Kansas Middle School Students Discover STEM Technology

A state grant allows Geary County school teachers and students to experience concepts of computer science.

by Eric Wiley, The Salina Journal, Kan. / July 31, 2017 0
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(TNS) -- "Which one is easiest to control?"

 

"What does this button do?"

"Crash it, crash it, crash it! It's just a simulator."

Those were the questions and phrases screamed by Fort Riley Middle School student Echo Hinton Friday while he learned how to fly fixed-wing and multi-rotor unmanned aircraft simulators at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

"Higher! Higher! So high that the air pressure makes you explode," she said, as she flew the fixed-wing UAS. "I crashed into a gas station."

Hinton was one of 19 middle school students from Geary County who visited K-State Polytechnic Friday during a student camp to gain knowledge and experience in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Grant funded

The students were on campus as part of a $160,000 grant awarded to K-State Polytechnic and the Geary County School District.

"The primary goal of the grant is to get new technology in both the hands of the teachers and the students through experiential and engaged learning, which is the polytechnic approach that this campus is passionate about," said Terri Gaeddert, director of academic operations for K-State Polytechnic.

In June, K-State Polytechnic professors and 20 teachers from the Geary County district participated in a two-week teacher institute in Junction City.

Teachers from grades four through 12 learned computer and programming concepts, covering the basics of coding, robotic programming, 3D printer operation and gaming.

"We taught them a lot of concepts that we teach in our introduction to computing principles course. That involves how to program, fundamental concepts of computer science and computer networking," said Troy Harding, K-State Polytechnic computer systems technology professor and lead grant instructor.

Teachers delighted

During the last day of the institute, teachers visited the K-State Polytechnic campus to practice the skills, new ideas and innovative techniques they had learned.

The grant also provided for the purchase of new technology for each classroom, including 3D printers, Osmo kits, a Circuit Playground and Edison robots.

"The two weeks in Junction were really enriching for me. I had the opportunity to learn about coding and how 3D printers work," said Gleenrey Villamor, who teaches science at Junction City High School. "I got a lot of ideas on how to integrate these things into my classroom. I do the science fair every year and I'm sure the new equipment we have will be used by the students during the fair."

Instructional technologist Tyler Manwarren said finding ways to integrate the new ideas and technology into the curriculum will be the biggest challenge.

Morris Hill Elementary School library media specialist Jamie Francis said the district has been pushing for the use of more technology.

"These are things we've been wanting to provide for our students, such as having the 3D printer, Edison robots and Osmo kits," she said. "We now have a good amount of awesome materials. That's the hardest part, getting our hands on this equipment. Now we have to use them for our needs and integrate them into our curriculum."

Next summer, 20 additional Geary County educators will take part in a two-week teacher institute.

School fun

On Friday, students learned about everything from UAS flights and simulators to 3D printing, telepresence, autonomous robots and the aviation program.

K-State Polytechnic staff will work with Geary County educators four times during the upcoming school year to help refine their curriculum.

Hinton said she is ready to get back to school.

"I liked the Edison robot. I think I'm going to get one for my four younger brothers," she said. "I'm looking forward to going back to school and using it. School for me is just fun."

©2017 The Salina Journal (Salina, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.