Engineering, Electronics and Design
Science and engineering occupations are at the leading edge of economic competitiveness for the 21st century workforce, with the potential to address challenges such as international security, global climate change, and domestic and global health. Even those that do not choose a career directly in science and engineering will likely find themselves in a support position to these growing industries, making it vitally important that all students have a secure grasp on the important concepts that form the foundation these fields.
Moreover, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs build skill-sets across the board that are desirable for all students. The ability to work effectively in a team, focus on project-oriented goals and solve complex problems train young minds to be flexible, adaptive and innovative, regardless of how those skills are specifically applied.
Over the last two decades, there has been a significant decline in occasions for children to build, craft and create using traditional skills and tools. While the advantages and importance of digital learning cannot be denied, we are now faced with the need to balance this new technology with real world experience and engagement, giving students the best of both worlds as they learn.
As a result, the Pope John XXIII Middle School will feature a state-of-the-art Engineering, Electronics and Design space where students will have ample opportunity to explore a variety of STEM topics through projects that address the above needs. Students will have weekly access to the space, working through an integrated curriculum that builds from an understanding in engineering basics through the implementation of what they have learned on larger, more complex projects.
Fifth grade is a transitional year for science, math and engineering. The curriculum is general, hitting on topics in Earth, Life and Physical sciences. As such, fifth grade engineering curriculum will begin with STEM activities designed to enhance the students’ understanding of the physical universe. Using the Engineering Design Process students will discover various ways of both constructing and controlling mechanical devices, using a variety of sources and sound research as inspiration. Activities will include a study of gears and simple machines, the physics of mechanical construction, and an introduction to innovation and invention.
In sixth grade, students will expand upon their skills. Rather than simply creating a mechanical element, they will take the leap into interconnection, exploring sensors, data collection and other topics that allow their creations to interact with the world around them. They will also be introduced to programming, coding and logic as they use computers and controllers to give their projects more depth and complexity. In addition, students will be taught to exercise sound reasoning in making choices and decisions for their own work and as part of a group. They will also learn to articulate that information efficiently and effectively.
In seventh grade, students will take their skills to the next level, as they apply them to a study robotics. Teams of students will learn how to define a problem, research how others have solved it, brainstorm solutions and create and test a prototype model through the use of First Lego League (FLL) robotics and other platforms, as appropriate to student projects. Students will also increase their time in the space, with an extra class period devoted each week to the understanding of robotic designs and controls. Those with a keen interest will be encouraged to take part of FLL competitive teams.
Beyond the Classroom
The Engineering, Electronics and Design space also affords the middle school the opportunity to use technology in non-traditional ways, by integrating with the arts for an enhanced design curriculum, for example. It also provides an excellent space for after-school enrichment in science, technology, engineering, electronics and coding, which will allow those students with a passion for STEM the opportunity to explore a wider range of topics, or to explore one topic more deeply. Lastly, it can function as a Makerspace for students, where traditional craft skills combine with technology for innovative results.