so I think it is great to have it here in Portsmouth and it’s nice to see the partnership between NASA and Honeywell and the school all coming together to really focus on this kind of education for our kids,” Ayotte added.

Shaheen held a similar view.

“[This show is] a great way to get younger students thinking about the subjects, the STEM subjects, and trying to encourage them to get more interested so they will go to UNH, go to other schools, and major in science and math and engineering and technology because we need more STEM graduates.  We need more people with these skills and UNH does a great job,” Shaheen said.

In 2012, The University System of New Hampshire, which includes The University of New Hampshire and the Community College System of New Hampshire, pledged to double the amount of graduates within STEM majors by the end of 2025, according to the UNH STEM website.

“I recently visited the InterOperability Lab at UNH which was pretty exciting to see all the great work done there on technology and really partnering with the private sector but also giving UNH students an opportunity to participate and actually earn money helping develop their skills in technology and real life management skills,” Ayotte said.

According to the UNH STEM website, “UNH is taking the long view on STEM education by introducing kids as young as age seven to science and technology with summer programs, internships, and hands-on fun.”

During the almost hour-long program, students learned about Newton’s three laws.  The traveling show was created by Honeywell and NASA in 2004 and is paid for by Honeywell.  The episode featured cast members Erick Nathan, Sharmaine Tate and John James singing and talking about Newton’s three laws of motion as well as sketches and demonstrations, which included a water rocket being shot on the stage and PMS Assistant Principal Phil Davis getting covered in applesauce.

“[Some students] were just showing the sign ‘25 years happy birthday Hubble telescope,’” Shaheen said.  “Some parts for the Hubble telescope were made at UNH and so it is a reminder of just how critical UNH is to the STEM life of New Hampshire and the country.”


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