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.
This past Friday, UWM’s College of Engineering hosted the conceptual design review for students in this year’s Zoo Train Challenge. Teams from 10 area schools presented their ideas to re-work the coal handling process for the Zoo’s steam locomotives.
The Zoo’s current process has train staff manually sift coal into 17 gallon buckets that may weigh 80 to 90 pounds when full. These are then carried over an often slippery, uneven surface where they are staged for use later in the day. When the train stops at the depot to take on passengers, the train crew will hoist and dump these bucket’s into the train’s coal bin, which is close to four feet above ground level. The train team is also concerned with the deteriorating condition of the coal bin and a retaining wall against which coal ash and fines are stored prior to removal.
At this point in the process, most teams focused on the design of a new coal bin that could keep the coal sheltered from rain, and automating or augmenting the process of sifting and loading coal. Teams presented their designs to review panels that included zoo train operators, staff from We Energies coal handing facility, students and faculty from industrial engineering programs at UWM and MSOE, and engineers with GZA Environmental and Komatsu.
Pathways High School
Dottke High School
New Berlin Eisenhower
New Berlin West
Following each presentation, teams responded to questions and feedback from both panelists and peers from other teams. Both panelists and students in the audience for other presentations also provide written feedback for each team.
Students will use the feedback and ideas they gained from this session to finalize their designs. The final design review for the project will be hosted by MSOE at the end of April.
Nothing interesting happens in a classroom without a teacher willing to say yes, so we are extremely grateful to the teachers who stepped up to get their students involved. Thanks also to all those who helped pull both the project and review session together, and of course, the students who have taken on the challenge!
Teams participating in our challenge to design a replacement for the wooden water tower that services the Zoo’s steam locomotives presented their concepts at MSOE on Monday. We have more than 65 students involved, representing ten teams from six high schools. Given the number of students involved, we ran parallel sessions for the reviews, with each team presenting before a panel that included civil engineers from Excel and MSOE, experts in railroad history from The Center for Railway Photography & Art and the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (our partner in this effort), and the staff which maintain and operate the Zoo’s train.
We asked teams to cover, not only their designs, but how they organized their efforts, alternatives they considered, and where they need additional help. Students from Elmbrook’s media program stepped up to record all of the presentations for students and teachers to review.
After a short break for lunch we pulled everyone back together for a recap session with all of the reviewers. That provided an opportunity for the panelists to summarize what they saw in their session within a few broad themes. One of the most interesting things for us was to see the different ways schools with larger groups organized their teams– by functional area of the tower, expertise of the team, member, or into smaller teams who would each produce a design concept. We used the recap session to engage students and teachers in a discussion of how that worked and what it felt like over the course of the semester.
We’re pulling the teachers together next week for a debrief to guide adjustments we’ll want to make as we go into the detailed design phase next semester. That work will begin and end with visits to UWM– first, for a chance to play in UWM’s structures lab, and, on May 2nd, for the detailed design review where the review panelists will select an approach to be fabricated and installed.
We are very grateful to MSOE for hosting the event and working with us to get everything in place. They provided a beautiful setting with the 4th floor conference area inside the Grohmann Tower.
The Journal Sentinel was also on hand to cover the event. You can find their write up here.