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How the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge Makes Me a Better Teacher

How the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge Makes me a Better Teacher

STEM - or science, technology, engineering and math – teaches students more than just textbook learning. It is an opportunity for kids to learn perseverance, problem solving, teamwork and critical thinking. The Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge is the perfect culmination of all these skills. It pushes participants to think creatively, and each year my students are overjoyed to be part of this innovative education program.

I have been a science teacher for more than a decade and, honestly, the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge makes me a better teacher, too. It inspires me to keep learning, adapt and discover new ways to motivate my students. Since it’s the largest STEM education program in the state, I find it very powerful to be a part of this event year after year. I am humbled to participate in something so great.

This is the seventh time I have been to the competition. This year I was privileged to bring 12 teams of 7th and 8th graders. Over the years I have watched the students grow and evolve thanks to this experiential education initiative, and the value extends far past the three-day event. The students are changed after participating in the Challenge. They stand taller, they speak more clearly, they aren’t afraid to make eye-contact with adults and they have faith in themselves and their ideas. There aren’t many educational opportunities with such a long-reaching impact.

My students embraced this year’s Challenge goal of creating an International Logistics Mission to colonize Phobos. They spent countless hours researching what was needed on this Mars moon, building models and working together to have their ideas heard.

“One of the things I liked best about this project is that no answer is ever wrong,” said Jaidyn, a participating 8th grader. “As long as we could defend our ideas and provide supporting facts, we were on the right track.”

“This project was frustrating at times,” added Brian, a second-year STEM student. “But, once we got through a problem we were so satisfied and proud of our accomplishments. That’s one of the best things about STEM, that you get such satisfaction when you find solutions to challenges!”

For me, another great thing about being part of this annual competition is the opportunity to meet other teachers across Arizona with a passion for STEM. They come from all walks of life and teach students of all backgrounds.

Jo Ellen Kinnamon, who teaches STEM to Native American students on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona, visited the Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge for the first time. She sees this as the next step of her students’ STEM curriculum.

“Typically, Native students are very shy, afraid to speak up, afraid to make eye contact,” she said. “This educational opportunity would stretch their abilities and teach them valuable skills, not only for the competition, but tools they will use for the rest of their lives. It’s my goal to bring several teams to the 2019 competition.”

The Honeywell Fiesta Bowl Aerospace Challenge is funded by Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the company’s corporate citizenship program. Since the Challenge was introduced in 1999, thousands of middle school students have participated in the hands-on competition. Winners are awarded an all-expenses paid trip to Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Mariano Guerra
Mariano Guerra is the 7th Grade Science and STEM Teacher at Mountain Sky Junior High. He was awarded Arizona Middle School Science Teacher of the Year in 2013.


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