Emerging Engineers are solution-oriented
By Ruth Young Tyler
Arlington Elementary School students, Queen Bemah, Tyreek Brown, Michael Green, Amar Johnson and Maikala Manns identified a problem in the community ~ it was poor lighting. After five months of research and conducting a community walk-through, they presented their capstone STEM projects at the bi-annual STEM Showcase. More than 400 parents, teachers and supporters attended the event at Polytechnical Western Institute High School on May 15th. In coordination with their STEM facilitator and mentors from Johns Hopkins University, the students participated in a student driven project (SDP). The SDP is designed to help students identify issues in the neighborhood and seek out solutions on how to solve them.
The 5th graders participated in an afterschool STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at Arlington Elementary School in Baltimore City, which met Monday through Friday for an hour. After months of learning, researching and understanding the engineering design process, the students presented their findings and inventions.
During the community walk-through, the students saw a light post that was lying on the ground. The light post measured at 322 inches. It was just a few blocks from the school. They were inspired to focus on community and personal lighting for safety.
At the STEM showcase, the students presented their inventions which included: a non-falling light fixture ~ equipped with a collapsible pole, reflective tape and miniature cameras. They also focused on personal lighting. Following the engineering design process, 5th grader Michael Green enhanced a pair of sneakers with LED lights, fluorescent shoestrings and miniature cameras attached to the back of each shoe. Additionally, the students created a lighted jacket, a bookbag and headband with an emphasis on personal lighting.
STEM facilitators understand that the value of the program is to enhance students’ critical thinking and logic skills. Comprehending that the engineering design process provides actionable steps on how to solve issues, the students are developing into thought leaders and subject matter experts. .
Many of the students, including those at Arlington Elementary attended previous STEM events and look forward to the next one. With the advancements of overlapping disciplines – STEM has opened up exciting career fields for elementary school students that were not around 15-20 years ago.
“We recognize the amount of time and support that’s required to spotlight the STEM projects of our SABES students and we applaud their achievements,” said Alisha N. Sparks, Elementary School SABES Program Manager at Johns Hopkin University Whiting School of Engineering.
Sponsored by STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES), a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Johns Hopkins University, SABES was a multi-year grant-funded program that culminated at the end of the school year ~ unless additional funding is obtained. Program organizers hope to bridge the gap and improve educational outcomes for targeted schools: Arlington Elementary/Middle School, Barclay Elementary/Middle School, Dallas F. Nicholas Sr. Elementary School, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary/School, Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#215), Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School (#237), John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School, Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle School and Pimlico Elementary/Middle School.
The National Science Foundation awarded a $7.4 million grant to Johns Hopkins University School of Engineering and Education in 2012. The mission of the program focused on a three-prong approach for success: training STEM facilitators and teachers in best practices, provide students an engaging and interactive curriculum and enhance learning in the classroom with after-school programming that show students how science can impact their lives.
Research suggests students who’ve participated in the STEM program display more confidence, greater analytical thinking and an increase interest in a STEM career. According to event organizers, the number of students interested in becoming an engineer increased by 27% prior to the program.
Event organizers collaborated for six months to plan the end-of year SABES STEM Showcase which incorporated Baltimore City schools from three communities – Greater Homewood, Park Heights and Greektown/Highlandtown, according to Sparks. One of the organization’s goals is to expose the students to STEM careers so that they are globally competitive.
Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering also partnered with several community organizations to coordinate the event: The Baltimore City Public Schools, BELL, Boys & Girls Club of Metropolitan Baltimore, Child First Authority, EBLO, Park Heights Renaissance, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Strong City Baltimore, US Dream Academy, and Village Learning Place.
The event organizers were pleased to see the knowledge base of the students and their level of confidence in presenting their STEM projects. “The SABES STEM Showcase is a visual reminder to our students that they can do anything they put their minds to,” said Sparks.