Levittown School District honors Bright Ideas science students

East Broadway’s Bright Idea Convention team and student presenters posed for photos with the Levittown Union Free School District Board of Education. // Photo by Ian Behnke/Long Island Advocate

By Ian Benhke

            The Levittown School District honored student and teacher participants in East Broadway Elementary School’s Bright Ideas Convention during the Oct. 12 Board of Education meeting, at which several of the children’s projects were featured.

The idea for the convention came after an overwhelming number of students participated in the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) club, which Dr. Brittany Roaldsen and Lauren Russo founded in 2015. 

“Our Bright Ideas Convention is basically a science fair,” Roaldsen said, “but reinvented.”

Roaldsen said a 45-minute after-school block was not enough to answer every question that the students had. After two years of running the club, Roaldsen and Russo decided the students’ enthusiasm warranted a convention. The idea behind the event was to give students an avenue to pursue their own projects.

Last school year’s installment of the Bright Ideas Convention, held in May, was the first in two years since the coronavirus pandemic erupted in March 2020. Covid-19 made it difficult to get the convention going, but that did not stop the students and teachers from forging ahead.

“It was a little more difficult to try to get [the students] interested,” Russo said outside the meeting. “Due to Covid, we weren’t having the STEM club, so we kind of had to promote it a little bit differently within the classrooms.”

Although the pause in club activities at East Broadway Elementary might have presented an obstacle, the instructors turned it into a positive by getting students from beyond the club involved in the event.

“We were lucky enough to have 52 participants,” Rizzo told the audience of about 75 people.

Rizzo said there were three categories from which students chose their research subjects:

• Upcycling, or reusing materials to make “a higher quality product.”

• The scientific method, or a hypothesis-based experiment.

• The engineering and redesign process.

Each category was represented by a student from last year’s convention.

Current third-grader Mia Many looked into upcycling. Her project used old pieces of fabric to create earrings, which she wore at the meeting. “I learned that old things can be used to make new things,” Many said.

The Bright Ideas Convention team highlighted outstanding projects from last school year’s event and previewed plans for the next convention at the board meeting. Above, from left, were Dr. Brittany Roaldsen, Lauren Russo, Mollie Stalzer, Mia Many, Hunter Kaplan, Elena Herz, Christopher Lauro, Nicholas Noto and Vice Principal Andrea Ferrari. // Photo by Ian Behnke/Long Island Advocate

Current fourth-grader Hunter Kaplan took on the engineering and redesign category. He created a game board intended to make studying fun for students. It featured wires that connected a question to different answer choices.

Christopher Lauro and Nicholas Noto, both East Broadway fifth-graders, teamed up to create a project in the scientific method category. The goal was to determine which fruit or vegetable had the most amount of energy, according to a multimeter. They found that a kiwi registered the highest energy reading.

“My favorite part of the Bright Ideas Convention was when other kids came over to see our project,” Noto said. “Some kids even tried to eat our fruits and vegetables. I look forward to participating again next year.”

“I learned that old things can be used to make new things.”

Mia Many, Third-grader

Vice Principal Andrea Ferrari touted the convention for promoting not only science skills, but also mathematics and language arts. She also revealed the immediate plans to expand the reach of the convention at East Broadway.

“We decided that for this coming year,” Ferrari said, “we’re going to have class projects so that all students in the school will be represented in our convention. And our hope is that they will be inspired to do their individual projects the following year, and we’ll have more families come to see the projects.”

While the convention has been a hit at East Broadway, Roaldsen and Russo said they hope it will expand to other schools in the Levittown School District and beyond.

“I think that would be ideal,” Roaldsen said after the meeting. “It would definitely be a long-term goal. But a short-term goal, maybe it’s something the district can look into as far as other schools participating or other schools hosting their own.”

While the meeting showcased last school year’s convention, attention at East Broadway has already turned to the next installment, which is set to happen at the end of this school year.