Yearlong project brings Connecticut students, corporations together; builds critical thinking, teamwork, technology skills

By Lesia Winiarskyj

He might have had a great fall, but this time no one had to put Humpty together again.

That's because Humpty Dumpty, a foam and cardboard contraption with a chicken egg and two packing peanuts carefully taped inside, survived a 100-foot drop with three anxious teens: and a few dozen of their friends: cheering him on.

The girls: and the egg-drop competition: were part of a daylong kickoff of the CBIA Education Foundation's Cyber-Challenge 2011, a yearlong project designed to get young people excited about science and technology.

On Your Marks"_

Held on Sept. 27 at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, the event drew nearly 200 freshmen from New Britain High School, East Hartford High School, and Waterbury's Wilby High School. Together with their teachers, the kids spent the day mixing, mingling, and exploring the exhibits: and, of course, creating and testing out vessels that could keep an egg intact after being dropped from the building's sixth-floor bridge. The event marked the start of Cyber-Challenge's second year.

Throughout the school year, students from all three high schools will rely on academic, interpersonal, and multimedia skills to solve real-world industry problems. Working in teams, they'll answer complex questions posed by four of Connecticut's leading businesses. Questions center on health care, energy conservation, aerospace, and other issues, and industry representatives will serve as coaches and judges for the project.

Participating companies are Northeast Utilities, General Electric, United Technologies Corp., and Pfizer. Each has developed a set of questions that will require students to work collaboratively, use social media and wikis for peer-to-peer information sharing, and capitalize on video and animation to showcase their findings. Students will present their final projects at a statewide event in May 2011 at the Connecticut Science Center.

Get Set"_

"By supporting projects that build young people's interest and proficiency in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and math] subjects, and by aligning classroom learning with real-world issues," says Judy Resnick, "Cyber-Challenge addresses concerns about the growing demand for and projected shortage of workers with strong STEM skills. It also prepares today's ninth-graders for rigorous Advanced Placement courses offered to juniors and seniors at their schools." Resnick is executive director of CBIA's Education Foundation.

Cyber-Challenge is funded by the National Science Foundation's Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant, administered by CBIA in collaboration with the Connecticut Science Center, the Connecticut Community Colleges' College of Technology Regional Center for Next Generation Manufacturing, and EASTCONN, a public, nonprofit agency that serves the educational needs of schools, organizations, communities, and individuals in northeastern Connecticut.

For updates on CBIA's education and workforce development programs, visit cbia.com/edf.

Lesia Winiarskyj is a writer-editor at CBIA. She can be reached at lesia.winiarskyj@cbia.com.