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Gainesville Middle School hosts first Engineering Night
Unique student projects featured for family and classmates to attempt
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From left, Gainesville Middle School seventh-grader Hiram Martinez, 12, and eighth-grader Kamajah Jones, 14, watch eighth-graders Joseph Arce, 14, Rodarious Timmons, 14, and Alexx Smith, 14, conduct their experiment in cymatics — the study of visible sound effects and vibration — Thursday at the Gainesville Middle School Engineering Night. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The cafeteria at Gainesville Middle School was buzzing with the sounds of robots, laser beams, electrical currents and sheer excitement Thursday night.

The school hosted its first Engineering Night, featuring 112 unique interactive experiments created by the students for their families and classmates to attempt.

Amy Vaughan, mother of sixth-grader Kaylie Dover, stopped by the event to encourage her daughter and her friends.

Vaughan said she was amazed by how knowledgeable the students were about their experiments and the scientific properties behind them. She said she didn’t realize how much the children were learning about science in class.

“It’s amazing how smart they are at this age and how good they are with technology,” Vaughan said. “I think that’s important because this generation is all going to be (working) with technology and science. It’s really cool.”

The whole idea behind the event is to give the students a chance to show off what they’ve learned and to get their families involved in the process.

Jane Woodall, eighth-grade science teacher, said science classes have “taken the back burner” to reading and math. While those skills are necessary to understand science-based lessons, science provides hands-on applications for those skills.

Woodall said one of the biggest benefits of the event is that it creates a spark of interest in the younger children.

“These little kids come in and say ‘Oh, when I get to middle school I’ll get to do cool stuff,’” Woodall said. “Because any child that has a reading or math deficiency, they pull them out of science to make up for that. So some kids come to sixth grade never having a science class.”

All of the students in the event volunteered to participate. Last year the event was open only to gifted and advanced students. Teachers quickly realized that many more students were interested and opened it to anyone who wanted to participate.

Eighth-grader Louisa Gille watched her robotics teammates demonstrate how they were able to animate a small “sumobot.”

Louisa said she was impressed with how much the event grew in the last year and how excited everyone in attendance seemed to be about the projects.

“We had one last year but this one has a lot more to offer in my perspective because it’s bigger, it’s better and has a lot more projects,” Louisa said.

Teachers reminded the students throughout the preparation process not to think of the event as a science fair, this event is bigger.

“You know how sports teams have their end-of-the-year banquets, their championships,” Woodall said. “This is our championship game for science. This is our time to say ‘This is what we worked on all year. We didn’t just memorize vocabulary words.’”