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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High student honored at STEM Night with the Stars

Mar 11, 2020 01:17PM ● By Julie Slama

Three students—Brooke Lance, of Hillcrest High School; Vanessa Jasso, of Provo School District; and Samantha Hansen, of Jordan Ridge Elementary, in South Jordan—were honored for their passion in STEM at the STEM Night with the Stars. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High School junior Brooke Lance has something more to cheer about. 

The junior, who is a member of her school cheer squad, recently was selected to receive the STEM Excellence Award Jan. 24 at the STEM Night with the Stars. 

It was the first time Utah STEM Action Center had a dedicated STEM night with the Salt Lake Stars, the G-league affiliate basketball team for the Utah Jazz, to award students the honor at STEM Night with the Stars.

“It has been great having the Stars team up with Utah STEM Action Center over the past few years,” said Jonathan Rinehart, Salt Lake City Stars president. “Education is an important community outreach pillar of our organization, and STEM Night has allowed us to provide educational opportunities for local youth in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math.”

In addition to watching the Salt Lake Stars, Lance and other winners received a Utah Jazz T-shirt and an autographed Stars basketball in front of more than 7,000 fans.

“It was surreal,” Lance said. “I wasn’t expecting it.”

That’s because during her first year at Hillcrest, Lance thought she might check out robotics as she passed by the classroom.

“I walked in the door, but then, I walked right out. I was too scared. I was really shy as a freshman,” she said.

She got up her nerve last year as a sophomore and joined Hillcrest High’s FIRST tech challenge and robotics competition teams. 

Hillcrest robotics coach Clief Castleton was glad she did.

“She is an outstanding leader and stepped up big time,” he said. “She is thoughtful, intelligent, creative and well balanced. She got the team to the next level.”

Castleton said that as the robotics’ team project manager coordinator, Lance has organized about 40 students, and has them communicate with one another while setting and achieving goals.

“She really has gone from a really shy student to a leader and oversees all thing mechanical—manufacturing, cutting, drilling, machining, putting it together. She has a positive influence not only to our team, but to others,” he said.

For example, last year in a competition, Lance helped another team put bumpers on their robot.

“She took it home, spent all night working on them. As a rookie in robotics, she embraced the ideals and exemplified it. When I got an email to nominate a student in STEM, I thought this was a cool opportunity for Brooke as an outstanding leader on our team,” Castleton said. 

It also has opened up a possible career option for Lance as she is looking into mechanical or aerospace engineering or psychology after she graduates next year.

Piquing students’ interest is what the Utah STEM Action Center hopes with a STEM Night with the Stars. On the concourse, Utah STEM Action Center’s Marketing and Communications Manager David Wicai said there were virtual reality devices, robotics, solar panel cars, 3-D printers and more for students and their families to explore.

“Our goal is to help students spark their curiosity and interest in STEM,” he said. “Our nominations were open to honor students who are passionate about STEM, excelled in STEM, had goals and showed great growth in the past year. What we learned is that many use their passion to inspire others in the classroom.”

In addition to Lance, the STEM Excellence Award winners were Vanessa Jasso, of Provo School District, and Samantha Hansen, of Jordan Ridge Elementary in South Jordan.