After touring several STEM labs and meeting with experts, St. Martha created a Makerspace/STEM lab this year.
Dana Bale, who teaches middle school science and leads the school’s robotics program, established the space this summer and helps colleagues use it as part of their curriculum.
“The students we are teaching now, many of their jobs don’t even exist today,” says Bale. “In here not only are they creating, building and tinkering, they are also problem solving, communicating and collaborating. Our goal is to cultivate these 21stcentury skills, as well as high school and college readiness.”
The tools in the lab range from high tech to low….in one corner you’ll find robots – VEX, Mindstorm, Sphereos, Ozobot, Dash and Dot. In another a 3-D printer and a Cricut. Across the room is a Lego Wall, K’nex and arts and crafts materials like pipe cleaners and pompoms. And carboard – lots and lots of carboard.
“You can spend a million dollars or have a lot of recycling,” says Bale. “It’s really just about making your brain work differently.”
Teachers reserve time for their classes to use the space on a Google calendar and some of the robotics tools offer curriculum they can use.
Bale says her goal is to establish monthly themes in the lab as well: “It may be nature, sustainability, ethics, energy, peace.”
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Robotics Club: Where it all began
The momentum for the St. Martha Makerspace really began two years ago when Dana Bale stood up the school’s first ever robotics club.
So many 3rd, 4thand 5thgraders signed up for the club’s second year, an intramural team (with parent volunteers) was added. In order to make the competition team, students had to write an essay about why they wanted to be involved.
And compete they did. Last year, the school registered two teams in multiple categories at the VEX Robotics competition including: STEM Research, autonomous programming, design notebook and team alliance. They placed 13thin the district, 8thin the region and 12thin the state. And won the design award. This year, the club’s goal is to expand the teams to middle school and to compete at the World Competition.
“We are incredibly lucky to have Dana’s leadership in this area,” says Michael Bickett, St. Martha’s principal. “She has won us grants from companies like Dell for additional robots, she’s gone above and beyond seeking training on how to apply new technology in the classroom, and she’s captured the imagination of our students…she’s made coding cool.”
It’s a good problem to have, but perhaps still a problem.
“The interest and demand has been so great – we’re still working to determine how eight robots are going to cover the club and classes,” jokes Bale.