Students in Mickelson Middle School’s Project Lead the Way classes are immersed in real-world situations integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education on a daily basis. Using an activity, project, and problem based approach, students are introduced to skills and knowledge through hands-on activities. They then practice these skills with short projects before implementing them in a real-world problem. The “T” in STEM is a vital component.
Sixth grade students in Design and Modeling use SketchUp Pro. This software is a wonderful introduction to solid modeling. Students create 3D parts for a therapeutic toy which can be 3D printed. Students also use GeoGebra software to mathematically model testing results. The statistical analysis helps in the evaluation part of the design process. This course integrates engineering, biomedical and computer science.
Seventh and eighth grade students in Flight and Space use WhiteBox Learning. This software allows students to create their own gliders within set specifications. Students can visually see how optimizing lift, pitch, roll and weight affect a gliders ability to perform. Once a model is created online, students enter simulated competitions with others in the class to see which glider stays in flight the longest. Students then print their custom templates and create real gliders with balsa wood. “The most satisfying thing about this project was seeing the outcome and knowing that I created a glider that was successful. It also showed me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it even if I thought it wouldn’t work.” Brooklyn McGuire, 8th grade. While not all gliders flew successfully, failure in engineering was discussed and expected. It’s more about the process than the results.
Eighth grade students in Automation and Robotics spend half of the nine-week course learning about eleven different gear systems. It is then up to students to decide which gear system should be used to best meet the goal of their first design challenge, creating a float for the “Pull Toy Parade.” Students must use VEX robotic parts to create mechanisms that transfer energy from the wheels to the characters on their float. After the parade, students use ROBOTC, a text-based programming language, to automate their floats. Students write pseudocode and program their robots for additional design challenges for drag racers, spinning signs, mechanical pick and place arms, and factory assembly lines.
Mickelson Middle School is hoping to add either an App Creators or Computer Science for Innovators and Makers class in the near future. Students would learn to blend hardware design and software development to bring designs to life.