New Kensington students promote STEAM in local community

STEAM Outreach Club partners with campus K-12 cooperative, communities throughout academic year about science, technology, engineering, art and math
College student helps elementary school student with robot

Rachel Klemmenson, a Penn State New Kensington student and member of the STEAM Outreach Club, is pictured right with third grade student Evelyn DeAntonio, during Stewart Elementary School's Third Grade STEAM Move-Up event. Klemmenson and other members of the STEAM Outreach Club attended the event to showcase robotics and other science, technology, engineering, art and math activities to the youth and their families. The event was just one of the many activities the club attends throughout the year to promote STEAM-related education and skill sets.

Credit: Rebecca Dietrich

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — When ABC CREATE, a Penn State New Kensington-led K-12 collaborative, made a request for support for a holiday STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) Night at a local elementary school earlier this academic year, the members of the campus STEAM Outreach Club didn’t hesitate to want to volunteer their expertise.  

“The STEAM Outreach Club at the campus originated in response to requests from local school districts seeking support for STEM/STEAM-based events during and after the school day,” explained Colleen Smith, STEM outreach and ABC CREATE coordinator at Penn State New Kensington.  

ABC CREATE was started in 2014 by the New Kensington campus, in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University’s Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab) “as a way for school districts in the campus’ local region to work collaboratively to revitalize teaching and learning and to integrate STEAM skills.” Since it’s inception, ABC CREATE has assisted hundreds of educators in 14 districts expand STEM-based opportunities to thousands of local students in their classrooms.  

It was connecting STEM-based learning to wider audiences that became a natural fit for the STEAM Club on campus, and it began partnering with Smith and ABC CREATE to bridge the club and the schools. In recent years, districts have utilized the club and its members at a variety of events in the design of hands-on, engaging and fun activities involving a range of STEAM skills. Club members are also introduced to educational-technology tools for things such as coding, computer science and robotics-based challenges and activities, which they then use to teach and mentor youth in the region to showcase possible pathways for developing STEAM skill sets beyond high school. 

This academic year, Smith requested the assistance of club members for Burrel School District’s Holiday STEAM Night at Stewart Elementary in Lower Burrel. 

“STEAM club members constructed winter-themed robotics challenges for the students including a ski race and a snowball soccer game,” said Joie Marhefka, associate teaching professor and program coordinator of biomedical engineering technology and one of the club’s advisers. “They helped the elementary school students to complete the activities, and it was a fun and festive evening for both the college students and the younger kids.” 

The success of the activity spurred the club to be asked to once again help the elementary school for its Third Grade STEAM Move-Up event this spring. Smith expects the partnership between ABC CREATE, local school districts and the STEAM Outreach Club to continue. 

In addition to their work with the local schools this year, the club also participated in community events including the Willie Thrower “First Snap” Celebration in downtown New Kensington and the Burrell Community Connections event where members hosted children’s and family STEM activities for those in attendance.  

In recognition of their work on and off campus, the STEAM Outreach Club, which is advised by Marhefka and Smith, along with Kristen Pueschel and Melinda Spampinato, was named the 2023-2024 Club of the Year.