Teachers and students from Shanahan Middle School touted the success of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program at the Olentangy Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.
“I’m like a proud papa,” said principal Josh McDaniels, who said a $150,000 grant from the Columbus Foundation will allow the program to add a “Next Gen Science Lab.”
Teachers also spoke of being energized by the project-based learning approach of STEM, and students spoke about how challenging it was. It was said the goal of the program is not to create engineers, but to develop thinking skills so students are college- and career-ready.
Students gave “I can” statements related to STEM — I can persevere through a problem; I can find multiple ways to approach problems; I can engage effectively in collaborative discussion and work; and I can identify appropriate tools to find and collect information.
Among the projects students discussed were building an operational vehicle, preparing a tsunami evacuation route for Hawaii, and constructing a catapult for a “Pumpkin Chunkin” competition. The latter was said to be done with limited resources.
Board member Dave King likened the Pumpkin Chunkin exercise to a problem-solving scene in the film “Apollo 13.”
The program also involved more than 30 professionals from companies such as Abbott Nutrition, Battelle, LEGO and Ohio State University.
The instructors quoted one of the mentors, chemist Sarah Cooney, who worked with four students to develop a prescription dispensary system.
“My background blinded me from thinking about this application so the work with the middle school kids has been helpful,” Cooney said.
Companies are looking beyond a student’s grade-point averages and extracurricular activities, said board member Roger Bartz.
“That gets you in the door,” said Bartz, who works for an engineering firm. “We look at experience. We want problem solvers.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.