The School Bell

Push to encourage science, math, engineering & technology turns to modern interests

By:  Grace Molinaro FCHS

Grace Molinaro, FCHS

There has been a recent push in schools, including Falls Church High School, to encourage students to participate in science, math, engineering, and technology, collectively known as STEM. This raises the question-- how do we define what falls under that broad category of STEM?

Some Falls Church student activities, like the Robotics Club, sum up all the ideals of STEM through the use of engineering, physics, mechanics, and measurement to create a robot. Others are not so obvious, such as the Culinary Arts Academy. They gather many elements of STEM and take them in a new direction.

As vastly different as making pizza and building robots appear to be, they are founded on the same fundamental principles. Every piece of pizza or slice of shepherd’s pie is a summation of chemistry and biology that the cooks manipulate in order to create delicacies. This is much like the Robotics Club, which harnesses mechanical energy using metal and wires to engineer and build something creative that can whizz around the room and show off for judges and onlookers. In both programs, students are charged with the task of envisioning how they want their creations to look and using science, math and creativity to construct it. But the materials and ingredients students can use are limited.

Cole Wendrowksi, Robotics Club president, says, “Since we don’t have a lot of funding, we have to salvage parts ourselves. We actually got a lot of our robot parts from a hospital.”

The team has been carefully designing and engineering the robot for a while, but as it shapes up, there are parts that must be reimagined and fixed. Their robot is a large metal frame about three feet tall, its guts spilling out a colorful tangle of wires and steel scraps. They are under a strict time limit now that the  robotics competition season has started.

The Culinary Arts Academy also has to raise its own funds. The students mix fresh products into meals that the staff can buy and enjoy, which pours money into the program as well as provides students opportunities to cook and serve.

Shelves are tucked in the corner of the culinary classroom where the students are raising seedlings to sell to staff members to plant in their own gardens. Outside in the courtyard, more organic ingredients, like fresh tomatoes and pumpkins, are cultivated for students to harvest and use in their cooking.

Much can be done with STEM and the creativity behind it. The Culinary Arts Academy expands upon that to include the business aspects of the cooking world. In addition to basic cooking skills, students learn how to set up and manage the costs of running a restaurant. They launder their own aprons and drill sanitation and proper food handling.

“A few of my students do go on to go to culinary school and make a career out of it,” says Chef Payne, who teaches the class. “But all students learn skills such as cooking for themselves, measuring, sanitation, how to shop better, managing business costs, and of course, an appreciation for food.”

The Robotics Club is preparing their creation for competitions. The robot will whiz around a gymnasium and perform a series of tasks manipulating different objects, such as lifting balls into mock rockets and carrying metal disks. The team hopes their robot’s antics will dazzle the judges.

“We would like to fix the stigma of Robotics,” says Wendrowski. “When a lot of people hear about it, they dismiss us as nerds. But once they see the real life aspects and how fun it is and how cool it is to see it all materialize before you-- that is the coolest part.”



Falls Church High School
7521 Jaguar Trail
Falls Church, VA  22044


(Students who reside on the north side of Annandale attend Falls Church High School)



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