Thursday, April 30, 2015

[411] 300 students gravitate to math-science expo at MTSU

MURFREESBORO — Nautica Turner has gained an early grasp on life after high school as an adult and the need to recycle.

The 11th-grader at Johnson Learning Center in Nashville provided “Living Wall,” as one of nearly 130 student posters and projects shown April 9 during the MidTN STEM Innovation Hub’s STEM Expo held in the MTSU Science Building.

For video from the event, visit

STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — stood front and center on the first and second floors of the Liz and Creighton Rhea Atrium areas, as middle school and high school students, their teachers and a number of parents created a maze of human bodies.

The STEM Expo is a way for the students’ work to be shown with their peers and critically evaluated by judges from higher education and other STEM-related fields.

Turner’s “Living Wall” utilizes “recycled wood, bottles, a raincoat and soil to grow things,” she said. “It should really inspire people to use it.”

Nearly 300 students attended the STEM Expo. Project-wise, the event has grown from 25 in 2013 to 80 in 2014 and now topped by 130 this year. Students, mainly from Davidson and Sumner counties, came from more than 20 Midstate high schools and middle schools and one from McMinn County in East Tennessee.

“It was a truly wonderful event where students came to campus and the Science Building for the STEM Expo,” said Dr. Tom Cheatham, director of the Tennessee STEM Education Center. “Our faculty and the doctoral students who served as judges were quite impressed by the students’ work.”

Cheatham coordinated the event on campus with Vicki Metzgar, Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub director, and Michelle Williams, the organization’s executive assistant.

“It was spectacular,” said Metzgar, assessing the full day that included special activities and lunch.

McGavock High School junior Chris Lewis, 17, who is in the Nashville school’s engineering pathway and a member of the Technical Students Association, called it “an awesome event.”

“All of these different projects that people have worked on and all these ideas they have come up with are amazing,” Lewis added. He and other McGavock students brought several robots, which they operated by remote control near the Science Building’s front entrance.

In addition to MTSU, sponsors included Siemens, the Discovery Center at Murfree Spring, Aegis Sciences, Belmont and Lipscomb universities, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering, Metro Nashville Public Schools, the Adventure Science Center, Nashville Section of the American Chemical Society, American Society of Civil Engineers, Deloitte Lipscomb University, Goodall Homes, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Texas Instruments and Cumberland Center: Global Action Platform.

The sponsors awarded 15 trophies to posters and presentations considered the best by 26 judges. About half of the judges were MTSU doctoral candidates. Every participant received a medal. Awards were presented in the Keathley University Center Theater.

In 2016, event organizers plan to hold the expo in Nashville. To learn more about the MidTN STEM Innovation Hub, visit

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