ADAMS TWP — Hockey is a game of angles and inches, where a lucky puck bounce can be the difference between a win or a loss.
Students at Mars Centennial School, who learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through the EVERFI Future Goals program, know that concept about as well as anyone. On Oct. 1, they met a few people who were able to share their first-hand experience with it.
Pittsburgh Penguins Kris Letang, Derick Brassard and Daniel Sprong visited the school that afternoon to view the STEM classroom, speak with students and even put some of the concepts to the test during a floor hockey game.
Fifth and sixth grade students in Colleen Hinrichsen's classroom learn about the scientific side of hockey through the program, which is sponsored by the Penguins organization. Lessons include the engineering behind hockey skates, sticks and padding; the calculation of ice surface area and volume, analysis of angles; mass, velocity and kinetic energy based on player speed; and the relationship between endurance and the circulatory system.
“Instead of it being isolated on a math page, it's behind the scenes at a hockey arena and the kids get to go through all of these modules and apply it to the skills that they've learned,” Hinrichsen said.
Students who complete the math and science modules get their names written on the “Stanley Cup” — a giant display hanging on a wall in the first floor hallway. Other incentives include raffle tickets and prizes.
The EVERFI program also includes hands-on activities like comparing the bounce of frozen, heated and room temperature hockey pucks.
Students are also using engineering lessons to “upcycle” hockey pucks into usable creations, which include works of art, cord separators and a “Puck-Bot” robot. Students also have a chance to use 3-D software to design their own version of the Stanley Cup and use a 3-D printer to create it.
Hinrichsen said the class, which students take once per week, allows for other classroom lessons to be applied in real-life scenarios.
“We're kind of like the heart of the school because we take what they're doing in the curriculum and mix it all together,” she said.
She added that the hands-on approach to learning is beneficial to students who may have a hard time grasping certain concepts.
“Some students struggle in a regular curriculum, but sometimes they're the shining stars of this class,” she said.
The team's visit was the first such trip in three years for the Penguins, who have been a bit busy with back-to-back Stanley Cup wins and playoff runs.
Students were first greeted in the classroom by Iceburgh, the team's mascot, followed by Letang, Brassard and Sprong. The players made their way around the room viewing the software and creations with the students, with Letang at one point remarking that the technology was different from anything he had ever experienced while a student.
The trio then made their way to the school's gymnasium, where they were greeted by screaming students. They fielded questions about how to be successful in school, why nutrition and healthy lifestyles are important and what their pregame rituals are.
They then took turns passing and shooting pucks with students, with Letang jumping between the pipes to play goalie as students took their best shot.
Alyssa Mahramus, schools implementation manager for EVERFI, said Mars was selected for the visit because of Hinrichsen's approach of taking the curriculum to “another level.” She said Hinrichsen has a way of bringing the concepts to life for the students.
“So we thought let's make those players within the game come to life for the kids,” she said, adding the school was selected from more than 100 in Western Pennsylvania that have similar programs sponsored by the Penguins.