Western Pa. schools’ $20K STEAM grant creations put on display

[A recent Tribune Review article featured creations at the 2016 AIU STEAM Showcase in Pittsburgh. Included was a canine robot named Marvin. The Carlynton student who created Marvin gained her initial training through Birdbrain Technologies Robot Petting Zoo Makeathon during the summer of 2015. Stephanie’s original creation was Fred, a sparkling red dinosaur. It’s wonderful to see how Marvin took on a more advanced look and feel using the Hummingbird Kit from Birdbrain. Tom Lauwers, the founder and Chief Scientist for Birdbrain Technologies,  will share some of the wonderful projects, like Fred (see below), created at Makeathons across the country at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference on November 8, 2016]

| Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, 10:21 p.m.

Stephanie Bonifield stroked her dog Marvin under the chin, and he wagged his tail.

The orange pooch, made of duct tape and cardboard, also blinked his light bulb eyes and shook paws with people who stopped to greet him.

“He’s got a gimpy leg, but it works,” said Bonifield, 17, a senior at Carlynton Junior-Senior High School. Marvin is her second robot — she also made Fred, a dinosaur.

She and other Carlynton students showed off their work at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s annual STEAM Showcase this week. Twenty-eight school districts from Western Pennsylvania sent students to the event to show off what they did with their $20,000 STEAM grants from the AIU in the past year.

The showcase is just one such event that celebrates science, technology and engineering education in the Pittsburgh area. Remake Learning Education Friday, scheduled Oct. 14 for students and educators, is already sold out. Organizers said they expect more than 1,500 students and educators at the Buhl Community Park and Nova Place for a sneak peek —including live demonstrations and hands-on workshops and activities—of the annual Pittsburgh Maker Faire, scheduled Oct. 15 and 16.

“There seems to be a voracious appetite for kids and educators today for these authentic making and DIY experiences/STEM experiences,” said Bill Schlageter, director of marketing for the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, which is helping to organize the first-time event for students. “We’re very excited about it.”

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How Failure and Solving Real Problems Helps This School Thrive

[In this Mindshift article Project-based Learning (PBL)  in the form of Design Challenges is highlighted. I’ve seen the benefits of PBL in my work with several schools in the Pittsburgh region. In the past year I’ve worked on Design Challenges that are real-world issues for the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh. Instead of just one business, the EIC can bring to the table over 100 partners who work and evaluate the student teams as a panel of Experts. Just like the students at the STEM School Chattanooga I’ve seen students who were not considered “Gifted” demonstrate their ability to solve problems, often thinking out of the box. We need to find more ways to have students collaborate and learn how to work with a team to design and solve problems for their communities.]

When Michael Stone was considering a job at the STEM School Chattanooga he was a little skeptical at first. He had been a successful traditional high school calculus teacher and he wasn’t totally sure he bought into the project-based learning model. Proponents always described it to him as though students should do all the work with no help from him — something he couldn’t imagine in calculus. But a tour of the school — led by a student — was all he needed to see what an education there was all about.

The student started off by explaining that the grading policy encouraged students to attempt an assignment, mess up, identify the failure points and try again. This same approach was applied to teaching, and students saw how Principal Tony Donen and teachers modeled this same approach in everything they did. The other big emphasis: assessing process skills alongside content knowledge. Stone knew that if a sophomore could so clearly articulate a vision of education so different from many traditional high schools, he needed to be there.

Stone took a job as the Fab Lab Director and Project-Based Learning Coordinator and became intimately aware of the process skills that formed the foundation for everything happening at the school: collaboration, critical thinking, and innovation. His job was to find partners in the Chattanooga business community who had real problems they needed solved and to coach students as they worked together designing solutions. His main goal directive: grow students into adaptable problem solvers.

Grading to promote from PEF STEM Innovation Hub on Vimeo.

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Power of Place

[While technology can make a difference in learning, especially with anytime, anywhere opportunities, there are times when WiFi fails us. However, the power of place – culture, geography, opportunity – is always there. In this Getting Smart post you’ll discover the start of a new movement that works well with personalized learning, project-based learning, or any other contemporary focus for learning. In my work I’m focusing on Sustainable Living for several projects. The power of place will be a key element in this focus for Design Challenges and other learning projects. The opportunity is not just for students to learn about the power of place, but to define and create the new places to learn for today and tomorrow. Students in the Parkway West Career and Technology Center Consortium will be developing a master plan for a sustainable community for the 21st Century.]

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Place-Based Education (PBE) is an approach to education that takes advantage of geography to make learning authentic, meaningful and engaging for learners. PBE is defined as an immersive learning experience that “places students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences–using these as a foundation for the study of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science and other subjects across the curriculum.”

It’s never been easier to learn anything–anytime and anywhere.

For the first time in human history, we have the tools available to provide access to powerful learning experiences to every person on the planet. It’s not unusual to hear the phrase “anytime, anywhere learning” applied to everything from early childhood education, K-12 and higher education to informal learning, adult education, career training and professional development, etc.Yet, the definition of “anytime, anywhere” learning is often reduced to mean “anywhere you can get a wifi signal.” While technology continues to act as a powerful enabler of access, this limited tech-centric view of “anytime, anywhere” learning fails to fully acknowledge its potential. The challenges of the modern world will not be addressed by technology alone.

We need learners who graduate with deeper learning outcomes that include and extend beyond content knowledge. We must transform the system to fully integrate schools and communities that leverage the “power of place” to equip students with the tools and skills they need–through authentic experiences–to collaborate, think critically and solve complex challenges. This is an absolute requirement as we build a modern workforce equipped to thrive in the “gig economy.” We need young people who are invested in their communities and cities to boost both education and employment.

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