Middleschoolers design and build STEM carts for younger students

[Read about a wonderful example of student innovation at Hampton Middle School, near Pittsburgh. I work with Ed McCaveney, the Technology Director, at Hampton, on several projects in the region and nationally. Hampton received recognition from Edutopia last year, and with projects like this, more national attention should be on the way. I, personally, work on Design Challenges sponsored by the Energy Innovation Center in Pittsburgh with teams of high school students from the Parkway West Consortia. On November 8, I’ll present with teachers and students some of our findings at the Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference.]

BY DEBORAH DEASY, THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
October 28th, 2016

School cart competition put creativity to the test. Now, grant funding will get them built

cartimage2-300x300Team by team, 50 Hampton seventh-graders recently pitched their competing blueprints for a rolling cupboard of educational aids.

Their assignment: Design a cart to carry today’s tools for STEM learning — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math — in Hampton Township’s three elementary schools.

“We are Spark Engineering — lighting your world on fire one idea at a time,” Mia Conte, 13, told the 15 judges who ultimately chose her team’s cart design for production.

Later this year, Hampton High School students will manufacture three of Spark Engineering’s mobile carts — dubbed Tech Eddies — for use in Wyland, Poff and Central elementary schools.

As part of their product development, Mia’s classmates computed each Tech Eddie’s production cost: $235.

To boost their cart’s child appeal, Mia’s teammates proposed to coat each Tech Eddie with chalkboard paint.

The carts are being designed and manufactured by Hampton Middle and High School students for use in the elementary schools as part of a $20,000 grant coordinated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Center for Creativity, school officials said. Funding came from Chevron, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and the Grable Foundation.

Glenn Geary, technology education teacher at Hampton Middle School, supervised the seventh-graders’ weeks of data gathering, measurement taking, cost estimating and cart designing that preceded each team’s 15-minute presentation to judges Oct. 13 at the middle school.

“Please don’t be nervous,” Marlynn Lux, acting principal of Hampton Middle School, urged the presenters.

“We’re excited to hear you” said Lux, one of 15 Hampton administrators, teachers and business people who judged the proposed cart designs and oral presentations.

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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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Building Data Literacy

[In today’s world it’s critical to understand the role of data in our personal lives. This summer the South Fayette School District as part of its STEAM Innovation Summer Institute will offer a workshop for educations on the role of Data Science.]

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BY LAURA DEVANEY, DIRECTOR OF NEWS, @ESN_LAURA
May 20th, 2016

A new report outlines the need for K-16 students to develop key data literacy skills

Focusing on three specific areas could be key to boosting K-16 students’ data literacy in a world where big data’s importance grows daily, according to a new report.

EDC’s Oceans of Data Institute (ODI) convened an expert panel of data analysts and educators for a workshop on data literacy, and panelists focused on what it means to be data literate in today’s world of big data, as well as what to teach students to prepare them to be part of today’s workforce and society.

The panelists’ recommendations are included in a new report, Building Global Interest in Data Literacy: A Dialogue.

During their discussion, panelists developed and endorsed a data definition: The data-literate individual understands, explains, and documents the utility and limitations of data by becoming a critical consumer of data, controlling his/her personal data trail, finding meaning in data, and taking action based on data. The data-literate individual can identify, collect, evaluate, analyze, interpret, present, and protect data.

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