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The City Journals

Beehive Academy Students Showcase STEM Projects to International Visitors

Oct 07, 2015 12:54PM ● By Bryan Scott

The Jordan High Young Democrats hold a bake sale to raise awareness for gender income inequity. They hope to discuss the issue with Utah state senators. Photo courtesy of Suzanne McDougal

By Julie Slama

In late August, four visitors from Bahrain and two Department of State international visitor liaison interpreters, all part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program to examine “Women’s Leadership in Engineering,” watched Beehive Science and Technology Academy students give demonstrations involving science, technology, education and math.

The demonstrations, some of which included peroxide fires, jutting a sharp instrument through balloons, stacking wood in a certain order and robotic programming, were part of the Utah STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Expo, which was held last May and attracted about 4,000 community members.  

The visitors were also given an overview by Beehive Academy executive director Hanifi Oguz, who told them that, while the charter school attracts both male and female sixth-grade through 12th-grade students, there are still about 20 percent more males than females at the school.

That is, according to University of Bahrain assistant professor and Gulf Petrochemical Industries instrument engineer Salwa Al Thawadi, the opposite of her country.

“We have ladies studying and engaging more in STEM, while men study business,” she said.

Bahrain, which is located on the western side of the Arabian Gulf between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, consists of 33 islands and is about three times as large as Washington, D.C.  Bahrain’s main industries include petroleum, aluminum and iron.

In Bahrain, most studies involve mechanical and electrical engineering, commercial art, science, architecture and industry, Gulf Petrochemical Industries instrument engineer Haya Jassim Al-Jassim said.

“It’s our culture and tradition where most boys study industry, as oil and gas,” she said.  “Girls spend long hours researching in sciences.  I found it more intriguing.  I really care about STEM education, getting students to focus on knowledge they need for careers.  Here it seems there is more attention to math and technology, while in Bahrain, it’s on sciences,” she said.

Bahrain Ministry of Housing’s head of urban development and Society of Engineers member Deena Seyadeeh said that their country’s Ministry of Education holds demonstrations similar to Beehive Academy’s student projects and science fairs held in school districts across the states.  She hopes education in both countries can benefit from the exchange of knowledge.

“In the field of architect engineers, we have more women then men designing houses,” she said.  “We reach to our high school students, teach them about the careers and invite people to study.  The Bahrain Society of Engineers, which are non-profit professionals, award 25 scholarships so they pay no fees.”

University of Bahrain information systems assistant professor Hayat Mohammed Ali said that teaching methods here are different from her country.

“There are more creative ways to deliver ways of knowledge, more entertaining,” she said.  “There is more variety, more hands-on.  There is a nice collaboration between universities and schools.  In Bahrain, we send students on a two-month internship to get real experience, and afterward, they may have a job,” she said.

Safety and discipline coordinator Germaine Barnes, who helped coordinate this visit to the Sandy school, said Beehive Academy students gain from the experience by realizing STEM is not just a local concept.
“It’s national and international and these students are learning that everyone in the world cares about STEM education and careers, especially if they’re sending educators around the world to see what we’re teaching,” she said.

Barnes said that although Beehive Academy is giving students a STEM understanding, technology will change in 10 years and many advances known now will be obsolete.

“We’re giving our students the foundation and tools which they’ll be able to use to support and update their knowledge as technology changes, and apply it on a day-to-day basis.  We’re giving them more than math and science problems: they’re getting real-world application as they design robots, figure out dimensions and measure angles,” Barnes said.  “The more they use these skills in projects they’re doing, the more they’ll understand them and apply them in life.”

The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy Program associate intern Sarah Bell, who helped to coordinate the visit and accompanied the group to Beehive Academy, said their mission is to create bridges for better understanding between cultures.  She said that each year, the Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy welcomes nearly 500 leaders from around the world to Utah for short-term professional and cultural exchanges. 

The itinerary for the group from Bahrain also included meeting with leaders at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah Women and STEM Education Network, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, learning about the U’s Access program, the U’s MESA/STEP (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement/Science Technology Engineering) program, visiting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games museum and watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast