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Ahfachkee competes at SECME Olympiad

BIG CYPRESS — Ahfachkee students have been expanding their horizons this year by exploring new ways to learn through hands-on fun, yet educational, competitions.

The South Florida FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics League competitions ended in January, so a group of fourth, fifth and sixth graders competed in the SECME-STEM Olympiad April 14 at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale. The students gave it their all in competitions of mousetrap powered cars, water bottle rockets, school banners and school posters.

The Ahfachkee STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) program encourages students to participate in the competitions. During STEM, students learned how to do the projects and the best ones were chosen to represent the school at the Olympiad. Preparation for the competition took about three or four months.

Ahfachkee didn’t win this time, but STEM teacher Barbara R. Oliva-Espinosa isn’t discouraged.

“I’m sure we will do better next year as now they are more familiar with what’s expected of them,” Oliva-Espinosa wrote in an email. “The students came back energized and motivated. Most want to attend next year if they qualify again.”

Participants in the elementary mousetrap powered car competition were fourth graders Lena Cypress, Ina Robbins and Curtis Smith. Lena Cypress, Alice Osceola and Sautva Billie competed in the elementary water rocket competition.

Fifth graders Alex Covarrubias, Lucee Cypress and Abbiegale Green also competed in the water rocket competition and Emma DiCarlo participated in the poster contest. The entire fifth grade class participated in the school banner contest.

Sixth graders Keithana Osceola-Onco, Dyami Koenes and Jonnie Sue Russell participated in the middle school mousetrap car competition.

The SECME Olympiad is usually only open to Broward County Schools, but since Oliva-Espinosa taught in the county for many years she was able to get Ahfachkee included with the 84 other schools.

According to its website, SECME (Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering) was founded in 1975 and is an alliance of K-12 educators, universities and industry / government partners committed to engaging and preparing more minorities and girls for college and careers in STEM.


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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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