Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

  • Keaton Garcia and Henry Nguyen display their robotics skills during a Stem Showcase held at St. Mary's Academy. Photo by Johnathon Kelso
  • Second-grade students work on an indi coding car project during a Stem Showcase held at St. Mary's Academy. Photo by Johnathon Kelso
  • Seventh-grader Francois Dang explains a chicken feeder design to guests at the Stem Showcase held at St. Mary's Academy. Photo by Johnathon Kelso
  • St. Mary's Academy students learn coding through gaming during a STEM Showcase at the Fayetteville school March 21. Photo by Johnathon Kelso
  • A St. Mary's Academy student explains world religions as part of a display during the STEM Showcase, which featured projects ranging from 3D printing to coding. Photo by Johnathon Kelso
  • Keaton Garcia prepares to launch a paper airplane from a creation made in the 8th-12th grade robotics program during the STEM Showcase at St. Mary's Academy in Fayetteville. Photo by Johnathon Kelso

Keaton Garcia and Henry Nguyen display their robotics skills during a STEM Showcase at St. Mary's Academy. Photo by Johnathon Kelso


St. Mary’s Academy highlights creative student projects at STEM Showcase 

By NATALIA DURON, Staff Writer | Published April 4, 2024

FAYETTEVILLE—St. Mary’s Academy hosted a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Showcase Thursday, March 21.  

Students from pre-k to 12th grade presented assignments they had completed in their classrooms. Parents and friends were invited to see the projects and catch a glimpse of the education offered at the academy.  

From indi coding cars to complex principles of 3D printing, each table highlighted topics that embodied the rigorous curriculum and interests of the students. Students led the conversations and explained their projects to spectators.  

With 30 stations to visit, family and friends saw a wide range of creative, compelling and engaging assignments.  

Seventh-grade student Francois Dang presented a constructed chicken feeder. He used 3D printed designs as models for the final product, and said the process was rewarding.  

“The trial-and-error was my favorite part” Francois said. “I was excited to go to class every day to see the progress.” 

The elementary and middle school presented projects completed with tactile learning. Most of the assignments were hands-on and showed how cognitively important it is for younger students to utilize physical activities for a stronger education.  

Kindergarteners displayed a multi-learning assignment. Students were asked to build a nest on a tree for Peeps, the marshmallow candy, with chenille stems and building blocks. This task taught them basic engineering skills and about nature. They learned which structure could maintain a protective nest.  

The second grade’s table displayed Sphero indi cars, which are toy coding cars that move on certain colorful pads. These little experts in computer science were delighted to show off their puzzle-solving skills, and even invited guests to attempt the maze.  

A St. Mary’s Academy student holds an educational robot used during a display at the STEM Showcase in March. Photo by Johnathon Kelso

Fifth graders showed off their engineering skills through an assignment that asked them to build a cargo ship with aluminum foil, and the boats had to hold coins while floating in water. Some of the students’ final boats held over 100 coins, which became possible through testing new forms and shapes.  

High schoolers unveiled assignments that emphasized the importance of tactile, visual and analytical learning styles. Students guided guests through their projects and explained the logical patterns and reasoning behind their work.  

Ninth-grade student Rosemary Madu showed attendees how she created an Easter bunny on a graph using piecewise functions. Her assignment entailed that she needed to complete functions that match the linear shape of her picture.  

Other ninth graders showcased their expertise in Scratch and JavaScript. Scratch is a programming language in which students can create their own animations and games. For his final STEM project, one student produced an animated movie using the two programs.  

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, fine arts and mathematics) was this year’s theme for a design challenge in the STEM program. Senior Nathan Tran represented the class Technical Theater at the showcase, which is an elective course that teaches students about STEM careers in the fine arts industry.  

Tran presented how he and his classmates helped the theater with lighting, stage setting and any electrical needs, and said he enjoyed learning how STEM and fine arts work together.  

 “It was interesting learning about what’s available in entertainment,” Tran said. “You never think about STEM in that industry, but it’s really important.”  

A program built on vision, initiative 

The showcase was a mere peek into what students are learning at the academy. Undoubtedly, the students are successful not only because of their resilience, but because of the guidance of their teachers and the material.  

From pre-k to 12th grade, students at St. Mary’s Academy are immersed into STEM-related classes. These classes teach students from an early age the importance of how science, technology, engineering and mathematics impact the world.  

The elementary school courses focus on exploration, discovery and tactile learning. The middle school courses emphasize skill development and problem-solving. The high school courses enhance an entrepreneurial mindset in the students and show them how their skills can be applied in a certain field or industry.  

Dr. Brent Hollers, director of information technology and computer sciences, said the STEM program is built upon a vision and initiative for student success.  

The program’s vision is to “equip students with the skills to be innovative problem solvers in order to prepare them for the workplace in addition to an entrepreneurial setting,” according to the academy’s website 

Claire Schilling and her classmate work together during the STEM Showcase at St. Mary’s Academy. Photo by Johnathon Kelso

The program’s initiatives for success are known as student dispositions, which are skillsets that the program wants students to develop during their years here, Hollers said. Through this, students learn critical reasoning, resilience, computational thinking, social awareness and responsibility, collaboration, communication and entrepreneurship.  

Hollers said that resilience is the skillset that resonates with parents. This soft skill teaches students to gracefully face failure and see it as a necessary step for achievement. 

“How they react to setbacks and failure is important,” Hollers said. “If [a student’s] print fails, or it doesn’t work, they know that it’s one step in the process. They take observations from it, they learn from it and then they improve.”  

This mindset resonated throughout the showcase, where upon speaking to most of the students there, they said that the process, experimentation and anticipation of finally succeeding is what makes them so excited to learn.  

The intriguing part about the STEM program is that there is a niche for every student, Hollers said. The program’s extracurricular courses include e-sports, agriculture, prosthetics, aviation and robotics, among several others. The STEM program ensures that all students find a topic they’re highly interested in and could pursue as a career.  

St. Mary’s Academy’s STEM program ensures that all students learn at a young age the importance of a rigorous education. Through guidance and support, students can expand upon their talents in higher education and the workforce.  

“We want the kids to have a little curiosity about what they’re doing,” Hollers said. “We want them to be engaged, and to be creative thinkers and problem solvers. We want them to understand that all those things that they are doing is to utilize their God-given abilities to glorify God.”