Nestled on the central Massachusetts coast, at the head of Boston Bay, sits the vibrant small community of Everett. Four miles north of Boston, the forceful and transformative spirit that permeates the city also flows through the campus of Everett High School.
Like fellow New Englanders, summer fun is just a memory for the students at Everett High. Fall is going strong. They have grown accustom to the early buzzing of their alarm clocks. Their backpacks rest at their feet as they transition into full academic mode.
Six years ago, there was no STEM program at Everett High and math teacher Anna Seiders was eager to find a way to engage her students. Wanting to expose students to engineering design, encourage them to try new and challenging things while enjoying the learning process, and perhaps most importantly, provide a place for students to find belonging after school, she signed up to attend a Ten80 kick-off event.
The kismet forces suddenly aligned in her favor. Instantly hooked, Ms. Seiders and Erik Maloy went to work learning the Student Racing Challenge. “We love the affordability of the program and the diversified material,” shared Seiders upon reflection. “It gives our students a chance to not only compete in engineering, but compete in the whole of business.”
From modest beginnings, the students formed a team – Crimson Bolt Racing – and began applying classroom lessons to project-based modules centered around engineering optimum car performance. After several years, the influx of new students interested in the program has been awe-inspiring. The club has grown to include roughly 40-50 students which make up 2 Racing Challenge teams and 1 Rover Challenge team.
With this infectious excitement and optimism, the club needed to develop a good system to run the teams effectively. So, the students grabbed the reigns of leadership and formed a Board of Directors. The board organizes the team and all their activities throughout the year. Under the guidance of Seiders, the students decided to break the curriculum into four departments: business, engineering, robotics, and mechanics. Each of these departments has their own set of responsibilities and assignments to complete. The department leaders report back to the board.
Having three teams, might deter some students. But not those at Everett High. They have a motto “three teams, one family” and it courses through their veins regardless of which competition team they are on. All three teams work together and collaborate on everything whether it’s mechanics or engineering, racing or rover.
“The competitive factor drives student learning more than a teacher could hope.” Being from a low-income district Seiders shared, “The competitions are easy to get to and it is so affordable when compared to other options. Plus, all schools have an equal chance of winning any event in any given year – this is especially powerful for our students to realize.”
Teams Crimson Bolt and Everett Edge compete in the Student Racing Challenge. The top students in each department form the original team, Crimson Bolt. Newer students still learning and practicing form Everett Edge. Members of Crimson Bolt help train and mentor students on Everett Edge. This gives new students competition experience without the pressure of having to win.
“I joined the STEM Club because Ms. Seiders believed it was a good fit with my creativity,” shared senior Crista. Impressed with the fast-paced nature of the competitions and how well everything, including her participation, fell into place for the Everett teams, Crista said “My teammates asked me to take over the graphic design and business aspects. Despite differences in age and experience, we worked well together as a team. Plus, I learned a lot about myself and found I was able to do things I never thought I could.”
Other students form the Fire Pencils team and compete in the Student Rover Challenge. They rely on both racing teams for mechanical parts and problem-solving, but supports the racing teams when they need help with their engineering design projects or coding.
Seiders and her assistant Erik Maloy often witness plenty of opportunities for their students to engage in hands on learning. On most days, students fill the hallways of Everett High learning to build and optimize their car’s performance or test-driving them. Huddled around computers some students work on design projects while others are getting a quick lesson on business design and management.
Pahola, a member of the STEM Club for three years, got involved because Ms. Seiders believed in her and this helped her change her perspective on her own education. She and her friend joined the team as mechanics and quickly experienced the thrill of competition. “We were nervous because we were the only girls in the Pit Crew for the whole competition,” said Pahola. Advancing to National Finals they again were the only girls. “It was very intimidating, but really cool because it motivated us to do our best.”
Over the years, as team members graduated, Pahola and her teammates took on additional leadership roles and responsibilities to help the team continue to succeed. Teaching the younger students in the mechanics team Pahola shared, “I personally love teaching and interacting with the younger team. It was very helpful to understanding how different minds work and how they tend to grasp things. It helped me grow as a person and as a leader. I am going to college next year and I want to study mechanical engineering because it’s a field that I have come to completely love.”
Learning to work collaboratively as a team is one of the greatest long-term benefits of Ten80. Employers look for employees who can adapt to changing demands and work in successful teams. Incorporating Ten80 into Everett has not only expanded the districts interest in project base learning and innovation, but has also provided an opportunity to build a STEM Academy.
“Working with Ten80 has been one of the best decisions I made as a teacher. My students have grown and learned in profound ways,” expressed Seiders about the positive transformations in her students. “I have young women rise up as leaders and innovators with a newly sparked passion for pursuing STEM careers. I have seen young man design the unimaginable and lead their community from behind. Ten80 has ultimately changed the course of their lives.”
Finding Ten80 flexible, yet understanding the sheer volume of educational tools sometimes feels daunting, Seiders cautions schools to start slow. “Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed with the amount of material. While it may seem complex on the surface, it very much follows the low threshold-high ceiling mentality. Start with the basics and let the students innovate from there.”