McManus Middle School held its first STEAM Fest on Wednesday – a night of fun that immersed students, their families, and other visitors in science, technology, engineering, art and math. 

The event included a range of interactive challenges and demonstrations throughout the school that challenged adults and allowed children to show their skills.


Principal Peter Fingerlin said he wanted to try to do something different this school year to bring students and parents together. And because of the popularity of the school’s STEM Club, the staff started focusing that way.

“It was wonderful to watch,” he said. “It was a true team effort. One of the focal points that we stressed was we wanted the kids to be delivering the message. We wanted the kids to be able to showcase the skills and show their parents and anybody else that came in how to do it.”

Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi was impressed.

“STEAM night at McManus hit a home run on two levels,” he said. “It showed how hands-on learning can make students excited about going to school, and it brought teachers, students and parents together for a night of fun and learning, strengthening our Linden Public Schools family. Amazing events like this take education in Linden to the next level.”

In the gym, there were demonstrations of remote-controlled flying drones and programmable robots, as well as a green screen that put participants into a range of photo backdrops. Down the hall was a “wax museum,” in which students took on the looks and personalities of famous scientists to tell visitors about their accomplishments.

In the music room, students showed how technology such as the Garage Band software can be used to make music. In the robotics room, visitors got to try out the same VEX IQ robots that students recently used in a 74-school competition in the gym.

Science room challenges included building a tower out of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks; building a boat out of a single piece of aluminum foil; learning about inertia by trying to pull a table cloth out from under items on a table; and creating an electromagnet.

Other features included an art zone and a math room where a graphing challenge drew out a tiger paw.

Visitors who stopped by each station were entered into raffles for a tablet computer and a gift basket.

“This event reinforced students’ learning, and their ability to further their education and inspire other kids,” Fingerlin said. “So you saw both kids and parents get excited.  I’m always looking for something to bring the parents in.”

He said feedback from parents was very positive — and he heard rave reviews from teachers.

“Two veteran teachers told me independently, of all the events they’ve been involved with in the district since they’ve been here, that was the best family night they’ve been part of,” Fingerlin said. “Wow. If I have these seasoned veterans who have seen a lot, done a lot, say that about that night, then we put something together that was pretty impressive.

“And we’re just going to make it better for next year. That’s the goal.”