A year ago, the STEAMIFY competition, spearheaded by Dr. Ashley Gess, needed to go virtual due to COVID-19. Instead of canceling, the problem-solving competition lived up to its moniker and found a way to continue its growing tradition.
“Last year, when we had COVID, the STEAMIFY board really looked at it like, this is a problem, we’re going to do what we’re asking the kids to do,” said Gess, assistant professor of STEAM Education in the College of Education at Augusta University.
Fortunately, however, this year’s competition will once again be in person on March 26, 2022, on the Summerville Campus. There will be a synchronous virtual aspect for those unable to travel to Augusta University due to COVID-19 or other reasons.
STEAMIFY is a fun problem-solving competition that gives students in grades four through eight a chance to take what they are learning in class and apply it to their daily lives.
The competition capitalizes on a STEAM educational approach, which leverages the design process to help students apply their everyday learning in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics toward solving a meaningful problem or issue that is important today.
Those participating are assigned a “grand challenge” in advance, and need to come up with a design to solve the challenge.
“This opportunity, by not only giving them science, math, engineering and technology opportunities, but by engaging the art in an intentional, deep and meaningful way, we can really train the whole mind of the students in that liveliness that is needed as they move through school and the workforce.”
This year’s event will also introduce additional fields of study.
“We have a new cybersecurity challenge this year, which we are really excited to roll out. We also have music, which is new this year.”
Besides the grand challenge, there is also a spontaneous problem solving exercise on the day of the competition.
“Our goal is to really target those kids and let them know they can do it,” said Gess. “They can be engaging and meaningful, and what they are learning in their everyday classes is important and applicable and they can make a difference in their community.”
Watching how the participants work in teams is also important, according to Gess. Competition leadership isn’t looking for individuals to take on the challenges, but rather, teams — and they want to see how those teammates interact.
The last in-person event in 2019 had almost 1,000 student participants taking part on campus, and this year, the goal is 2,500. And according to Gess, it’s not just students in school who can take part, but kids in after-school programs like Scout troops can also form a team.
“I think we’re the only STEAM competition in the Southeast that I know of, so we’re really hoping to touch people well beyond the CSRA and well beyond our two states.”
This year’s competition is inspired by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Livable Communities Initiative. Together with the AARP, the STEAMIFY team believes residents of all ages should have equal opportunities to participate in community life.
Registration for the March event has just opened and Gess said they’re already getting interest from all over the Southeast. They are looking for about 350 volunteers to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.
Besides the COE and AARP, other organizations supporting the competition include the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Science’s Art and Design department, Ingevity, Textron Specialized Vehicles, South Carolina Afterschool Alliance, Georgia Cyber Center, Augusta Regional Airport and John Deere.
Gess said they are always looking for more sponsors to keep cost at a minimum for the participants and their families. Email Gess for more information.