Many of the Panhandle Area Educational Consortiumís FloridaLearns STEM Scholars Project participants will begin the academic year with new skills, developed through participation in one of the project-sponsored Summer Challenges.  The Summer Challenges gave gifted and talented students in the consortium-served small and rural districts opportunities to explore STEM content in depth, collaboratively problem solve and conduct investigations, enhance leadership skills and learn about STEM careers.

STEM Scholars from Holmes and Walton Counties participated in a four-day STEM experience, D3NanoChallenge (Dream, Design, Do), at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee. Florida State Universityís Physics Department Chair, James Brooks, Ph.D. and Tallahassee Community Collegeís Associate Professor Mabry Gaboardi, Ph.D. challenged students to focus on materials science and the emerging area of Nanotechnology. Collaborating as a team, students worked to design instruments to test specific materials in order to determine the materialís characteristics.  The teams then used the tools they developed to find the material most suited for a specific task. An exciting culmination of the week included a tour of the High Performance Materials Institute to learn how nanomaterials are actually created, interview the scientists who work there, and create and observe their own nanomaterials.

This engagement in an authentic STEM research experience, under the guidance of Dr. Brooks and Dr. Gaboardi, provided students with valuable information about potential STEM career options as they worked as a research team to creatively solve real world problems.