DODEA students take on famine during science symposium

Students assemble a machine out of limited materials at DODEA-Europe's STEMposium, a weeklong science and math camp, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Wiesbaden, Germany. More than 100 students from across Europe gathered for the annual camp, focused this year on the problem of famine and hunger.


By DAN STOUTAMIRE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 8, 2017

WIESBADEN, Germany — At this year’s weeklong STEMposium science, math and engineering camp, students at U.S. military schools in Europe learned the importance of the “F-word.”

Famine, that is.

Every year, students at the camp focus on learning how to use STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math — to solve major global issues. Last year it was plastic pollution in the oceans, and this year it’s severe hunger.

“Ultimately what we’re trying to do is teach them there’s a process to solve complex problems,” Wiesbaden science teacher and camp adviser Frank Pendzich said.

“We call it the engineering and design process, but it applies to almost everything they’ll have to deal with in their lives, and if they can apply a process to systematically solve any problem, they’re more apt to find a solution.”

Representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development spoke to the students early in the week and told them “famine” is something of a dirty word in aid circles, and they prefer to call it the F-word, or a “stress on available food,” Pendzich said.

More than 100 students from Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe schools attended the camp, where they were divided into 18 teams. Throughout the week, teams competed against one another in various events to showcase what they had built.

At an open house Thursday, parents got a chance to see what their children — who stayed overnight at the camp — had been up to all week.

“It looks like it’s been amazing, from looking at the pictures on Facebook, they were totally engaged, smiling, and I barely got any texts so I figured she was busy,” said Michelle Vining, whose daughter, Laura, is a freshman at Kaiserslautern High School. “I hope she sees all the different opportunities that are out there in science and engineering.”

Students learned about some of the causes of famine, including war, climate change and economic catastrophe. They also got to eat bugs, which in times of famine can be a source of valuable protein.

Aidan Mulrooney, also a freshman from Kaiserslautern, wasn’t fazed. “It was pretty tasteless,” he said.

Mulrooney and his fellow students are heading home Friday. It will be their only chance to attend a STEMposium — demand is high, and faculty say they like to make sure as many students as possible can attend at some point in their high school careers.

However, Pendzich said a lot of them are deeply affected by their week in Wiesbaden.

“Many of the students, they tell us straight up that this has changed their lives, perhaps given them a different direction to pursue,” he said. “We hope it will encourage them to take some of the more difficult classes in school and realize that if they focus on those, they can become someone who goes out and saves the world.”

Twitter: @DKS_Stripes


Students, teachers and parents watch as DODEA-Europe STEMposium science and math campers demonstrate their mechanical inventions during an open house, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 in Wiesbaden, Germany. 108 students on 18 teams competed in various events and fields during the weeklong camp, whose theme this year was attempts to solve problems associated with hunger and famine.

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