Higher Education News
On Wednesday June 27th, 2018, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum held Space Innovation Day, an event to celebrate space exploration, STEM education and students as makers. The event was co-developed by the museum and Future Engineers, a technology firm that is a current awardee of the U.S. Department of Education and Institute of Education Sciences’ Small Business Innovation Research Program (ED/IES SBIR).
In the morning, the event featured a live conversation (called a “downlink”) between NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor on the International Space Station and Washington, D.C.-area students at the museum. After a brief introduction of Auñón-Chancellor as she floated around in the space station, students asked her a series of questions such as “What it is like to experience space?” and “What does it take to be an astronaut?”
The morning also included on-stage interviews with three students who won the Future Engineers Two For the Crew Challenge. Through this national competition, sponsored by the ASME Foundation with technical assistance from NASA, K-12 students submitted a digital design of an astronaut tool intended to be manufactured on the International Space Station using a 3-D Printer. This tool allows innovative solutions to be provided to the astronauts immediately and means that NASA does not need to ship tools into space. One of the student winners designed “2 Pliers + 1 Handle,” a set of tool parts including needle-nose and lineman’s pliers with attachable handles. The 3-D printed multi-purpose tool can be customized into many different configurations when in space.
The challenge competition was run through a web-based platform that Future Engineers is developing with the support of a 2017 award from ED/IES SBIR. The platform provides an online hub for students to create and submit solutions to innovation design challenges. Future Engineers is planning to launch the school version of their platform in the 2018-19 school year, with the goal of bringing many different kinds of maker design challenges to classrooms around the country across many areas of STEM for grades K to 12.
The afternoon of the event featured hands-on exhibits with educational opportunities for hundreds of students and museum attendees, including a 3-D design makerspace by Future Engineers, an augmented reality solar system experience by the Space Foundation and a virtual reality space station experience by NASA.
We look forward to more maker design challenge events in the future!
Edward Metz is a program officer at the Institute of Education Sciences.
About ED/IES SBIR
The U.S. Department of Education’s Small Business Innovation Research program, administered by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), funds projects to develop education technology products designed to support students, teachers, or administrators in general or special education. The program emphasizes rigorous and relevant research to inform iterative development and to evaluate whether fully-developed products show promise for leading to the intended outcomes. The program also focuses on commercialization once the award period ends so that products can reach students and teachers and be sustained over time. ED/IES SBIR-supported products are currently used in thousands of schools around the country.
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#RethinkSchool: Flying Drones, Veterinary Care and a Chiropractic Clinic, All in a West Texas High School
“One of the workforce arguments is that we’re turning out folks that know how to color in the right bubble on a multiple-choice test, but they don’t know how to do anything,” said Dr. Kim Alexander, superintendent of the Roscoe Collegiate Independent School District in West Texas. In 2012, Superintendent Alexander and his district colleagues started to address this problem by creating an innovative series of apprentice partnerships with local businesses, and today it appears that Roscoe high school students know how to do everything.
Alexander, who is a Roscoe area native, has worked as an educator in the Roscoe District for 32 years, with the last 15 years as superintendent. In 2012, Roscoe was trying to become a STEM academy. “We wanted to have real-world relevance and real workforce readiness, and even job creation,” Alexander said. “One of the rural dilemmas is to have proximity to meaningful [student] apprenticeship opportunities. You have to partner with profitable businesses.”
Roscoe’s first business partnership started when the high school’s athletic trainer, who is a Roscoe alumnus and a chiropractor in Abilene, Texas agreed to use a gym dressing room to see chiropractic patients with Roscoe students as apprentices.
Other partnerships offering apprenticeships to students followed. “There’s a problem of a veterinary shortage for food animals in our region. So we got the concept of housing a mixed-animal veterinary clinic for educational purposes and for certified veterinary-assistant certification,” Alexander explained.
People in the community said that Roscoe was providing students with good workforce readiness in biomedical education but not offering much opportunity in engineering. Alexander said that’s when Roscoe came up with Edu-Drone. “Kids like the drones, and it’s just robotics in the air. That’s when we partnered with a local drone company that was working on a curriculum for FAA 107 commercial-drone certification. We had one of our business partners negotiate a deal to market our drone curriculum through [an office supply outlet]. Now at Roscoe, we do commercial drone flights for agricultural data collection, real-estate cinematography, topline, and windmill-blade inspection.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s David Cantrell, director of School Support and Rural Programs, visited the Roscoe District recently, and he was impressed with the innovation. “[The district] received the Small Rural School Achievement Grant from my office for several years, and they’re doing some really creative things with their educational funds,” Cantrell said. “My team and I spent three days onsite talking with the superintendent and meeting community members, school staff, parent groups, student groups. It’s not like your typical K-12 school in an urban setting or any other rural district.” The Department of Education grant averages $25,000 per year, and the district has received the grant annually for the past 10 years.
In addition to business partnerships, Roscoe is starting a program to combine a high school diploma with earning a bachelor’s degree.
The story of Roscoe’s creative approach is spreading throughout the state, and beyond. It is only fitting that these innovative educators have the eyes of Texas upon them.
Joe Barison is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Outreach.
Note: This is a post in our #RethinkSchool series. The series features innovative schools and stories from students, parents and educators highlighting efforts across the United States to rethink school. Check back on Thursdays for new posts in the series. The #RethinkSchool series presents examples of approaches schools, educators, families and others are using to rethink school in their individual and unique circumstances. Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. The Department of Education does not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.
The post #RethinkSchool: Flying Drones, Veterinary Care and a Chiropractic Clinic, All in a West Texas High School appeared first on ED.gov Blog.