New STEM Programs at Shore
Rolling with the tide of 21st century learning, Shore Regional High School recently introduced a series of free STEM after-school programs for students. All participants in the program receive certificates of completion at the end of each program, which can be included on college resumes.
3-D Printing for Student Designs STEM Program
The first in the series of programs to run, this program was divided into 10 sessions. According to Ms. Allison Nazzaro, School Library Media Specialist, the programs took place in the media center and the first thing students learned was the program TinkerCAD. Through this program, Nazzaro explained that the students found a template made by somebody else and they had to modify it. Once they got more comfortable, students made their own templates from scratch.
“I think that we rely on other people doing things for us,” said Nazzaro. “It’s another thing to know that you did something from scratch and you have that ability.”
Nazzaro explained that one student printed a piece of a motherboard for his computer, using the 3-D printer.
“He was able to fix his computer by himself,” she said. “Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to have his computer fixed, he did it from scratch.”
Other interesting projects include taking a blueprint for a military compound and making it a campground, miniature historical battlegrounds, and pieces of a skeleton that can be assembled later.
“They don’t need any skills to join. TinkerCad is new to most of them,” Nazzaro said. “You don’t need any experience at all. Not all schools have a 3-D printer, but a lot of colleges offer programs in this. Taking advantage of it now puts you ahead of other students who haven’t had this opportunity.”
The second program to be offered this spring will be Design Challenges, taught by AP Physics teacher Ms. Katie McGowan. The program will be held in six longer sessions in her classroom.
“This program will include hands-on collaborative group work,” said McGowan. “We will start with some projects that are smaller and more structured to get the students into the groove of building and making modifications to a design and then we will progress to some projects that are more creative and student-driven from the Stanford D. School.”
“One of the big focuses in design thinking is that you have to have empathy,” explained McGowan. “You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to determine what they would need and how this can be useful for them.”
There’s no prerequisite coursework, only creativity and willingness to work in a team, which McGowan said are really important skills for career readiness.
“Design thinking and innovation are one of the fastest growing areas today; schools and businesses want to see people that are independent thinkers, people who can be creative and can come up with solutions that are tailored to people’s needs,” she added. “It should be fun and it’s different than what we usually do in the classroom but they are skill building skills for the future.”
The final program, which will launch in early May, is Robotics, which focuses on coding and robotics skills, run by English teacher Mrs. Linda Ensor.
“The goal is to introduce students to the basics of coding by using a lot of Sphero products,” explained Ensor. “We have a fleet a Sphero minis (a robotic ball about the size of a ping pong ball), which can be programmed using a program like ‘Scratch.’”
Ensor said it is a visual program where students drag and drop instructions, and set up routines and loops.
“Students are introduced in a simple way to the fundamentals of coding,” said Ensor. “Once they get used to that, I’d like to set up challenges within the group.”
As an English teacher, Ensor said that one really basic skill that she has always been fascinated by is the connection between language and coding.
“Students don’t realize coding is so much like writing - you need a certain syntax with punctuation and if they don’t phrase instructions correctly, they don’t get the desired result,” she said.
Ensor said students do not need any prior knowledge in coding, just a desire to have fun and to learn whether they have an aptitude for it.
She said skills developed through robotics include “collaboration, playing with logic, and understanding the sequence of activities--seeing what you envision as the proper sequence that becomes the result you want.”
Ensor emphasized that robotics and programming are among the biggest areas for employment over the next few years.
“The Bureau Labor Statistics forecasts the need for over two million programmers over the next several years and there’s currently a severe deficit. Projected growth in this field is 24%, much faster than the average for all other occupations,” she said. “Here, coding is non-threatening; they can dabble in it. Just come in and be ready to play!”