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STEM Studio: Adopt a Storm Drain

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

STEM Studio

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.

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