- Durham Public Schools
DPS Notable, Student Edition: Ava The S.T.E.M. Princess®
Spring Valley Elementary School fifth-grade phenom Ava N. Simmons (aka Ava The S.T.E.M. Princess®) and her sister Chynah Jeter of Durham, North Carolina, now have science kits at Marbles PlayStore in downtown Raleigh. Their products, called the Team Genius Squad educational S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Toy Line include S.T.E.M. Experiment Coloring Books, S.T.E.M. D.I.Y. Slime, and S.T.E.M. Experiment Kits that make electricity from alternative sources such as food, wind, and the sun. Ava and her sister–Team Genius Squad–will conduct in-store launches at additional major retailers over the next 12 months.
"I am so grateful to be able to design and develop educational toys that positively impact the community," said Simmons. "My goal is to share my learning journey and, through purposeful play, encourage others never to let their challenges define their success or future. I am so thankful for everyone who supports Team Genius Squad!"
Ava’s principal Gwendolyn Wilson says Ava is a model of achievement.
“I'm so impressed by Ava's energy, creativity and hard work in creating her own toy line. Keep up the great work! You should be incredibly proud of yourself for this amazing accomplishment,” said Wilson.
According to a press release from Ava’s mother Tia Simmons, the Team Genius Squad was conceptualized during the pandemic when Ava was diagnosed with Dyslexia. The condition impacted her ability to read, so she created S.T.E.M. experiment videos and posted them on YouTube, with the support and help of her parents Tia and Terrence Simmons and grandmother Mary Foy.
“Not only did Ava's reading and math skills improve through skit writing and developing eye-catching experiments, but there was also an overwhelming response from the community. Requests for in-person S.T.E.M. experiments kept pouring in, so Team Genius Squad embarked on the adventure of transitioning their S.T.E.M. videos to reality via in-person events. They designed a S.T.E.M. Mobile Lab to travel across the country and share the fun of S.T.E.M. with children in underserved areas. Initially, Team Genius Squad purchased S.T.E.M. experiment kits, but when they realized that the expense would limit how many children they could serve, they began developing their own kits,” said Tia Simmons.
"The first Team Genius Squad S.T.E.M. Experiment Kit was developed at our kitchen table with a roll of wire, alligator clips, and plastic pouches," said Chynah Jeter. "Ava developed the experiment and promotional material, and I developed the packaging and marketed the final product. It is a great synergy that works because we tailor our roles based on our inner strengths and gifts". Since then, Team Genius Squad has fine-tuned the design and packaging of their first kit, which is now one of their best-selling S.T.E.M. experiments, Lemon Electricity. The Lemon Electricity Experiment kit uses three lemons to make electricity to power a light and a clock. Team Genius Squad now has 15 S.T.E.M. Toys on the market and counting.