Nevada High School’s new Launch program has opened its students to all types of learning opportunities. Last week, senior Madeleine Humpal-Pash culminated her Launch term by putting on a STEM Fair at the high school.


The full Launch program started this school year, and its mission is to allow students to earn credits toward graduation by working on studies or projects that they are passionate about. For Humpal-Pash, her focus was STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).


“I’ve always been interested in STEM, and there wasn’t really anything like this (a STEM Fair) in Nevada,” she said. She’d seen this type of event in Ames and wanted to bring some of the amazing things that can be learned through STEM applications to her fellow students in Nevada.


Her STEM Fair started around 2:45 p.m. on May 16, a Wednesday, which allowed for some middle and elementary teachers to bring in their entire classes to see what there was to learn from the 14 different organizations that had booths set up with all kinds of different learning activities. By 4 p.m., Humpal-Pash said, she had over 300 students and/or adults who had signed in.


Her teacher during Launch, Kim Huegerich, said the first year of the program has involved around 25 students, doing a variety of different things to earn credits. She listed some of the following examples of things Launch students have worked on:


• a student interested in Greek culture created food presentations, pottery, a theatre presentation and more on the Ancient Greeks.


• a student excited about equine science contacted a scientist head veterinarian in Madrid, Spain, and did work to create comparisons on veterinary practices in Spain and the United States.


• a student interested in business made contact with businesses abroad and did a comparison on hiring practices of businesses here and around the globe.


• a student did a podcast about social justice issues.


• a student was interested in what truly happens, in terms of the crime between the United States and Mexico, and worked with a person in the FBI to look at criminal elements’ profiles of criminals of both cultures.


“This is the first year with Launch, and kids are getting a lot of good job skills with these projects,” Huegerich said. “They’re learning communication skills, problem-solving skills and a lot of other things that really speak to the ‘learner outcomes’ piece of our educational goals.”


The STEM Fair was not only earning Humpal-Pash some credits, it was opening up other younger students to a variety of possibilities that STEM offers. Walking around the fair, kids were interacting with robots, talking to people about virtual reality tools used for business, looking at new apps on phones, learning how seeds germinate and more.


Humpal-Pash said putting together the STEM Fair, which was held in the school’s safe room, really helped her with communication skills, as she made numerous calls to people. “It also helped my organizational skills and my planning skills, in figuring out how this event would come together.”