Powerful STEM Partnerships Inspire Students During Mason Night of Innovation

Powerful STEM Partnerships Inspire Students During Mason Night of Innovation

“Fly, Fly, Fly,” Western Row Elementary students chanted as they breathlessly waited for local Mason tech leader Festo to launch its robotic marvel, the SmartBird. Inspired by the herring gull, the SmartBird only weighs about a pound and has a wingspan of 6.5 feet.

Third graders from Mason City Schools and Kings Schools gasped as they watched SmartBird fly and land autonomously during the the Night of Innovation held at Mason High School on October 28. Watch SmartBird fly. Festo then shared its BionicOpter (modeled after the dragonfly) with students. Weighing only six ounces, the BionicOpter has mastered the dragonfly’s highly complex flight maneuvers including hovering mid-air and flying in all directions.

The bio-inspired robots showcase how principles from nature provide inspiration for technical applications and industrial practice. They were key components of the City of Mason’s Week of Innovation which Festo presented to celebrate the City’s 200th birthday.

“Another amazing reminder why we should be thankful for the blessing of living here - an incredible partnership between Mason City Schools, the City of Mason and Festo. Thank you to all who inspired my 3rd grader with many learning obstacles to pursue his love of robotics and nature and to dream big,” posted Kim Rupert, mother of a third grade Western Row Elementary student on her Facebook page.

During the Night of Innovation, third graders and their families also participated in an Innovation Fair in the MHS FieldHouse. Interactive exhibits from Kings, Mason City Schools, University of Cincinnati, and Sinclair College inspired students.

Some of the hands-on science exploration included launching a marshmallow catapult and engineering a gumdrop candy tower under the guidance of Mason City Schools elementary STEM Center teachers Kim Peters, Shannon Sterle and Karen Vome; students completing a mini engineering challenge by building a lifesaver car that moved with a single breath of air with help from Mason Middle School Engineering and Design students; driving robots and learning some code with help from MMS Coding and Robotics Lab students; making dry ice bubbles and homemade silly putty with MHS students from the TUSK school-sponsored club; powering up a balloon rocket with Mason High School’s Women in Engineering; participating in dry ice demonstrations with MHS’s Science National Honor Society; and learning fun physics while riding a hovercraft and knocking down objects with a smoke-blaster under the watchful eye of students enrolled in AP Physics at Mason High School.

“On behalf of the Mason City Schools Board of Education, we are so grateful to have such innovative partners like Festo and the City of Mason and we really appreciate Mayor Nichols’ leadership and City Council’s efforts to attract businesses that believe in our students.  We should all take a moment and give thanks for living and learning in a community that values education. Tonight is an incredible opportunity to witness our entire community's commitment to innovation, and inspiring the next generation of engineers, scientists, makers, inventors and creators. We are indeed, ‘Growing Greatness Together!’” said Courtney Allen, Mason City Schools Board President.


The Innovation Fair was a good opportunity for families to see first-hand some of the investments the district has made in STEM in just the last two years. The Mason City School District was a statewide leader nearly 20 years ago in making science lab a special. Today, that has evolved into this year's Innovative STEM Centers for all all of the Mason Early Childhood Center and Western Row Elementary students. Additionally, the Mason Middle School Coding and Robotics Lab is a new elective for this year’s seventh and eighth graders, and was supported by a grant from the Mason Schools Foundation.


About the City of Mason’s Week of Innovation

Earlier on October 27, Festo presented its bionic animals to Mason High School students enrolled in a science class in the school’s auditorium, and held a lively question and answer session. Watch one of the sessions. Other activities were planned with Kings High School students, Sinclair, and the University of Cincinnati throughout the week. Learn more at MasonInnovates.com.


The Week of Innovation is an opportunity for leaders in the technology industry, Mason community, and students to come together to revel in the technological innovations developed and those yet to come. The events are a visual demonstration of how unique public-private partnerships (P3) can advance community education and promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming, attract professional talent and advance community-wide collaboration among businesses.

Festo and the City of Mason have formed a strong public-private partnership which supports community education, fosters an interest in STEM education and brings economic benefits to the technology ecosystem already present in the City and region. Festo broke ground in the City of Mason in 2013 on Innovation Way, adding to the City’s bioscience and biotechnology hub. Festo will open doors in early 2016, bringing more than 250 jobs to the City along with leading technology and industrial innovations.

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