WALLINGFORD — In the final STEM challenge of the summer Monday night at the Oakdale Theatre, dozens of local fifth-grade students were tasked with creating a structure that would hold up the most washers.
When Galina Esposito reached 180 washers, she started garnering attention. When she reached 250, she was unofficially named the winner of the challenge.
Along with the competition, students and family members learned about the town’s most recent STEM initiative and met with representatives from some of the town’s manufacturing companies.
Superintendent of Schools Salvatore Menzo said part of the STEM town-wide initiative is to support factories having trouble filling positions.
Menzo said some fifth graders took STEM-related online courses and participated in several group challenges.
Esposito, 11, said her winning design came after an unsuccessful first attempt. Her father, Scott Esposito, said he was happy to see the school district prioritize the initiative.
“As a parent, I want to see my daughter succeed and there’s apparently tons of jobs out there in the field, so put those two things together— hopefully it adds up to success,” Scott Esposito said.
Several manufacturing companies, including Holo-Krome, Allnex, and APS Technology, set up tables around the room to show some of the equipment used by their engineers.
Economic Development Director Tim Ryan encouraged students and parents to ask questions and get to know the companies.
“These are what I refer to as the captains of industry that make our local economy,” Ryan said. “It’s those jobs, it’s those tax dollars, it’s those products that they make that allow us to have great amenities in the town of Wallingford.”
Audrey Larson, a sophomore at Lyman Hall High School, presented a video of her most recent invention, Safe K.I.D.S., which has earned national attention as a non-political solution for school shootings.
“I hope that every kid in this room gets exposed to STEM and has the opportunity to fall love with it like I did,” Larson said.