JP Powell students headed to GEMS Expo

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Ten students from the John P. Powell Middle School Girls Engaged in Math and Science (GEMS) team will get the chance to showcase their STEM research at a statewide GEMS Expo on March 16.

The GEMS team has been selected to participate in the 15th annual GEMS Expo at Auburn University. J. P. Powell Middle is one of 51 schools statewide to compete in the expo. 

The expo, hosted by the Alabama State Department of Education, is an educational event designed to engage female students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

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The GEMS program uses eight teacher strategies to encourage self-confidence and engagement to help close the STEM gender gap, according to a school press release. The one-day expo will be held at the Auburn University EW Shell Fisheries in Auburn. 

J.P. Powell Middle’s GEMS team will present a student project and participate in interactive STEM investigations. Students will also hear from female role models during the expo. 

The state Department of Education selected J.P. Powell’s team through a competitive application process. Ten female students developed a STEM lesson plan. The students involved are Payton Fields, Kiyanna Williams, Payden Baker, Audriona Finley, Jeleah Carwell, Ny’ria Lee, Charlinda Walton, Maurkenzia Brooks, Zi’ajah Billingsley and Julyanna O’Neal.

Their project, titled “Genetically Engineering Yeast to Fluorescent,” will explore genetic engineering and genetic modification while adding new DNA to an organism (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). They also submitted a video and answered questions. The team will be preparing their project over the next four weeks.

STEAM Specialist and Chambers County Teacher of the Year Dr. Vickie Williams-Benson sponsors the GEMS team.

On Jan. 17, the GEMS team received their acceptance letter from the state Department of Education. This year 397 students will attend the GEMS Expo from the 51 schools. 

According to the press release, CCSD Superintendent Casey Chambley said, “he believes this is just the beginning of many more accomplishments from our students at the district’s new STEAM Magnet School.”