AURORA -- Several Aurora students took part in an expo April 22 aimed at raising awareness of area business connections with the STEM fields among public school students and their families, according to Beechwood High teacher Gregory Perry.

He is the marketing teacher for an Excel TECC class, which two Aurora students took this year.

Excel TECC is a consortium of 10 districts that cooperate to offer students different career education options, he explained. Students interested in a given field visit the school offering the class (marketing, in this case). The class organized the Northeast Ohio Innovation STEM Expo.

Rather than following a traditional curriculum, Perry said he follows Junior Achievement's "company" program, which provides a curricular framework around which a company can be built.

"Our company this year focused on event planning," he said. "We did two big events, one was 'NOISE.' Students developed all the branding and production for it. They also did all the marketing and sales."

Aurora High senior Matthew Peluso served as the chief executive officer of the company. He was charged with leading the class in planning and marketing the two events.

Peluso's classmate Zachary Jenkins also was in the class.

"Zach was on our sales committee," Perry said. "He was involved in identifying businesses, targeting them, reaching out and setting appointments to get them involved with our events or as sponsors."

As leader of the event planning "company," Peluso said he learned the value of listening.

"The situation is there are 40 seniors coming from nine different high schools," he said. "How do you deal with that? What the program has impressed upon me is the idea of listening.

"In group or teamwork, there is nothing more important than listening. Everyone wants to be heard, and as long as everyone is heard in some manner, tensions stay low, respect is mutual and the group can be constructive."

Perry said the NOISE Expo, which was attended by about 5,000 people, included a mix of young entrepreneurs and area businesses explaining how STEM relates to them.

"We had 50 young entrepreneurs from middle school to college who all got free booths," he said, adding the Burton D. Morgan Foundation covered the cost of providing the tables.

One of those middle school students was Harmon sixth-grader Aiden Owens. He's been producing fidget spinners and selling them to classmates, said his mother Patty Owens.

"We have a 3-D printer humming along 24-7," she said, adding her son has always been a tinkerer, gravitating toward Legos, robotics and Rubix Cubes as a younger child.

At some point, she said she believes he'll become bored with producing and selling fidget spinners. "Maybe he looks into solving other problems with the 3-D printer," she said. "I can already tell he's ready to start something new."

Aiden said he's developed two designs -- the one he produces at home on the 3-D printer and a model he designed to be produced on a laser cutter. "I designed one in a program called CorelDraw and then sent the program to laser cutter," he explained.

He said he's visited Thinkbox, a "maker space" at Case Western Reserve, which includes a laser cutter. Maker spaces are areas students can visit and tinker with different materials and tools to create something interesting.

"You can go down there and do prototype and R and D kind of stuff," he said.

Peluso also participated with a table at the NOISE Expo, highlighting his family's business -- Peluso Bros. -- a tailoring business that his grandfather last owned, according to Perry.

"He's an old soul and an old spirit, and he's bringing it back," said Perry. "He's continuing his education to learn tailoring and men's wear."

Aurora High student Nick Capretta also set up a table at the NOISE Expo, and Perry said he's "destined for greatness."

"He's not in my class, although he's the one who did all our NOISE videos," said Perry. "I hired him personally, too. I hired him to do a personal logo for my business in interior design that I do outside of teaching."

Michael Carnahan, a senior at Aurora High, also participated in the expo, sharing his Evolve Fitness videos.

Perry said next year's NOISE Expo is already scheduled for April 13.


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