NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The New Providence Education Foundation (NPEF) has implemented many impressive programs in in the school systems this year, from Roberts and Salt Brook Elementary schools right on up to New Providence High School. Jon Keaney, the STEM Department head, wanted to thank the NPEF for their continual support in the way of grants to each of the school, “The opportunities provided by the NPEF grants have been integral in the implementation of the STEM initiative. The grant structure allows teachers to develop programs that expose students to the skills necessary for success in a 21st Century society,” said Keaney.
In the elementary schools, first grade students have been programming Quirkbots and connecting them to Strawbees (a kit that lets you connect straws to each other to build a mechanical object) to make their own mechanical creatures. This is a fun and easy way to introduce the younger students to the world of physical programming, electronics and mechanics. It also teaches the concept of engineering perseverance. In addition, STEM storybooks have been used as a read aloud to start off STEM projects at the elementary grades and have also been used to supplement the existing science units.
Dash and Dot Robots, (Robots targeted at teaching creative problem-solving and computational thinking.). are being used in the elementary schools to introduce and expand on computer programming in a variety of ways. Second graders have been collaborating with Kindergarteners to program the Dash and Dots to complete a variety of tasks. 5th graders use Dot in science to complete a variety of sound and light sequence tasks and then use the program they created to play games involving variables. 6th graders program Dash to move throughout a set of coordinates as part of their math unit on graphing. Music students program Dash to create and play music on a xylophone. A number of “Hour of Code” activities involve programming either the Dash or Dot robots.
In the middle school, solar car kits were used by students as part of a unit on alternative energy. Students build and redesigned their cars to investigate how to make them more efficient. Students then built wind turbines and redesign the blades to investigate the effective of blade design on the efficiency of the system. Students in the redesigned Robotics mod have been using the engineering design process and their programming skills to solve a variety of design challenges involving the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot and the Space Challenge kits, both provided by NPEF grants. Using block programming on both the iPads and desktops, students have been gradually building their understanding of programming skills and progressing towards creating a robot that can be used in a variety of space exploration tasks.
In the new Middle School Digital Art and Design mod, students use computer applied programs including photoshop and CAD to plan and illustrate their projects and then build a final model using supplemental materials and the 3D pens.
In the Honors Biomedical Engineering class at the high school, students have been using the engineering design process in the Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering unit. Students choose an organ of the body, used calipers and clay to create a 3D mold of the organ, and then used 3D pens to create a scaffold of their own artificial organ. The cutting edge and innovative technology of the 3D pens are being used in both the high and middle schools this year.
By introducing the framework for computer science and coding modular robotics, the different programs used throughout the New Providence schools helps guide the students through the world of coding and robotics, turning ideas and a playful mindset into working models and acquiring skills necessary for success in the today’s computer driven society.