Hook ‘em Young! Engaging Students with STEM

This article will share ideas and examples of ways to excite and engage ‘young students’ in building a passion for STEM by tinkering, playing and making.

Creating an environment and providing opportunities for students to engage with STEM from an early age ‘hooks’ them in!  Integrating STEM principles across the curriculum and offering clubs and events like ‘Coding & Robotics’, Inter-house Robotics Competition, STEMies and ‘TechMate’, inspires students.

Environment

Creating an exciting and curious environment is essential to providing a place for young people to explore and ‘try new’ things! Our library Makerspace, started in 2014, and our second Makerspace, 2018, introduces challenges, equipment and technologies to students in their library or class lessons. Our Makerspaces are used by teachers and students to enhance their learning and celebrations. The spaces provide opportunities to display projects and artifacts which have been created; quotations around the room to inspire; invitations to 3D print an avatar, fly a drone or draw and design with Splat3D.

Integrate across curriculum

Staff meetings provide opportunities to demonstrate new technologies and STEM ideas. It’s a time when staff can play and discover how different tools and STEM principles can be integrated across the curriculum. For example:

HASS=documentaries using Do Ink green screen app, augmented reality with Metaverse or Virtual reality with Co Spaces!

Maths=spheros to find relationship between speed and distance, Bee Bots to navigate to grid references, drawing polygons with Pro Bots.

Religion= use Makey Makey and Scratch to interact with icons of different religions to find information

Science= creating creatures to survive in a biome, creating a game with Micro:bit to address the UN SDG’s

English= using ScratchJr to create narratives, using videos to advertise products.

Many of these ideas of integration across the curriculum can be found by searching the topic on http://tinkeringchild.com/

Coding and Robotics Club gives students the opportunity to have fun learning to code, whilst challenging themselves to manipulate and control robots. Students work with a variety of robots including; Bee Bots, Blue Bots, Pro Bots, Spheros, LEGO EV3s, Parrot Mambo drones and Alpha (a humanoid robot). Club members use iPads, which have many different apps on, to promote fun and engaging ways to learn to code.

Students in Coding and Robotics Club are developing their programming skills with different coding languages, problem-solving through building and designing robots for completing challenges, and co-operating and collaborating to succeed with tasks. Students select different robots or apps to challenge themselves with activities set out each week.

Inter-house Robotics Competition celebrates ‘The Hour of Code’ as an annual event in our Junior School. The event is introduced using videos from Code.org. Each house group sits around a competition area where the challenge takes place and has a table with equipment for the event in their house colour. An example of each year level:Preps program a Bee Bot to travel from start to finish counting the insects in order. Year 1’s code a Blue Bot to pass over the alphabet which was in pictures of animals. Year 2’s burst a balloon by programming a Blue Bot to pass over each shape. Year 3’s program a Pro Bot into a maze and draw a square of at least 30cm. Year 4’s control a Sphero, through a maze travelling under a tunnel and over a ramp. Year 5’s program a LEGO EV3 to avoid rocks and a swamp to retrieve a crate. The challenges from Prep to Year 5 are carried out in a set time with a large online Robot Stopwatch doing the count down, this is always very popular with students. Year 6’s, navigate Mambo Drones through a course flipping 360 degrees on the way to deliver a question to a partner who has to answer it and then fly the drone back. This is carried out under race conditions.

http://tinkeringchild.com/robotics-competition-hour-of-code/

TechGirls

This is program runs for 12 weeks of the year as part of the Tech Girls are Superheroes competition.

Girls from Years 5-11 learn to make real mobile apps. They work in teams to create an app to solve a real-world problem with assistance from industry mentors. The teams compete against teams from all over the country. If successful, they have the chance to pitch their app in Silicon Valley, USA.  In 2019,our girls developed an app Blue Buddy which provides family members of depression sufferers with the necessary support to allow them to provide care while maintaining their own mental health. Their app is unique in its focus on those who care for and live with someone suffering from this debilitating mental illness.

Blue Buddy Team won the State Finals and was given the opportunity with Tech Girls Movement to travel to Silicon Valley to visit many tech companies and be present for the Technovation World Pitch. To read more about this wonderful opportunity

http://tinkeringchild.com/technology-can-make-dreams-come-true-silicon-valley/

STEMies Club invites students to define themselves as makers, inventors, and creators. Projects such as responding to a guest speaker by designing and creating different games and artefacts relating to the topic spoken about using LittleBits, which are easy-to-use electronic building blocks. Another project might be film making. Students write scripts, make props and select a platform to create a video. Many use the green screen with Do Ink App while others might use iMovie or Clips.

STEMies Club provides a safe place for students to give ideas ‘a go’ and to learn that it’s OK for things to not work first time. By iterating and making changes to improve designs, students also develop a growth mindset, realising that by persevering and working hard many things can be achieved.

Some examples of the creations can be found by visiting http://tinkeringchild.com/ and search for STEMies, a number of posts can be enjoyed. One particular engaging term was when the girls created STEMville, an amusement park with moving rides! http://tinkeringchild.com/stemville-amusement-park/

TechMate

TechMate evenings are for girls from Years 4 – Years 6 once a term to spend time with a significant male in their lives to discover the wonders of STEM. This could also work for boys and a significant female in their lives! Some of the activities include enthusiastically coding and navigating Spheros in a Sumo wrestling match, bursting balloons with Blue Bots, coding EV3’s to stop at a pedestrian crossing and reverse park, receiving ‘L’ plates with Pro Bots, programming Alpha (a humanoid robot) to dance and do push-ups! The evening ends with team challenges of designing a carriage to carry a girl/boy around a set course being powered and coded by Sphero.

Another evening, the girls and their ‘mates’ were introduced to the life and times of Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg, best known as Rube and for creating the Rube Goldberg Machines. TechMates thought of a simple task to complete and then designed a fun and crazy way of completing the task.

Other evenings TechMates have worked together to make movies using Green Screen technology, building automatons and using syringes to create artefacts with hydraulics. Doing a search on Tinkering Child blog will reveal other exciting evenings.

TechMate provides a time to spend with dad, granddad, brother, uncle or close friend to play, build, create, invent and discover, sometimes with technology and sometimes without and that STEM is for everyone.