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STEM Expo attracts 800 students to MTSU

Nashville teenager John Cullen has been playing electric guitar for two years. He takes lessons, and even has learned some licks to “Dust in the Wind” and Led Zeppelin’s classic “Stairway to Heaven.”

So it was in the Saint Henry School eighth-grader’s lane to design and build a wooden mini guitar as part of the sixth annual Middle Tennessee STEM Expo Tuesday (April 9) on the track level in Murphy Center on the MTSU campus.

The expo drew 50 Midstate public and private schools and 800 students combining for 400 research poster projects.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It was hard,” Cullen, 14, said of his well-thought-out idea and whose poster included a brief history on the experiments of sound, how sound works, key components of sound and more. His display featured a foam and Slinky-type gizmo to help explain longitudinal waves and how sound waves travel.

Robots, solar, school security and the effects of essential oils on E. coli growth were among the differing and fascinating ideas provided by the fifth- through 12th-graders.

“What was really nice was to see how much enthusiasm there is for STEM education in Middle Tennessee, to see how early the students are starting in school caring about STEM research and projects that impact our world,” said Greg Rushton, first-year director of the MTSU Tennessee STEM Education Center.

“Kids as early as fourth and fifth grade all the way up through high school … (created) really sophisticated projects, group projects, practical projects and engineering projects across the gambit of STEM,” Rushton added. “To see the impact that these students are going to have on this area because of the care they have for this work was really exciting.”

The excitement and energy permeating around the track caught the eye of Dean Hayes, longtime MTSU track and field and cross-country coach, who said he always wanted the upper level area to be open and available for multi-use events for people of all ages and not just for indoor track.

Nashville’s Harpeth Hall School and Rutherford County’s Stewarts Creek Middle School were among the top award winners announced during the closing ceremony.

Awards will be posted soon to the Middle Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub website: https://www.mtsu.edu/midtnstem/. Organizers plan to hold the 2020 expo in early April in Murphy Center.

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