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STEP Program Takes Victory at Statewide Conference 

The aeronautics team's project: To Space and Back was a first-place winner. (Photos by Naomi McPeters) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 1, 2016) – A space balloon launch and a project on how microbes on the water fountain can cause illness, were among the first-place winners by UAlbany Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) teams at the STEP Statewide Student Conference at the Albany Marriott last month.

High school students from four different UAlbany STEP teams competed at the conference, which drew nearly 50 STEP programs from across New York State. UAlbany STEP provides a wide range of STEM activities and opportunities to Capital Region middle and high school students.

“The entire STEP family is proud of our students’ accomplishments and expects to see many more in the future,” said UAlbany Interim Director Mayra E. Santiago. She noted the UAlbany students involved gain from the experience as well.

“The mentoring relationships our college students enter into with high school and middle school students engender citizenship skills while enhancing their leadership and identity development,” said Santiago. “Through mentoring, our students further promote their own success, as they must hold themselves accountable to the vision and guidance they are offering to their mentees. By providing mentorship to secondary school youth they are not only giving back, but strengthening their own capacity as change agents who are contributing members of our local and global communities.”

Members of the University’s aeronautics team, under the guidance of UAlbany senior Miguel Ramirez and SUNY Polytechnic Institute Professor Gregory Denbeaux, were the first-place winners in the senior division of the physical science category for a space balloon launch. STEP students Ariyanna Chillis (Colonie Central High School) and Manuel Santiago (Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons) presented results from their project, which occurred in Utica on March 5. Taylor Blue Clarke (Bishop Maginn High School) and Frederick Marshall (Green Tech Charter High School) contributed to the investigation.

The students demonstrated how to use the laws of physics and aerodynamic principles to predict a space balloon’s performance. Together they built and assembled the balloon, predicted its flight pattern, then tracked its flight using a SPOT tracker which retrieved the GPS coordinates of the balloon in motion. Students then calculated its altitude, which exceeded expectations, reaching well over 122,000 feet after a flight time of 1.5 hours and traveling a distance of 65 miles, all recorded on an attached GoPro camera. Watch the ascent into outer space and back.

Presenter Alyssa Gooding (Albany Leadership Charter High School), representing the University’s microbiology team, was the first place winner in the senior division of the biological/life sciences category with the project “Think Before You Drink:” How Microbes Found on the Water Fountain Could Make You Sick.” She and team member Erin Innerarity (Stephen & Harriet Myers Middle School) conducted lab work to collect and observe bacteria, researched how different types of microbes could negatively affect health, and distributed surveys to UAlbany students to determine the amount of water fountain usage. The team was supervised by Cathleen Green, a UAlbany doctoral candidate in biology.

STEP students Robert Irvin (Green Tech Charter High School) and Xavier McCarthy (LaSalle Institute), representing UAlbany’s neuroscience team, received participation medals in the junior division of the human services category with their project, “Alzheimer’s in the Black Community: Analyzing Awareness of Alzheimer’s.” These students were under the guidance of Erin Banks, a graduate student in UAlbany’s School of Education.

In addition, STEP students Isaiah James (Green Tech Charter High School), Thiri Htun (Rensselaer High School), Michael Innerarity (Green Tech Charter High School), Tayvia Ward (Shaker High School), Emmanuel Cook (Green Tech Charter High School), Tayvon Ward (Shaker High School), and Antonio Tarver (Colonie Central High School), representing the Robotics P10NEERS Team, received participation ribbons in the Conference’s robotics exhibition. The team was supervised by Mac-Arthur Louis, STEP Robotics Instructor.

For more information about the program, contact Santiago at msantiago1@albany.edu, or Coordinator Etwin Bowman at elbowman@albany.edu.

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