Douglas Ripka 2018-02-28 00:45:14
firstname.lastname@example.org STEM is a widely used term, not only in education but in the news media whenever jobs of the future are discussed. While we all know what the letters of STEM stand for, there are as many ways to implement it as there are people trying to do so. After many years involved in STEM learning, I have come to believe that the classes that best represent what STEM can be contain three elements: Interdisciplinary—since STEM has science, technology, engineering, and math in the name, any course must incorporate at least two to live up to the name. Project based—students must be challenged with assignments that are not canned or have a predictable outcome. The struggle builds confidence in their ability to solve problems without relying on the teacher or other authority for validation Team oriented—students working in teams learn to trade ideas, negotiate outcomes, and trust others while meeting their goals. While some projects can be individual, even those do not occur in a vacuum-students can see what other students are doing around them and learn, and improve on the ideas of others. The nested Physics/Engineering Technology course was first taught in the 2009-2010 school year at State College Area High School, State College, PA. As a comprehensive high school with a full Career and Technical Center, as well as a Technology Education Department, there were plenty of opportunities for collaboration in the past, so a pairing of a science course with a technology class made sense. After talking to faculty and administration, we decided to take two existing courses, Physics 1 and Advanced Engineering Technology and “nest” or pair them together. A student signing up for one would have to register for the other class as well. Only one section of Physics 1 was treated this way. Using existing courses allowed us to fast track the process. Otherwise, we would have had to wait a year to implement new classes as the proposals worked their way through the system. We were able to use the curriculum for the existing courses with minimal changes. The student received two separate grades, one for each class. In the first year, we had a cohort of students enrolled for both classes. The standard Physics 1 curriculum already in use in the school was used, with a few additions of topics such as torque that future engineers might see in later engineering studies. The physics curriculum is algebra based. I was paired with a physics teacher who has an undergraduate degree in engineering science. Our duty for the last several years has been to assist in the other’s class. In the first year, the curriculum centered on VEX robotics (culminating in a regional Sumo-Robot competition), CAD/CAM, and designing and building a Rube Goldberg machine. For that, students had to present their designs to a panel of engineers for a design review. Like all good teaching vehicles, we have evolved the curriculum to present new challenges to students. The Engineering Technology class had a weighted grade associated with it, so after two years, a weighted grade physics curriculum was created to put both classes on an equal footing. The enhanced curriculum includes engineering-related topics of torque, simple machines, thermodynamics, and rotational motion, while covering other topics such as kinematics to greater depth. In the current year, the curriculum for the Advanced Engineering Technology course is as follows: (related physics concepts in parentheses) Safety, hand and power tool use CAD/CAM including laser, CNC, and 3D printing Golf ball launcher (2D kinematics) Cardboard boats (buoyancy and center of mass) Rube Goldberg machines with design review (work, energy, force, momentum, circular motion, kinematics) Complex machines (simple machines) Electrical project-creating a voltmeter or ammeter- (Circuit theory and Ohm’s Law) Musical instrument project (sound and waves, vibrations in air and matter) Final Exam—use NSPE Code of Ethics to identify possible conflicts between the code and actual actions taken during engineering accidents in the last 50 to 60 years. Students interested in taking the nested classes can apply to take the class during their junior or senior year. They must have passed our College Prep Algebra 2 and completed two science credits. About half of the students are returning engineering students, but there is no pre-requisite engineering course they must take. While the rest may have not taken engineering courses before, they may have taken courses that provide related skills and knowledge such as architecture, building construction, materials processing (formerly wood shop), and computer graphics courses. With such a diverse population, it is inevitable that some differentiated instruction occurs, for example in the CAD unit. Some students have never touched CAD before, some have never used Inventor before, and some have used SolidWorks or Inventor. Each student is challenged to learn new, or add to existing, skills. We are piloting a STEM lab this year, in preparation for moving to a new/renovated high school. Students can go to the STEM lab to work on building all, or parts, of their engineering projects for which we don’t have equipment. Students must be certified by the STEM lab teachers as passing safety tests and demonstrations before they can work in the lab. Currently, we are using the Materials Engineering Processing lab. The golf ball launcher project is new this year, and we used the STEM lab to help create all or part of the machines. Each team was tasked to design a golf ball launcher, powered by heavy rubber bands. The angle of launch had to be adjustable between 30° and 60° inclusive, and students had to incorporate photogates to measure time of passage of the golf ball, and calculate velocity. They also had to measure the distance the ball traveled and account for the launch height (Photo 1). Using the STEM lab allowed the students to access a wider array of hand and power tools than those found in the engineering lab. Many teams did part of their work in the STEM lab, then completed construction in the engineering lab, where we were better set up to mill slots in PVC pipe and do final assembly and test. The next building project for the students is the cardboard boat project (Photos 2 and 3). Students learn about buoyancy and center of mass with this project; they also practice brainstorming, modeling, CAD, and building skills. After a team has done a rough sketch of their design, they calculate the displacement of the boat with the pilot/navigator/power source on board, along with checking t1QsGL7iAz1qmcJmEB9nR1KyiAUnyxS1LAL After these calculations have been checked, the students draw up the design in CAD and add final dimensions to guide them during the building process. Then a scale model is made at 2" equal to 1' out of thin cardboard such as cereal boxes, which is tested in a tub for stability and tolerance to off-center loads. With this hurdle is crossed, students can proceed to create a fullsize version of their boat. The completed boat is placed in the school swimming pool and timed as it goes across. If it survives the crossing, it is pulled out and put back in to see how long before it sinks, So, boats have to be designed for two tasks, speed and endurance. The highlight for many students is the Rube Goldberg machine challenge (Photo 4). Put simply, a Rube Goldberg machine does a simple task in a complex way. Before students can start building, they have to prepare a set of documents that will be presented at a design review in front of a group of engineers from the local community. The presentation must address cost and schedule as well as the “tricks” or steps of the Rube Goldberg machine. Students gain insight into how real-world engineers go about designing something, as well as learn some soft skills such as making a good impression, communicating clearly, and meeting goals. When we first proposed creating the nested course, one piece of feedback we received was that we were going to create an elite class, which would discourage some from participating. This has not turned out to be so. While many students who have a strong interest in engineering as a career have taken the classes, others who were unsure have taken the class and found their passion. Others have indicated that they have no intention of pursuing a career in engineering, but have gone on to college in majors as diverse as stage management, English, and business, or directly into the military. Since we started the nested Physics/Engineering class, over 250 students have taken the class. Many have benefited from the close coordination of curriculum between the two classes. By regularly looking at curriculum outcomes and standards, we have been able to keep the class new and interesting to the students as well as relevant to their postsecondary careers. Douglas Ripka is an engineering technology teacher in the State College (PA) Area High School Career and Technical Center.
Published by Prakken Publications, Inc. View All Articles.