STEM Class Exposes Students to High Level of Technology


Above:  Classmates watch as Feleha Ivy places weight on her bridge.  Students broke their bridges at the end of the Bridge Building Challenge to see how much weight their design could withhold.

Ninth grade students are learning how technology, engineering and other core academic subjects connect to real world situations in their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) class. 

The STEM class is one aspect of the High School Redesign program that has been implemented by the state department of education within the past two and a half years.  New Albany School District is one of fourteen school districts that were chosen to participate in Phase One of High School Redesign.  There are many goals of the Redesign program including teaching technology skills necessary for the 21st century workplace.

The state of the art technology lab funded by the state department of education is located at the School of Career and Technical Education.  Jalon Bullock, the instructor for the course, completed intensive training to gain certification to teach STEM.  Bullock continues to participate in follow-up training sessions and workshops. 

The curriculum framework consists of the following units of study:  STEM Orientation; Financial, Economic, and Business Technology; Math for Engineers; Engineering Design; and Robotics. 

In the STEM Orientation unit, the students were taught proper lab procedures and lab safety rules.  Students were also introduced to various computer skills and programs, including Microsoft Office 2007.

During the Financial, Economic, and Business Technology unit, Colt Doom of Regions Bank and Mike Nobles of BNA Bank spoke to the classes about credit scores, interest rates, applying for mortgages, and the importance of maintaining good credit.  Students were given the task of creating a personal budget as their major project during this unit.  They also learned to calculate mortgage rates on TI-84 Plus graphing calculators that contains a special finance program.

“With the challenges and problems our economy is experiencing, I believe this unit was very beneficial for our students,” said Bullock.

Students enrolled in the STEM course are actively engaged in science on a weekly basis.  Each Friday, the teacher leads the classes in a hands-on science experiment.  It is usually a simple physics lab experiment or activity.

The STEM classes have just begun the Engineering Design unit.  The students worked in groups on a “Bridge Building Challenge”.  Students were required to design and draw a bridge on graph paper and then build their bridge out of balsa wood from their design.  After projects were completed, they conducted an experiment called “Breaking the Bridges” to see how much weight their bridge could withhold.  

”The group I worked with designed and drew a walking bridge,” said student Mattie Carter.  “The best thing about this project was actually breaking the bridges.  I wanted to see how much weight our bridge could hold.”

While working within this unit, students will be applying both mathematics and engineering to real world situations.  Instructor Jalon Bullock is excited about the supplemental curriculum he will be using during this unit.  The Career Awareness Roadway To Success (CARS) curriculum is designed and distributed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).  The CARS curriculum contains activities involving higher-level math and engineering skills and directly relates the activities to jobs that are actually performed by MDOT employees.

“One of the many positive aspects of this class is the fact that students are introduced to so many different types of technology,” said Bullock.  “If students enjoy a particular unit of study, I can help them connect it to an upper level class that is offered here at the Career and Technical Center so that they can expand on the skills and knowledge they learned in STEM.”

Earl Richard, Director of the School of Career and Technical Education, is pleased with the level of technology and problem solving activities that students are involved in with this class.  “Students are getting exposed to rudimentary concepts of engineering and getting a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist, mathematician, engineer, or technology designer.”  Richard continued, “It’s amazing to listen to a group of students sitting around a computer and hearing them brainstorm to help solve a problem.”

Next semester, students will be introduced to Solid Works, a software program, used for the mechanical 3-D drawings of car parts.  Students will also be involved in the Robotics unit where they will learn to program robots for specific tasks.  These activities build skills that make a direct connection with Toyota related jobs. 

 Below:  Jalon Bullock, STEM teacher, assist Sara Beth Holt with her bridge design as Alesha Crockett, Scott Joshlin, and Lawrence Zinn look on.