5th Annual STEAM Expo Focuses on Urban Equity

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Fifth grader, Emery N., explaining the mechanics of his team’s lead-detecting robot, equipped with sensors to navigate turns through city water pipes.

On Monday, December 17, 2018, The Sage School hosted its 5th annual STEAM Expo at MIT’s Microsoft NERD (New England Research and Design) Center in Cambridge, MA. The event featured exhibition and presentations of student group work around the theme of ‘Urban Equity,’ featuring projects and working prototypes from students Grades 5-8.

“The opportunity for our students to showcase their work at one of the world’s leading educational centers is an incredible honor and the perfect entrepreneurial environment for our talented and creative students to share their ideas,” said Head of School Marie Leary.  “We are so grateful to our hosts at Microsoft and the many industry partners.”

Fifth grader, Thomas G. talking to Expo partner, Ricardo Alvarez, Researcher at MIT Senseable City Lab.

The goal of the Expo each year is to task students with designing and creating a viable solution to a real-life problem while reflecting a working knowledge of STEAM concepts. Students spent months researching, design testing, and collaborating with corporate and industry partners including MIT Senseable City Lab, Google’s Sidewalk Labs, and the Davis Center at Harvard. The Expo offers students the opportunity to not only share their innovations with a large audience but also present a business pitch to potential clients in an effort to get “funded”.

Dr. Nitzan Resnick, Academic Dean, stated, “Designers, developers, investors, and policymakers are faced with increasingly tough choices as to how to intervene within changing urban physical and social landscapes. How do you maintain the DNA of the city when it undergoes profound transformations? Who is the city for? How do you reconcile public and private interests? Who pays and who gains?”

Eighth graders, Loeina S., Neha S., and Anona J. during the business pitch of their project, The Medi-Dose Box, a medication dispenser for patients living in public housing.

Lisa Troy, faculty advisor, and coordinator of the 2019 Expo added, “These were some of the questions that the Sage students were asked to tackle.  They defined a large set of inequities as determined by economic status, gender, disabilities, age etc. and then, with the help of inspiring professional partners, went on to dive deeper into these problems with an attempt to offer one of their own.”

The following projects were voted for funding.

There is No Place Like Home: Affordable Solutions for Young Families
An innovative design for a multi-family, small-space apartment for young families in Boston. Students created a VR experience of their model.
Grade 5: Thomas N., Zachary S.
Grade 6: Isabella C., Diya K.


The Medi-Dose Box
A smart pillbox designed with a weight sensor to help patients living in homeless shelters track medication doses.
Grade 7: Neha S.
Grade 8: Anona J., Loeina S.


MSC: Mobile Sanitation Center
Mobile showers and restrooms open 24/7 that will travel from one shelter to another. Inspired by the work of Senseable City Labs, each unit has a turbidity sensor (in the future DNA sequencer) that tracks potential contagious diseases.
Grade 7: Aiden G., Alex K., Ryan T.
Grade 8: Adi V.


The Butterfly Effect
A VR designed community center within a housing project with the goal of helping middle and high school students gain life skills and exposure to enriching VR trips.
Grade 7: Lahari L., Emily S.
Grade 8: Hallelujah A.


S.N.A.P.Y Card Coders
A reward system on EBT cards (food stamps) that promotes smart food choices. Shoppers scan their cards and receive recipes for nutritional foods based on what they buy.
Grade 7: Benjamin L.
Grade 8: Manu G.


The Wheels on the Bus Go Up and Down: Innovative System for Lifting and Harnessing Handicapped Passengers on Buses
An automated wheelchair ramp for public transportation that can be operated by the passenger
Grade 7: Jude K., Achyuta R.
Grade 8: Rohan J.


LEAD No More
A small robot aiming at detecting lead in the city water pipes with sensors that allows it to navigate corners and intersections.
Grade 5: Sawyer B., Emery N.


STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, reflecting a cross-disciplinary approach to learning and problem-solving.