STEM goes to the Capitol


Graphic by Joseph Potts with

This graphic represents the U.S. State Capitol. The building with the ribbon symbolize the Capitol building, the water drops represent the Kenya water project created by West students, and the four images in the water drops are based on the four class types that make up the STEM education: science, engineering, technology, and mathematics. The light bulb on top of the Capitol building represents the flow of ideas being made in the building daily.

Joseph Potts, Reporter

On Feb. 19, West engineering teachers Greg Smith and Jason Franzenburg, and seniors Alexa Christiansen, Zak Keel, and Jalissa Peiffer went to the Capitol of the U.S. and joined United States Patent and Trademark Office(USPTO) and  Lemelson-MIT program to promote STEM education.

“Last Wednesday was STEM Day at the Capitol,” Smith said. ”It showcased a number of different programs, ideas, and projects going around Iowa, and there we talked to legislatives in the state of Iowa about what we are doing.”

The group got invited to the Capitol due to their involvement with Lemelson-MIT and got to share a table with the USPTO and became ambassadors for them.

“We got to present to hundreds of kids because it was like  a career fair, so we got a little table and the kids would come around and they are  our age,” Christiansen said,. ”And so we got to tell them about our program, the USPTO office, and how to get a petition. It was really cool.”

They also joineda subcommittee and witnessed how a bill is discussed, and had the opportunity to decide whether or not the should be passed.

“The subcommittee was on a bill about getting rid of the aviation tax in Iowa, like if you want to do maintenance on your airplane, you had to pay a sales tax on that,” Smith said. And so they’re saying anywhere between from a half million dollars to three million dollars range would be lost, but they’re saying what would be gained would be more jobs for Iowans.”

The group  communicated with other teams like Drake University about their inventions and talked with legislators during  free time.

“When legislators are out of their meetings and when they have free time, they come by and talk to us about our projects,” Peiffer said. ”So it basically encourages legislators to keep passing bills to keep funding STEM programs.”

Peiffer said that while it was intimidating at first to be around and meet state legislators, she saw that the legislators are really down to earth people when Keel and her sat in a subdivision meeting about a bill on aviation taxes.

“They still laugh like we laugh, and they eat the same things we eat. They’re at the Capitol and we’re over here at Davenport West and we kind of see them as out of our reach, but they’re still human beings like us, so that something really cool to see,” Peiffer said.

Christiansen said that she enjoyed her time at the Capitol and tried to make the most of it as possible.

“We got free cupcakes. That was a good time. Our teams and I took a picture on the steps of the Capitol. We got to see Chris Cournyer, who actually used to be an Iowa resident and she is now a state legislator. We got to see the lieutenant governor and a whole bunch of amazing people. We got to tour the Capitol. It was a really really good time,” Christiansen said.