Promotional image courtesy of the Kirkland Parks Foundation and Google

Promotional image courtesy of the Kirkland Parks Foundation and Google

STEM Challenge allows LWSD students to compete for school funding

Google has partnered with the Kirkland Parks Foundation to fund the KITE STEM Challenge.

The Kirkland Parks Foundation (KPF) recently partnered with Google to launch the Kirkland Interactive Technology Experience STEM Challenge, which aims to incentivise Lake Washington School District students to get outside and learn about STEM.

The challenge asks LWSD students to answer questions about science, technology, engineering and mathematics to earn cash prizes for their school’s PTSA. Elementary, middle and high school students will answer age-appropriate questions and win up to $10,000 that will be distributed by their PTSA to support STEM programs.

“This challenge offers students in the Lake Washington School District a fantastic opportunity to test their STEM knowledge and get outside at the same time,” said Darcy Nothnagle, Google’s head of external affairs for the northwest region. “We hope this challenge will interest students who might not normally get involved with STEM activities and show them that STEM is for everyone.”

The challenge begins April 23, when students will be able to download the KITE STEM Challenge app. Individual students will be able to answer questions until May 13, which will earn them entries into the prize raffle.

The challenge will close with an awards ceremony at Google Kirkland on May 23, where Google will award prizes to the first- through third-place schools at each grade level.

Students will receive a certain amount of entries for each answered question and in order to encourage students to get outside, they will receive bones entries for answering questions within a Kirkland park.

“If you live in the Lake Washington School District, you can answer these questions,” said Sally Otten, executive director of the KPF. “If you go to a Kirkland park, instead of getting five entries for your correct answer, you get 15 …the intention is to drive them to the parks.”

The app uses GPS coordinates to determine the location of students while they answer questions.

The cash prizes will range from $10,000 for the first-place high school to $1,000 for the third-place elementary school. Additionally, students will earn individual prizes that include Pacific Science Center memberships, IMAX tickets and Google swag.

“We are happy to have the opportunity to work with Google and other key partners to provide this challenge for students in the Lake Washington School District,” Otten said. “It is great way for students to have fun with STEM and potentially win financial awards that will support further STEM learning in their schools.”

Google donated $40,000 in total to be used for for participating schools’ STEM programs.

KPF and Google have created a database that includes thousands of questions that will be separated by difficulty. So second graders will receive questions appropriate for their grade, while high schoolers will receive more difficult questions.

Students and their parents can download the KITE STEM app from the app store on iOS or Android and can register for the challenge at KITESTEM.org.

The partnership between Google and the KPF began nearly two years ago when the two organizations developed an informative beacon system along the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC).

The beacon system would sense when passersby approached and connect with their devices. The beacons would then send informative information about surrounding plants and wildlife.

The program was meant to inform trail users about the environment around them. There were 15 beacons implemented over the project’s lifetime.

“We initially put [the beacons] on the master plan for the corridor,” Otten said “We originally wanted to do it in lieu of signage.”

Initially, Google and KPF wanted to use the beacon technology for the KITE STEM Challenge, but realized the beacons weren’t robust enough and a GPS system would be more precise. The team behind the project then switched to using a GPS-based app.

“I hope they take away that STEM is fun and STEM is interesting,” Nothnagle said. “I hope they take away this feeling of community and working together to benefit their schools. In that way I think everybody wins, when everybody has more STEM programming in schools.”

Otten and Nothnagle said they think the challenge could become a recurring event, depending on its success.

“Our schools, as we all know, can continually use more money,” Otten said. “There’s greater and greater demand for our students to have pretty broad experiences. Our schools just aren’t funded to handle all of that, so we’re really appreciative of companies and partners like Google that support this activity in a fun way so that kids are motivated and engaged in it.”

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