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The Student News Site of Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School

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Spotlight: Dr. Cohen and The STEM Department

Spotlight: Dr. Cohen and The STEM Department

What exactly is STEM? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as an educational category”, but what is ‘STEM’ as a class at BT? A hub for innovation? An oxymoron of controlled creativity? A free period? And who is Dr. Cohen, STEM’s soft-spoken powerhouse, with science literally running in his blood? In the corner of BT’s lowest floor, the figurative space of the BT board game where you can “pass and collect 200” of a mix of knowledge and creative freedom, Dr. Cohen himself answers these questions. 

What got you into education? 

I was an engineer before and I got tired of it. I decided I needed a change and education appealed to me. I wanted to be either a physics or a calculus teacher and they were looking for a STEM teacher here. It seemed like a good fit, given my background.

How did you come across the BT community? 

I was looking at job openings, BT was looking for a STEM teacher, and naturally, I fit that position. When I interviewed here, it just felt right. 

What is the most interesting project going on in your STEM SWAP? 

We have a student, Ben Wahlberg, trying to build a rocket-powered golf club, he’s having a lot of fun with that. We have a group of seniors trying to put together a foosball table and they’re also having a lot of fun with that. Those two things are the most fun things going on in the STEM SWAP. 

What subject under the STEM “umbrella” appeals the most to you? 

You’d probably expect me to say engineering given my background, but I have to say science. My parents were both physicists so I grew up with science all around, me being an engineer was kind of like my “rebellion”. I like science because it’s about learning about the world around me, whether it’s biology, chemistry, or physics. It’s not a book of facts you need to memorize, when you’re a scientist, it’s about pressing our understanding into the unknown. 

How was it like to grow up with two scientists for parents? 

It definitely affected my understanding of the world. For instance, if I asked my dad “why is a rainbow like that?”, he would actually pull out a prism with all the lights in the different colors and explain the different wavelengths to me and refraction. What could make a rainbow in our own garden with a hose spraying water and exactly where to stand so I could see it. The understanding of why things happen, that things we don’t know are just problems to be solved. 

Do you and your wife talk about science a lot? 

No, it’s her work. She doesn’t really like to talk shop at home. She comes home and she’s tired of all that. 

What is your favorite science fiction story (book, movie, TV show)? 

There’s just so many good ones. I guess I’d say Dune because of the movie that’s out. I’ve always been a fan of the books, and the movies are pretty good too. 

Afterwards, I interviewed Ari Plotkin, BT graduate and intern at the STEM office, to get a broader picture of Dr. Cohen’s impact on the STEM department and on Ari himself. 

What direction do you think the STEM Department is going with Dr. Cohen as head? 

I believe it’s going in a great direction, especially with Dr. Cohen as head of the department. He has experience as an engineer, so it’s steering the department in a direction that wasn’t done by previous heads. 

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