Its no surprise to STEM teachers that students at all levels of learning do well on projects they feel interested in. Bringing genuine, intrinsic motivation to learn is ta hallmark of a good STEM program, as students who work collaboratively in teams feel they can make a valuable contribution to a goal based on a competition deadline. Project based learning means multiple educational outcomes for each and every student involved, with multiple skills being integrated and applied at a real world, hands on level as students cope with unpredictable events requiring innovative solutions to unexpected problems. The challenges to institute a comprehensive project based STEM program at any school requires a tremendous level of commitment and energy from every adult teacher and mentor who helps make these innovative programs a reality. While many high school teachers have great success with competitive robotics such as the various FIRST robotic programs, combat robots, and computer programming competitions, one high school recently took a giant leap above even many college engineering programs and took a swing at the Progressive Automotive Xprize. West Philadelphia High School, a typically low performing urban school in great need of help was taken to the big leagues by their teacher, a former GE engineer named Simon Hauger. The program he put together and the results of the competition are well documented in this PBS video. The point for current STEM educators is to be inspired, of course but not to think that it is necessary to have in place a program of this magnitude to get meaningful results for students. Project based learning programs are a continuum, and they have a tendency to take on a life of their own once even small projects reach critical mass. This is hinted at in the early part of the video that describes how the West Philly High got started. So as the summer runs its course, start thinking about your courses and how you can integrate some long term projects into your curriculum. Replace some of the pencil and paper, predestined outcome labs with something that may be a bit unpredictable and requires some innovative thinking. Bring in as many skills as possible to the table, and don’t be afraid to ask fellow teachers to give some credit for the work that students do in your class that applies to theirs. Just remember it goes both ways. The X Prize awaits!
CNC Machine A Robot Roving Eye Part II
CNC Machining an Arduino-Powered Robot Roving Eye.