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Woodbury High School sophomore Tianna Eaton helped beta test, and develop the website Sparticl, a one-stop STEM website, which was lauched on Oct. 1 by 3M and Twin Cities Public Television. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Woodbury students lay roots for future in STEM

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Woodbury High School sophomore Tianna Eaton’s dream job is to run crime labs during crime scene investigations.

Unfortunately for Eaton, there aren’t many places to turn to study the topic.

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“Criminology is more of a social studies class, not so much the DNA fingerprinting and actual hands on activities,” she said.

That learning experience is changing through a new website Eaton helped develop. The website, Sparticl, provides the hands on experience criminology classes are lacking.

“There’s DNA fingerprinting simulations,” she said, “and whodunit games you can play.”

Sparticl, which launched Oct. 1 by 3M and Twin Cities Public Television, is a free science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) site for teenagers.

Eaton and fellow Woodbury resident Kyle Tamondong, a freshman at Math and Science Academy, were part of Sparticl’s Teen Advisory Board, which beta-tested the website.

Tamondong could not be reached for comment.

“It is unique to have something that is for teens that actually has teens working on it,” Eaton said. “A lot of times websites can be too kiddish or too mature, but Sparticl has a good balance between them. Sparticl has everything for every type of learner.”

Sparticl

The website, www.sparticl.org, is a 10,000 plus-article one-stop-shop for STEM articles, videos, photos, scientist profiles, hands-on activities and games.

The content on Sparticl comes from such resources as PBS, National Geographic, Scientific American, Discovery and the Smithsonian.

Sparticl is a valuable resource for homework help and general curiosity, Eaton said.

Currently Sparticl has upwards of 500 topics on its website including demolition, tornado alley, space junk, chocolate, forensics and concussions.

“A lot of classrooms are auditory or visual and there is no kinesthetic component,” Eaton said. “You can only go so far in a classroom with limited materials, but online you can go on and understand the topic more.

 By teens, for teens

Eaton and Tamondong, along with hundreds of other high schools students from across the country, helped with beta-testing the website by checking to make sure the links were functional, checking for errors and bugs and generally just giving their feedback on the website.

Eaton said her biggest criticism of Sparticl initially was that there weren’t enough games.

After the beta-testing was complete, Eaton, Tamondong, and several other students, joined the Teen Advisory Board where they continued to help perfect Sparticl.

“We’re finding everything that can make the site better and going that extra mile,” Eaton said.

Tamondong and Eaton began working on Sparticl almost a year ago.

In addition to working on the website, Eaton and Tamondong also visited 3M headquarters where they got a behind-the-scenes look at the research and development lab, which is dedicated to  technology research in the areas of electrical and energy, safety and graphics and industrial.

 An introduction to STEM

Eaton said being able to introduce teenagers to more areas of STEM is the biggest benefit of Sparticl.

“A lot of the schools have limited STEM classes, a lot of what they have is just the generals,” she said. “So, if you’re not interested in the basic areas, it will turn you off to science and engineering.

“But Sparticl kind of makes science and technology fun.”

Eaton said introducing teenagers to STEM is important because the industry will only continue to grow.

“Technology is becoming a part of our daily lives,” she said, “there’s so much more we can do with it now.”

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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