Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math at Niskayuna
Niskayuna school leaders and teachers have been working on a growing number
of initiatives to provide students opportunities for study, hands-on
experiences, and exposure in the rapidly growing "STEM" fields of science,
technology, engineering, and math. Given the creative and visual nature of these
fields, the district uses the acronym STEAM, with an "A" for Art.
Courses and Instruction
- New and re-imagined courses at Niskayuna High School: Robotics
and Professional & Technical Writing will be new next year. At the
high school, students have the opportunity to take the full Project
Lead The Way (PLTW) sequence, including Intro to Engineering,
Electronics, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing. Other courses
include Nanoscale Science & Engineering, 3D Computer Modeling, and
Senior Research and Development - which requires students use the
engineering design process to develop a new solution to a societal
- In June of 2012, the new Outdoor Science Research Area at Niskayuna
High School opened, featuring elements for almost every science
discipline taught at the high school, including stream and rock bed
studies, horticulture, sustainability, weather station, solar arc.
It was funded by a series of grants.
- The partnership with Schenectady County Community College is
expected to result in college credit options for students who
complete AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, Nanoscale Science &
Engineering Courses, and Professional & Technical Writing.
- The Niskayuna High School Robotics class will participate in the VEX
Robotics competition at RPI in 2013-14.
- The 7th and 8th grade curriculum includes a unit on robotics, giving
students experience with the basic elements of robotics, including
design, sensors and circuits.
- Some middle school classes are piloting a "Community of the Future"
design challenge, a project that has included guidance from a local
architect who specializes in sustainable design. Students will
receive feedback from judges who are experts in the fields of
architecture, energy, and engineering.
- Students in middle school and high school are entering regional and
national contests, such as "The Spirit of Innovation Challenge" and
the New York State Invention Convention, held locally at
- The high school's TV Studio Production and Broadcast class is
bringing live newscasts to the entire school two to three days per
week in partnership with the Broadcast Club.
Professional Development for Teachers
- Niskayuna High School teachers have attended training in advanced
biotech labs, and implemented them in their classrooms.
- Niskayuna High School science, technology, and pre-engineering
teachers attended Northeast Advanced Technological Education Center
(NEATEC) nanotechnology conferences in 2012 and 2013. The
partnership with NEATEC also included an in-district professional
development session for math, science, pre-engineering, technology
teachers and all other interested staff members in the fall of 2012.
- Middle school science teachers attended the RPI NanoScience
Institute in the summer of 2011.
- Middle and high school technology/pre-engineering teachers will
attend Project Lead The Way (PLTW) robotics and programming training
using ROBOTC software in the Spring and Summer of 2013.
- In 2013, high school pre-engineering teachers attended 3D
architecture modeling software training using Revit software.
The Art CONNECTION
Art at Niskayuna connects to and enhances the STEM/STEAM movement
in a number of important ways:
- Nisky Art classes approach teaching and learning from a "Design
Thinking" philosophy. As both a style and System of thinking, design
thinking is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for
the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights
and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the
context. While design thinking has become part of the popular
lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice, as well as
business and management, its broader use in describing a particular
style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing
influence on twenty-first century education across disciplines.
- Examples of this include; performance-based, open-ended problems
that are posed to both individuals and collaborative teams in art
- Teachers and students define the problems, conduct research, create
ideas, develop prototypes, choose and implement final solutions, and
finally learn from and reflect on the process.
- Students in art classes are asked to research and show an
understanding of mathematics and scientific principles in chemistry,
physics, biology and the earth sciences while using this knowledge
to create solutions to artistic problems. The use of technology is
integrated into all of our art classes. Students solve problems
using a variety of twenty-first century technologies such as digital
photography and video and associated software and networks. For
example, students in advanced art classes are creating personal
electronic portfolios of their own work along with their written
reflections; digitally creating, editing, and designing their work
into a variety of accessible media formats such as wiki sites,
websites, PDFs, etc.
"Tonight, I'm announcing a new challenge to redesign
high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a
high-tech economy. And we'll reward schools that develop new
partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that
focus on science, technology, engineering and math -- the skills
today's employers are looking for to fill the jobs that are there
right now and will be there in the future."
—President Barack Obama,
State of the Union Address, Feb.
Field Experience -
Site Visits and Special Guests
- The partnership with RPI has included Engineering Ambassador
visits to Niskayuna High School Physics and Chemistry classes.
- Middle and high school students have been visiting the GE Global
Research Center, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering,
and Global Foundries to meet with experts in the field and conduct
- In March 2013, miSci educators visited every sixth grade science
class in Niskayuna for challenging, hands-on engineering projects
that students completed in teams.
- In March 2013, Dr. Randii Wessen, an American Astronautics systems
engineer talked to Niskayuna High School Earth Science students and
Robotics Club members about his experiences in deep space
exploration with NASA. The special visit was made possible by GE
Extracurricular Opportunities and Summer Adventures
- The Engineering Institute for Young Women, sponsored by GE Global
Research, RPI, the National Science Foundation and others, will be
held for a second time in the summer of 2013. By the end of the 2013
camp, 175 young women will have had the opportunity to work, learn
and be inspired alongside leading scientists and engineers.
- High School Robotics Club: In its first year, the high school
Robotics Club hit the ground running with 30 members. The club is
growing, and will have at least 48 members in the 2013-14 season.
Students work in teams to compete in the regional First Tech
Challenge Robotics Competition, which was held at Pace University in
late January 2013. Students also worked with mentors from
Bechtel/KAPL, GE Global Research, and RPI, who provided support,
technical assistance, and a window into the real-life applications
of the club's work.
- Camp Invention: This summer opportunity for elementary students
interested in innovating, working in teams, and gaining knowledge
about the engineering process will be offered for the first time in
- Niskayuna Aquaponics: In 2013, Niskayuna High School students
entered an aquaponics competition for the first time â€“ and reached
the finals of a national competition. Aquaponics is a relatively new
farming technology of growing fish, plants and bacteria in a
symbiotic relationship in a soil-free, water recirculating
environment. Students incorporated biology, engineering, math,
programming, robotics and even music into the project.
- In 2013, middle school students participated in NanoCareer Days at
the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
- The Engineering is Elementary program has been piloted with the
Explorers Program. Elementary Explorers students also had the
opportunity to visit the College of Nanoscale Science and
- Middle School Robotics Clubs: Van Antwerp has started a robotics
club which will compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition
which is announced each September. The team of students has already
begun to meet as a group to create some robots together and get to
know each other. Also, Iroquois Math and Technology teachers will be
starting a robotics club in the Fall of 2013 with support that they
have received from RPI - which included LEGO NXT robot kits.
- In 2013, Niskayuna students again won the Sience College
Computer Science programming contest. Math teacher Joseph
Baciewicz has been involved in each of the contest's 26 years.