Elementary school students in Lake County take part in last year's STEM Bowl competition.

TAVARES – For young students, the theme “We Will Rock You” at a community event probably sounds pretty enticing, and fun.
Rose Sedely is certainly hoping that’s the case.
“Our theme is ‘Math Rocks,” and “STEM Rocks,’ “ Sedely said, adding that she also hopes to address an ongoing challenge — not just in Lake County, but across the nation: the problem of students who shy away from math and science, making it difficult for employers to find workers who have educational backgrounds in these critical fields, forcing them to recruit workers from other nations.
“I think a lot of students are not good in science or math because they’re afraid of it,” said Sedely, an elementary school science program specialist in Lake County. “They need to learn to ask these questions from elementary school on, and that’s exactly one of the goals we have, to get students at a younger age to know that science and math can we be fun. That’s what we want this bowl to do — is prepare students for experiences in this field.”
Sedely is one of the organizers of the Lake County Schools’ Second Annual STEM Bowl, billed as a “rocking good time” for the students who take part in the three-day competition scheduled for Jan. 25-27 at the Golden Triangle YMCA, 1465 David Walker Drive, Tavares.
The theme of this year’s competition — which tests students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) — is “STEM Rocks, We Will We Will Rock You.”
Elementary schools have formed their teams of five students to compete in the event, which fosters problem solving and higher-order thinking.
New to this year’s STEM Bowl is the addition of a third grade competition.
“The STEM Bowl began with an initiative,” Sedely said. “When I came on board as the elementary science program specialist, I started working with a math program specialist, Stephanie Luke, and we both had a desire to see something in place that would encourage those average to higher level students and get them excited about math and science.”
They learned about a program in Hillsborough County, a competition for math students.
“Hillsborough was doing what they called a Math Bowl. It was strictly math, and they invited us to attend,” Sedely said. “We went to their Math Bowl and were excited about it, so we decided to do our own STEM Bowl and incorporate math and science into it. Last year we put it in place, and had the first one. It’s a competiton that involves 10 questions, five math questions and five in science.”

The theme of this year's STEM Bowl competition is "STEM Rocks: We Will Rock You."

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, third graders will compete and on the next day, fourth grade teams will enter the STEM Bowl. Fifth graders will close the three days of competition on Jan. 27.
Each competition will be held from 9-11 a.m. each day, and the event is open to any of the elementary schools in Lake County.
“We have 22 elementary schools participating in three days of competition,” Luke said. “With 22 schools competing, 330 students from across Lake County will be competing in this year’s STEM Bowl. I expect many parents and community members will be there each day to cheer for their favorite school.”
“We’re pretty excited that we have that many schools participating,” Sedely said. “This is open to all our elementary schools, and we have Sawgrass Bay Elementary, all the way down near Polk County, and they came along for this last year.”
Sawgrass Bay is the first elementary school in the Four Corners area of South Lake County, off U.S. 27 near the Lake/Polk County line.
“They’ve had these teams they put together, and they have STEM clubs,” Sedely said. “The first place winner will get a trophy, and the second and third place students will receive medals they can wear around their necks.”
This is all about getting students to develop and interest in – and, hopefully, a lifelong passion for – math and science, Sedely said, adding that in the long run this can help students make the transition as adults into critical fields of employment.
“Medical, engineering, biology – some of those fields,” she said. “It’s exciting to see there’s a lot of girls in the competition, because we know a lot of girls shy away from those subjects, and we want to show them we can compete against those other countries. We do want to encourage them, and this competition is, we felt, one of the ways we can do that. We are trying to build up initiatives with after school clubs and getting the teachers to find ways to make it interesting for the kids.
“One way to do that, I feel, is to make it an experience the students can identify with,” Sedely added. “When I was in the classroom, I made it relevant to the students. I’m not going to talk about weather in Canada or animals in Alaska, I’m going to talk about what’s happening in Florida.”
Sedely gave a lot of credit for the success of last year’s STEM Bowl to the partnerships the organizers formed with local business sponsors.
“We have some excellent sponsors,” she said. “This is a new initiative not sponsored by the county.”
This year’s lineup of sponsors includes Data Graphics, Florida Hospital Waterman, Golden Triangle YMCA, the Rotary Club of Eustis, SunTrust Bank, Educators Outlet, Chick-fil-A Restaurant, Publix Supermarket, Sonic, Danny Len Buick GMC and ERA Tom Grizzard Realtors.

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