Swasey Central Elementary School Students Participate in Thermo Fisher Scientific Engineering Challenge


New Hampshire SAU 16
Dr. David Ryan, Superintendent
30 Linden Street
Exeter, NH 03833

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019

Media Contact: John Guilfoil
Phone: 617-993-0003
Email: [email protected]

Swasey Central Elementary School Students Participate in Thermo Fisher Scientific Engineering Challenge

BRENTWOOD– Approximately 150 Swasey Central Elementary School students put their science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) skills to the test last week after representatives from Thermo Fisher Scientific challenged them to design and build nano-machine prototypes to combat cancer.

Students were first introduced to the project on Jan. 22 when a group of Thermo Fisher Scientific engineers visited Swasey School, and shared the organization’s mission to help make the world a “healthier, cleaner, safer” place. They also challenged third, fourth and fifth grade students to design and build a model of a nano-machine prototype that could deliver medicine to destroy cancer cells in the body.

Thermo Fisher Scientific provided 40 STEM design kits, called K’NEX Education, to the school to help facilitate the challenge. The kits included rods, connectors and a motor for students to use to build their prototypes.

Over a four week period, students at Swasey Central researched and designed their prototypes in the STEAM Design Lab, with additional supporting activities held in other subjects. In art class, students learned how to map out blueprints, and during library time, they researched cancer and imagined how they’d deliver their medicine– by nasal spray, topical lotion or by an oral medication.

“The goal of the challenge was to give the students an opportunity to understand the STEM fields and explore Thermo Fisher’s values of making the world healthier, cleaner, and safer,” said Thermo Fisher Scientific engineer Kaley Dvorak. “We targeted ‘healthier’ with this challenge by asking the students to build a nano-device that would target a cancer cell and deliver medicine to it, represented by a tennis ball and beads. But the challenge proved to be more than we even could have expected, from team work, to creativity, to research skills.”

On Friday, Feb. 15, students across grades three, four and five gathered in the gym to build their prototypes using their K’NEX kits. Students worked in groups of four, and gave two minute presentations as their teachers and 22 Thermo Scientific engineers walked around the gym looking at each project.

“The engineers were amazing with our students,” said STEAM Design Lab teacher Lisa Brown.  “They engaged with each of the teams, asking questions about their designs and research, as well as viewing their blueprints and comparing them to their final product.  It was problem-based learning on a large scale.”

Students in first and second grade also came to the gym on design day to see the prototypes their older peers created.

“All the of the individuals from Thermo Fisher were impressed with the students’ knowledge, their designs, and research they had done,” Dvorak said. “It was a very unique event that not only kindled creativity in kids but also channeled their focus toward the importance of cancer research and the opportunities in the STEM field.”

The design challenge at Swasey School was made possible by a program at Thermo Fisher that allows employees to apply for grants to host similar challenge events at schools.