Wintertech challenge teams and teachers

Launching a passion for STEM


Excited students, teachers and families recently gathered at the Fleet Science Center for the winter “Tech Challenge.” The two annual Tech Challenges are culminating events in the Fleet’s semester-long SciTech program. They are competitions between teams of 4-6 grade girls who have worked for weeks problem-solving and designing inventions to complete a specific task. This year’s “Reaching Mars” challenge was to design and build a device or “rover” for successfully dropping and deploying.

The top two teams from four elementary schools, Avondale Elementary School in Spring Valley, Bayside STEAM Academy in Imperial Beach, Palomar Elementary School in Chula Vista and Vista Grande Elementary in El Cajon, were chosen to compete in the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater, dropping their devices on a target from a height of eight feet and coaxing them to roll several feet.

The four judges and STEM role models Anna Rosen, Pauline Ma, Vanessa Bautista, and Steve Engleman who announced that the winners were from a school participating in the Tech Challenge for the first time, Avondale Elementary School in Spring Valley. However, winning team member Aliah was a familiar face to the Fleet. She was on the winning Tech Challenge team the “Sea Cleaners” two years ago when she was in SciTech at a different elementary school!

SciTech is an after-school program that prides itself on being an affirming, community-building way to develop and maintain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) talent in San Diego, shared Sandy Valdivia, the Fleet’s youth engagement manager. “This program helps our future leaders discover their passions while learning essential skills like engineering, teamwork, and problem-solving. Plus, families can join in on the fun and see what their girls have learned. At SciTech, we are building a stronger community, one scientific discovery at a time.”

Although the SciTech program focuses on inspiring female students, the Fleet Science Center is getting ready to launch STEM Quest, a program for students of all genders, which includes inquiry-based, collaborative investigations, interactions with role models, and family engagement activities to build self-confidence and foster an interest in science, technology, and engineering careers.


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Kamran Saeed