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Highlands Alumna & Current MIT Student Awards Highlands a Grant for STEM Program

Highlands Alumna & Current MIT Student Awards Highlands a Grant for STEM Program
Christina Coffman

As a sophomore at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Olivia Honeycutt (Highlands School Class of 2018) recently competed in the school’s STEMVault Competition. In an effort to make STEM exciting and fun for middle school audiences, MIT students were invited to film a 30-60 second video on a STEM topic of their choosing. Olivia was a finalist in the competition and was awarded a $1,000 STEM grant to give to a middle school of their choice. She designated her grant to Highlands School and Mr. Kindervater’s STEM program.

Olivia credits the middle school program at Highlands for exposing her to a variety of sciences while contributing to her personal and academic growth. You can read more in our interview below.


Congratulations on being a finalist! Can you tell us a little bit about your contribution to the STEMVault Competition?

The STEMVault Competition challenges current MIT students to create 30-60 second videos teaching any STEM concept to a young audience. Because I was interested in how to make an informative video as entertaining as possible, I decided to write, perform, and produce a rap music video on Chemical Lewis Structures. I then participated in a STEMVault Symposium where all the submitted videos were showcased in an atrium on campus for several participating local middle schools. I was a finalist in this competition, meaning I won $1000 to give to a middle school of my choice.


When did you develop a passion for science?

Over one of the summers in middle school, I did an intensive coding camp at the Colorado School of Mines. This was one of my first real experiences with coding, and it opened a whole new world of innovation for me. I realized how easy coding was to synthesize with any interest of mine—once you know the coding syntax and learn how to think about computational problems, the possibilities for application are endless. For this reason, I am hoping that Highlands can inspire an interest in coding for their middle schoolers.


How did Highlands support your interest in STEM?

Exposure to life science, chemical science, and environmental science through the middle school program allowed me to get a feel for all these fields while giving me space to develop interest in any one of them. I have always been drawn to the applicability of science generally, whether it was gaining a greater understanding of how the world worked or just excitement about the in-class interactive activities. As a matter of fact, the inspiration of doing a rap for the STEMVault competition came from a rap on Calcium that I did in 7th grade with Mr. K!


Why did you select Highlands as the beneficiary of your $1000 prize?

Highlands contributed to my personal and academic growth in so many ways that I wanted to show my appreciation for the teachers by giving back.


What do you hope this $1000 donation will be used for?

I hope that the prize can go to Mr. K to continue developing the middle school science program. I have a special interest in introducing young people to the world of coding because of how daunting it can seem without proper support and how useful of a skill it is to have in high school and beyond.


What is your major?

I am double majoring in Computational Neuroscience and Linguistics.


What are your hopes/plans after college?

I am interested in using my unique skill set to venture into science policy at a federal level.


If you could give our Highlands students any piece of advice, what would it be?

All interests are worth exploring! Ask questions and find ways to engage in the things you like to do, because you never know what you’ll end up doing.


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