Category Archives: STEM Events

NOVA STEM Day Returns!

Story by NOVA IET’s STEM Writer Kristy Gillespie

NOVA STEM Day, a staple at Northern Virginia Community College from 2015 to 2019, returned this year on December 2nd at the Loudoun Campus Higher Education Center.

STEM Day showcases a range of engaging activities and interactive exhibits for children from 5-12 to inspire an early interest in STEM. This year, after a 4-year absence, the community’s enthusiasm for the event was evident, with over 350 people, including parents and children, in attendance.

One of the event’s highlights was the Science Stunt Show presented by NVCC’s Dean of Science, Mike Davis, affectionately known as “Mr. Wizard,” who fondly referred to the kids as “future scientists.” At the beginning of one of the experiments, Davis humorously asked for donations of money. He then proceeded to coat the money in a protective chemical before seemingly burning it during the demonstration. The show featured a variety of experiments, ranging from exploding powders to glowing liquids, liquid nitrogen, dry ice, and more. The room was filled with enthusiastic families, with laughter, applause, and excitement, children hopping in their seats, exclaiming “do it again!”

Cliff Li, accompanied by his 10-year-old daughter Rosie and 7-year-old son Howard, expressed after the Science Stunt Show, “It’s been a lot of fun. It makes learning more effective and is beneficial for parents. Kids often have a hard time focusing, but my 7-year-old son, Howard, managed to focus for over twenty minutes. It’s a great program.” Howard shared that his favorite part of the show was the water and spray lighter rocket, while Rosie said, “I look forward to my science teachers doing experiments like this!”

There were numerous additional NOVA-hosted activities. These included NOVA SySTEMic, where students engaged in activities such as driving a VEX IQ or a VRC robot, building and racing their own wooden cars, learning coding with Awbie, playing Tangram games, and exploring information about upcoming 2024 summer STEM camps. The Labs Maker School allowed students to construct and test their own sail cars powered by wind. The Psychology Department offered sessions where students delved into how the brain processes sensory information, while the Math Department provided an opportunity for students to create geometric artwork using equations, among other activities.

The event also featured participation from the Loudoun County Public Library, George Washington University Information Technology, the Children’s Science Center Lab, and the Pigeon Bots Robotic Team.

Simultaneously, various NVCC departments hosted events at the Loudoun Science Building. In the Biology Department, students explored the anatomy of a dissected shark and various shark-related objects. They were also invited to examine numerous biological models, specimens, and skeletal displays. The Chemistry Department showcased chemical reactions and volcanic experiments, while Geology offered an exhibit featuring earth science materials and equipment. Horticulture provided a hands-on project where students constructed their own bee houses. The Veterinary Department provided insight into the care techniques employed by veterinary technicians. Additionally, utilizing principles of physics and engineering, students in the Physics Department built and floated their own boats and engaged in racing soda can cars using electrostatic force.

Lots of parents and children were excited about the return of STEM Day. One parent, Alison Entis, joined by her 11-year-old son Thomas, said, “I would love to see them organize more activities and events like this.” Thomas added, “It’s been really fun learning about new things. My favorite part was building a wind car, placing it in front of a fan, and testing it.”

Ying Li, another parent shared her feedback: “I prefer my kids to learn about science. I encouraged my friends to come to this event. I love it.” Li brought along her 11-year-old son Jayden and her 10-year-old son Lawrence.

Another enthusiastic parent, Tina Karja said, “It’s been amazing. My 5-year-old daughter Rosie is having a great day. She’s fascinated by the interactive lectures and hands-on activities.”

Seven-year-old Max Bean, attending with his family, shared, “I think people should come here. I love science, math, and learning about animals like wild cats.”

The STEM Day organizers acknowledged the numerous supportive participants and eagerly anticipated next year’s event.Natasha Schuh-Nuhfer, NOVA’s STEM Education Coordinator, said, “STEM Day at the Loudoun campus would not have been made possible without the amazing NOVA faculty, staff, and student volunteers who gave their time on a Saturday to excite the youth in the community to the joys and wonder of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter from kids and parents alike as they explored the hands-on activities provided by NOVA faculty as well as outside exhibitors was a great way to begin the month of December and close out 2023. We look forward to 2024 and an even bigger STEM Day at NOVA’s Loudoun campus!”

Part of STEM Day’s significance is early engagement that leads to further educational pathways in STEM. Students who enjoyed STEM Day and are eager for more exploration can be signed up this January for NOVA SySTEMic’s summer STEM Camps, running next June through August. Camps will include Robotics, Coding, Rocketry, Arduino, Cybersecurity, Fabrication, and more and will have offerings for rising 4th through 12th graders.

Sign up for the NOVA IET monthly newsletter at to get up-to-date information on STEM Camp registration and upcoming STEM Days!

STEM Coordinator Brendan Murphy Wins Awards

It’s been a big month for NOVA SySTEMic’s Annandale STEM Coordinator Brendan Murphy!

First, Brendan was awarded the Emerging Leader Award at the 2022 International Technology and Engineering Education Association (ITEEA) conference in Orlando, FL on March 9-12.

The Emerging Leader Award is presented in recognition of educators who have demonstrated a high level of competence, dedication, commitment, and professional activity in the field of technology and engineering education.

Brendan served ITEEA’s Council for STEM Leadership as the membership chairperson, presented at the conference on the application of Design Thinking and Digital Fabrication, and hosted a Networking and Mentoring workshop to support young professionals foster relationships with mentors in the field.

Secondly, at the same event, he was awarded with the Burke Supervision and Shared Leadership Scholarship, which is presented to practicing leaders in the technology and engineering profession with supervisory responsibilities and helps support the advancement of technology and engineering researched-based practices at major professional development conferences.

Thirdly, Brendan was selected as a Fellow for the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) 2022 NextLevel Postsecondary CTE Leadership Program, (sponsored by ECMC Foundation). The NextLevel Fellowship provides professional and career growth opportunities to the next generation of leaders in postsecondary CTE programs through this nationally-recognized program that is engaging, individualized, and memorable. Seventeen fellows were selected for the 2022-2023 cohort. See Brendan’s ACTE bio here

Brendan reflected on his awards: “It’s an honor to be recognized by such distinguished technology and engineering professionals. I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue to advance our profession and impact the lives of students and educators locally, nationally, and internationally.”

Congratulations, Brendan! We’re glad you are on our team.

#WeDoSTEM #InDemandTech #ITEEA #ACTE


Fab Lab Activities in October

NOVA Makers 

NOVA Makers is a new program at the Fab Lab in which members can use the lab to work on personal projects, participate in regional/national design challenges, and/or gain more skills in a Maker community setting.  Membership is open to NOVA college students, faculty & staff, and high school students.  Register at 

Middle School Maker Club 

Starting Saturday, October 16th, middle school students will be able to participate in a Maker Club at the NOVA Fab Lab. The use of fabrication equipment (such as 3D printers, laser cutters, plastic thermoforming machines, etc.) in conjunction with other technologies will allow for integrative making experiences. Register at    

Bristlebots & Book Read: This is What An Engineer Looks Like 

On Saturday, October 9th from 10:30am to 12:00pm, young children will be able to build and test a motorized bristlebot, read and hear from the author of This Is What An Engineer Looks Like, and learn about STEAM careers and engineering.  The 17-year-old author and illustrator, Ayonnah Tinsley, will be participating via live stream to read and discuss her book.  Ayonnah is a Congressional Award Gold Medal recipient for her extensive volunteer efforts and STEAM awareness activities.  Her book educates young students on STEAM careers with an emphasis on encouraging women and minorities to enter STEAM fields.  Participants will receive a copy of the book and be able to take home their bristlebot.

After the session, an optional tour of the Fabrication Lab will be available.  Open to children in kindergarten through 4th grades. Cost is $45 per child or free for children of NOVA Students.  Open to the public. Pre-registration is required at   

 3D Printing Challenge – Tiny House Winner! 

Congratulations to Daniel Moone for his winning design of a 3D Printed Tiny House!  This challenge was open to all participants in four of our 3D Printing Fabrication Camps this summer.  Campers had to meet certain specifications while using CAD software to design their scaled models.  Each design was then fabricated using additive manufacturing (Stratasys F123 series 3D printers) and judged based upon the physical prototype.  Daniel received our top prize of an in-person tour of the Fab Lab, a Parallax Scribbler 3 Robot kit, and his fabricated tiny house.      

Grant News: NOVA awarded NSF ATE Grant Award – Makers By Design

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded NOVA a three-year grant, set to begin in September 2021, to establish a Professional Learning program in design thinking pedagogy for secondary and postsecondary educators. Makers By Design (MBD) as we call it, is officially titledSupporting Instructors to Embed Design Thinking in Digital Fabrication Courses.

Makers By Design Overview:

> Manufacturing and engineering technologies industries are facing a looming skills gap.

> Employers identify increasing need for soft skills (critical and design thinking, problem solving and communication) as manufacturing transitions to high-tech.

> There is a need to align engineering and engineering technology with industry defined technical and soft skills.

> MBD is a professional learning (PL) program for secondary and postsecondary educators focused on developing design thinking pedagogy through digital fabrication (e.g. 3D printing, laser engraving, CNC) techniques.

> Aligned with NSF includes broadening participation in STEM for underrepresented minorities.

> MBD will foster a community of practice between teachers, faculty, makerspace educators and industry.

The grant curriculum will focus on design thinking projects that involve digital fabrication techniques, including 3D printing, laser engraving, and Computer Numerical Control milling. The Professional Learning program is expected to improve the educator’ teaching practices and enable them to update existing curricula and lesson plans to better align with industry relevant skills and techniques. The project also intends to create a community of practice around design thinking in digital fabrication that will build a beneficial network among secondary teachers, community college faculty, makerspace educators, and regional employers. It is expected that the project will support 36 secondary and postsecondary educators who will teach more than 3,000 K-12 and undergraduate students in the northern Virginia region. These students will have greater interest in and be better prepared for technical careers in manufacturing and engineering.

The overarching goal of the project is to use Professional Learning to move digital fabrication instruction beyond the reproduction of simple objects. Instead, the project will train educators to use pedagogy and cognitive strategies to embed design thinking into their digital fabrication lessons and courses. As a result, students will learn to use design thinking to build complex, useful objects.

The project’s specific aims include to: (1) create a professional learning institute; (2) host digital fabrication summer camps at NOVA and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington; (3) host a semiannual design and digital fabrication challenge; and (4) establish an online resource library of projects and lesson plans created and refined by educators in the community of practice. The project is expected to advance: understanding of the pedagogies that help to develop student interest in manufacturing and engineering; the capacity for Professional Learning to facilitate integration of design thinking into classrooms and makerspaces; and the extent to which a capstone design challenge may foster sustainable change in instructional practices. This project is funded by the Advanced Technological Education program that focuses on the education of technicians for the advanced-technology fields that drive the nation’s economy.

The NOVA Fab Lab has a Makerspace utilized by many NOVA programs and the community as well as a new Makers Program for college students coming up this fall

Go to for current Fab Lab program/event registration and check out the NOVA Fab Lab Page on our website.

Outside Resources

Computer Science Instructional Resources & Professional Learning

In partnership with Prince William County Schools (PWCS), NOVA SySTEMic developed instructional resources that align with the 6th Grade Computer Science Standards of Learning.  Funding for this project was provided by the Virginia Department of Education’s (VDOE) Advancing Computer Science Education grant that was awarded to PWCS.  Additionally, professional learning sessions were offered to educators by NOVA SySTEMic staff to introduce and guide educators through the created activities.  The resources are available to all educators on the #GoOpenVA site at . 


Virtual STEMinars and Fab Lab Tours this Fall

Virtual STEMinars are back! We are running virtual FAB LAB tours and info sessions and virtual workshops that include a Maker Club, a Laser Fabrication Workshop, Video Game Development and more, starting in October. Many STEMinars are HANDS-ON, as we will send you materials that you work on with an instructor virtually leading the course on Zoom.

Events and courses listed below:

LLI Fab Lab Virtual Tour & Industry 4.0
These special sessions will include images and videos of the facility, an overview of Fab Lab activities, and a presentation on Industry 4.0 (IoT).  Session options are being offered to members of the Manassas Lifelong Learning Institute on October 16th and November 13th at 10:00 am.

Register at
(must be a LLI member to register for this event).

Virtual Tour & Info Session:  NOVA Fab Lab
Would you like to learn more about the NOVA Fab Lab? Then attend this virtual tour and live information session.  You will have an opportunity to ask questions, see images and videos of lab activities, and receive an overview of Fab Lab programs. Open to the public and registration is required. Free.  November 6th from 2:00-2:45 pm.

Register here:

Virtual Maker Club
Have your kids take a break from the screen and tinker with some hands-on STEM activities.  Over the course of four weeks a weekly project will be provided that will include activities such as:  building a tiny robot, creating circuits, using a DIY conductive probe to design experiments, building a wind turbine to move objects, and completing a design challenge using items from around the house.  Directions and printed extension activities will be provided so that participants can explore at their own pace.  An optional live virtual session will be provided once a week to provide an overview, support, sharing, and assistance with extension activities.  A materials kit will be mailed, but participants will need: a Phillips screwdriver, a fan, 100 pennies, tape, scissors, liquid glue, and recycling bin materials.  Recommended for children in grades 4 – 8.  Cost $72 ($60 for NOVA staff/faculty/students). Two session options beginning October 26th andNovember 24th.

Register here:

Laser Workshop:  Design Thanksgiving Pie Toppers
Design personalized pie toppers that will then be fabricated and mailed to you.  You will learn how to design in Inkscape, a free graphics and drawing software, while learning how lasers can be used to cut and engrave. Ages 16 and older. Cost $20 ($16 for NOVA staff/faculty/students). Live virtual session on November 2nd from 7:00-9:00 pm.

Register here:

Makers by Design Challenge Series
The goal of a Maker is to produce better products – but what defines a “better product?” What is a better product in the age of Digital Fabrication? Machines might have assimilated hard skills, but the soft skills necessary for innovation have yet to be adopted.  This 4-part STEMinar and optional lab(s) addresses these concerns by identifying the soft skills required in Digital Fabrication. Topics will include: Design Thinking, brainstorming, user-empathy, rapid ideation, prototyping, and making as an iterative non-sequential process. The series will conclude with the presentation of a design challenge and competition, with the winning members’ product being fabricated in our own Fab-Lab. Open to current 9-12th graders and college students.  Sessions run from 7:00 – 8:00 pm on Tuesday, November 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th .

Registration is for all 4 sessions, while the Optional Labs have a separate registration.  FREE.

Register here:

Video Game Development using Scratch
Enhance your Scratch coding skills while developing a video game!  Participants must have prior and intermediate level experience using Scratch.  A four-session series with each session building on the previous.  For grades 6 – 9th on Wednesdays Oct. 28th, Nov. 4th, 11th, & 18th at 7:00 pm.  FREE.

Register here:




STEM Careers Upcoming Events

NOVA and several industry partners are collaborating to host a series of Free Career Exploration & Readiness Virtual Workshops for NOVA students.  The first series will be offered on select Wednesdays from 11AM-12PM and 3PM-4PM beginning May 6 and ending on June 10.

The series will include the following dates and topics:
May 6: Navigating the Job/Internship Search (NOVA)
May 13: Building a Stand Out Resume (NOVA)
May 20: Security Clearance Information Session (Squadron Defense Group)
June 3: Industry Certifications:  Identification-Cert Your Worth. (PRISM Inc.)
June 10: Use Online Power Tools to Build Your Career.  (NOVA Workforce)

Registration is open at

STEM Careers Activities Recap

STEM Careers Virtual Activities Recap – March 2020

NOVA SySTEMic hosted a series of Career Explorations Activities during the month of March for potential Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Students and current NOVA students.  These activities were previously scheduled to occur in person throughout our various campuses, but were changed to Virtual Events utilizing Zoom Online Meetings.

The Career Exploration Fair included presentations about several STEM, CTE Programs and Student Services at NOVA.  Current NOVA students and area high school students were able to participate virtually, ask questions and learn more about NOVA.

Six Interviewing Skills Workshops for Northern Virginia Community College students were facilitated by The Career Engineer which included; Interactive Participant Activities, Mock Interview Simulations and time for Questions & Answers.  One participant shared, “I’m happy the virus didn’t cancel the workshop. Thank you for adapting during hard times”. 

Thank You to the faculty and staff members who helped support these STEM Careers events.  One faculty member shared feedback from their students, “My students are saying they thought it was incredibly helpful and they learned a lot. Especially around confidence and anxiety…Thanks so much for organizing this really great event. It’s a wonderful resource for our students!”

Click here for info on upcoming STEM Careers Events


Black History Month at NOVA features an Engineer

Dionne Henry is the Program Chief Engineer for Operational Commercial Engines for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Engines and will host “Making The Table Bigger: Minority Success in a Majority World” on Thursday, February 13th. It will be a moderated “fireside chat” with Dionne talking about her experience as the first African American woman to hold the position of Chief Engineer at this company, how she got where she is and how to refine your professional experiences for success.

When & Where
Thursday, February 13th
NOVA Manassas Campus
Colgan Theater
10950 Campus Drive
Manassas, VA 20109
12pm – 2pm

Questions? Please contact Marcie Schreibman at

Community College Innovation Challenge

Calling All Community College Student Innovators – Do you know a student with an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in STEM?

For the fifth year, AACC in partnership with the National Science Foundation, is inviting community college students to participate in the Community College Innovation Challenge (CCIC).

The CCIC is a prestigious competition where community college student teams, working with a faculty or administrator team mentor, use science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to innovate solutions to real-world problems; earn travel support to attend an Innovation Boot Camp in Washington, DC; and compete for cash awards.

The Boot Camp provides hands-on learning opportunities and coaching designed to build strategic communication and entrepreneurial skills—and includes a student poster session on Capitol Hill, and a formal pitch presentation at the Boot Camp in front of a panel of industry professionals, to determine the first and second place winning teams.

Diverse and interdisciplinary teams that include students in STEM, business, humanities, and other fields are encouraged to apply.

DEADLINE: Submissions are due by March 31, 2020.

What can you do?  
JOIN: Assemble a student team and become a faculty or administrator mentor.
SHARE: Help us spread the word and join the conversation online! Share this click-to-tweet.
APPLY: Encourage students to learn more or apply at

For questions, email

Need Judges for PW-Manassas Science/Engineering Fair – March 7

The Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) Office of Student Learning cordially invites you to judge student research projects at the upcoming 2020 Prince William-Manassas Regional Science and Engineering Fair. The Middle (Grades 6-8) and Senior (Grades 9-12) Division fairs will be held on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at the Kelly Leadership Center located at 14715 Bristow Road, Manassas, Virginia.

As in the prior years, judges will participate in a short training session the morning of the fair, and will be provided with a complimentary breakfast and a hot lunch, an appreciation gift – a bluetooth wireless speaker (see below), and a certificate of participation toward Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits or Professional Development (PD) points.

We greatly appreciate your willingness to share your time and expertise with our students by judging their projects and providing feedback for their future research.

If you are interested and available, please register at will receive a confirmation email and specific details about the event and your role in January.

In addition, please consider sharing the information about this event with other potential judges.

Please contact the Office of Science and Family Life Education at 703.791.7240 with any questions you may have regarding the fair or registration. We are looking forward to working with you again this year!

NOVA 38th in National Cyber Power Rankings!

NOVA was recognized as the 38th top school in the nation during the National Cyber League (NCL) Spring 2019 season competition, beating every other college/university in Virginia. 5,026 students from 419 schools competed in the competition. These rankings represent the ability of students from these schools to perform real-world cybersecurity tasks on the Cyber Skyline platform. Students had to identify hackers from forensic data, pentest & audit vulnerable websites, recover from ransomware attacks, and more. Schools are ranked based on their top team performance, their top student’s individual performance, and the aggregate individual performance of their students.

Here are the specific national stats:

  • NOVA ranked 38thin the overall competition
  • NOVA ranked 38thin the team competition
  • NOVA ranked 3rdin the number of participates
  • NOVA ranked 164thin the individuals competitions

In the Eastern division of the competition:

  • NOVA ranked 18thin the overall competition
  • NOVA ranked 16thin the team competition
  • NOVA ranked 2ndin the number of participates
  • NOVA ranked 65thin the individuals competitions

Out of the Centers of Academic Excellence colleges/universities:

  • NOVA ranked 20thin the overall competition
  • NOVA ranked 21stin the team competition
  • NOVA ranked 2ndin the number of participates
  • NOVA ranked 52ndin the individuals competitions

NOVA’s students couldn’t have done it without the stellar aid of AllCyber’s Director of Training, Bishnu Karki, who is the go-to person for NOVA students competing in Cyber Competitions.

Offical link to ranks and statistics cited: