Participants in Fort Gibson Middle School's Stem-It program compete on land, in water and in the air.

They also learn about math and engineering.

Pre-algebra teacher Chris Staton said STEM-It, which meets after school Tuesdays and Thursdays, is a competition and engineering class. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

"Students learn to compete with other students in the Tulsa area, using engineering skills," she said. "We're on the edge. We're going to start something big here at Fort Gibson and get STEM going at the Middle School."

STEM-It students competed in a regional engineering fair held Feb. 28 at Tulsa Technology Center. Fort Gibson contestants entered pingpong ball launchers and aluminum foil boats strong enough to hold pennies.

They competed in a Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance drone competition in late February.

Students are building a cardboard and duct tape boat they will enter in a Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance boat regatta at the end of March.

Eighth-grader Connor Milligan said he joined because some of his friends got involved.

"And I just like building stuff and engineering," he said. "It's one of the things I want to pursue."

Milligan said he is interested in getting into Fort Gibson's high school robotics program.

Classmate Makenzie Abshier said she scored 400 points with her pingpong ball launcher.

"There is a spoon and you pull it back, and there is a pingpong ball in it," she said. "My grandpa has a woodworking shop, and we put it together with a stopper at the front so the spoon wouldn't break. And we got things to pull it back with."

Staton, who came to Fort Gibson from Haskell Schools this year, described herself as "very competitive."

"So I want my students to win," she said. "When I'm working with them and building things, I'm going to go for precision. I want it to be precise because I want it to work when it gets there. I want them to be taught when we go."

A grant from the Fort Gibson Education Foundation helped fund materials for the cardboard boat.

"And that tape, there's a lot of money in that tape, let me tell you," Staton said. "I just went and spent $29 last night for the tape. Since we can only use cardboard and duct tape to engineer it, it's not going to sink at all. My boats have never sunk."

A grant by the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance helped fund a set of Parrot Mambo drones for STEM-It.

"When these kids first touched these drones, they didn't have a drone before," Staton said. "Some were scared to touch it and work with it.

Staton said STEM-It originally had 11 participants when it first met in November. Participation dropped as other programs vied for students' attention, she said. 

"We have two that stuck with us," Staton said, adding that Connor Milligan and Makenzie Abshier competed in STEM events.

She said she hopes to work the program into the regular FGMS curriculum next year. 

"We hope to do many more competitions because after school, you're only limited to a few," she said. "We'll do the boat regatta, Tulsa Engineering Fair, math class competitions, the Oklahoma Math League."

Staton said another FGMS teacher gets students involved with the Muskogee Math and Engineering Competition, held in February. 

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