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Q&A with Alicia Testa, US Computer Science Teacher and Coordinator of STEM and Stuart Institute of Finance and Economics (SIFE)

Interview by Taylor Smith | Photographs courtesy of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart

Describe your role at Stuart and give an example of some of the classes that you typically teach.

My role of STEM/SIFE coordinator allows me to collaborate with teachers to infuse STEM, finance, and economics into the curriculum. As one of the three technology innovation specialists at Stuart, I work with the Upper School to integrate technology. Also, I teach computer science in the Upper School. My classes include Robotics, Design of Emerging Technologies, and AP Computer Science Principles. Design of Emerging Technologies is a project-based class where students utilize design thinking to build their own creation using programming, a microcontroller, and sensors. Students have created touch panels that work with LED boards, balls that record their velocity, virtual reality applications, and even built a piano staircase.

What does the MakerSpace look like, and what types of projects can Stuart girls accomplish there?

The MakerSpace allows students and teachers across all grades to collaborate, innovate, and be creative with projects in all curriculums. Students utilize their knowledge, creativity, and artistic talents. Whether it is 3D printing, laser engraving/cutting, or coding, students build and prototype. Third-graders have designed butterflies in science; Middle Schoolers have built places of worship for theology. The Upper School students have created paper dolls based on Pride and Prejudice, 3D printed skulls for Día de Muertos celebrations in Spanish, sewed oceanography quilt panels, programmed animations for biology, created stickers or buttons for Social Justice projects, and built lamps that cast different shadows for Honors Photography.

How are your students better prepared for continued STEM study at the college level and beyond once they graduate from Stuart?

Our students have continually reported being extremely prepared for their STEM classes. They have a strong understanding of the material and can balance the workload. Students have indicated that they were more aware of newer technology thanks to the MakerSpace. As a faculty, we work hard to stay up to date with the latest research and best practices. We give students experiences that build confidence, utilize creativity, and encourage independent thinking. My colleagues and I try to lead by example and take risks with our own learning as we build an amazing community that fosters the whole child.

Former students report feeling well prepared for all fields based on their education at Stuart. We aim to build resilience that will prepare them to face each and every endeavor. Stuart is an amazing place that fosters creativity, education, and leadership in each individual student.