The STEM Studio sessions for our Learn Deep Fellows kicked off today at MSOE. Over this week and next our Fellows will work together with input and support from community partners to design of real-word challenges focused on water. Today’s work began with a focus on goals Fellows have for the program. Through repeated cycles of asking “Why?” we saw those goals grow from tactical hopes for the skills students or teachers might development to visions our Fellows have for their students — that they can see themselves as creators, citizens, individuals who can make a difference in their community. We’ll use those much loftier goals drive the vision for projects knowing that we can hit the initial, tactical ambitions along the way.
We are grateful to MSOE’s We Energies STEM Center for hosting us over the next two weeks and look forward to covering any available surface with ideas and plans to engage students over the coming school year.
Over the summer we were able to pull teachers from Golda Meir’s Middle School and Escuela Vieau together on Zoom with partners from Sweetwater, Caravela IoT, and MMSD for the design phase of our STEM Studio Adopt a Storm Drain project. We used a modified version of a customer journey map to map out the experience we wanted students to have, touch points with community partners, and connections back to curriculum standards. The project will kick off in the next few weeks as participating teachers have students monitor storm drains near their school or home to begin the research work that will prepare them to take on one of the following challenges:
How can we reduce the volume of litter and debris that collects near storm drains?
How can we leverage IoT sensors to detect when litter and debris has collected at a storm drain?
How can we safely remove litter and debris that has collected at a storm drain?
With teachers, curriculum specialists, and partners in on the design process from the beginning, we were able to map out an approach for a collaborative multi-disciplinary effort that will also give students a chance to explore computational tools. The program guide produced for the project provides an overview of the project structure, timing of project events, and links to resources the team wanted students to be able to leverage. That includes a simple model of waste collecting near, and washing down a storm drain we put together using Starlogo Nova that students can manipulate and revise.
This STEM Studio effort is made possible by a grant from Northwestern Mutual
What if students took a lead role in understanding the issues families face as they adapt to distance learning?
What if we invited them to work with school and district technology staff and industry mentors to design and implement systems to support them?
What if this was done, not as a one-off exercise, but as a student run enterprise that could operate over the long term and evolve to support changing needs?
For the past several weeks we’ve been working with students and teachers from MPS’s Golda Meir middle school and Washington High School to explore what student-led tech support might look like. Over a series of Zoom calls, we’ve talked with students about the issues they ran into as the district moved to distance learning last spring, what the experience was like for peers and family, and where they see opportunities to help make things betterfor all students.
While purely technical issues like an inability to upload files, access video, or the stability of a video call session were certainly present, what stood out were issues related to the use of technology. For example:
The need to constantly check if new assignments had been posted
Competition for use of a device or internet bandwidth with a sibling
Finding a distraction free place in the home to work from
Having access to technology when the student is cared for outside the home.
Student Generated Solutions
As the start of school approached for MPS, the team put together two things to help prepare for distance learning this fall.
The first was a video by the students at Golda Meir in which they talked through several issues they ran into last spring and what simple actions their teachers might take to help address those. That video was shared with Golda staff who were appreciative of the opportunity to hear directly from their students.
Second, the team put together a survey to go out this week to capture the type and frequency of issues students ran into with the first week of distance learning. The data from that will inform a larger effort this fall to identify where and how a student-led team can provide support.
Interested in getting involved as educator, sponsor, or industry adviser?
From the beginning, our approach has been to give educators and folks from the broader community the chance to come together to explore and move forward ideas about how to engage students in meaningful collaborative work that builds connections across Milwaukee’s many silos. We also recognized that the best way to build the relationships and trust that allows effective collaboration is for people to have the chance to meet and work together in person.
Unfortunately, this in-person, network focused approach to the spread of ideas is just what we don’t want in this time of cornoavirus. We’re making a number of adjustments to keep things moving forward while keeping our network and the students they work with safe.
Review sessions at the UWM and Marquette’s 3D visualization labs, as well as the the session scheduled with Operating Engineers Local 420 have been cancelled.
The final design review scheduled for April 28th at MSOE has also been cancelled. We will work with the Milwaukee County Zoo and participating schools to explore alternatives for students to share their designs to rework the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.
Fabrication of a new water tower for the Zoo’s steam locomotives based on the designs from last year’s challenge has been postponed until fall.
MPS STEM Studio
The STEM Studio sessions with MPS teachers working to design real world projects that engage students in computational thinking are on hold until teachers return to work.
Making use of this time
We’re exploring opportunities to help keep things moving for you. Let us know what challenges you see ahead and let’s see if we can’t find some new opportunities out of the present chaos, in our one question survey here.
Last spring, with funding from Northwestern Mutual, we conducted interviews with teachers and mentors involved with MPS’s efforts to introduce Project GUTS, SHARP Literacy’s Design Through Code (DTC) program, TEALS, and First Robotics. The goal was to understand how we might expand opportunities to develop computational thinking outside of computer science classes, by listening to what drew teachers and mentors already engaged in that type of activity to take on the task. We provided a recap of that work here.
One of the ideas that came out of that effort was to work with teams of teachers and expertise from the broader community to create and pilot real world projects that provide solid opportunities to engage students in computational thinking. We call that the STEM Studio, and are happy to report that Northwestern Mutual has provided funding to design and pilot the first projects with MPS.
Since environmental science is a spring semester focus for MPS middle schools, we used our November Collab Lab on Green Infrastructure to generate ideas for potential projects. One of those is the Southeastern Wisconsin Watershed’s Trust’s (Sweetwater) Adopt a Storm Drain Program. As we talked about what that might look like as a STEM Studio project, Sweetwater pointed us to the Smart City Reverse RFP offered by Caravela IoT. That initiative seeks to demonstrate the potential to leverage a network of sensors that detect environmental data. Winning submissions would receive both equipment and technical support to pilot a project. We partnered with MPS, Sweetwater and Reflo to put in a joint proposal which uses STEM Studio pilot projects to both deploy sensors and expose students to the technology. We were selected as one of the winners and are happy to now have Caravela IoT engaged with us in the STEM Studio effort.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be pulling our teams of teachers together with community partners to design and pilot the experiences we want students to have as they take on the STEM Studio projects. Collab Lab attendees will know that one of our criteria for projects we get involved in is the ability to scale across schools with network effects. As part of the STEM Studio pilots, we’ll work with the teams to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what the next cohort of teachers will want to have in place to take on or extend the challenge in their schools.