Guest Author: Delaine Wendling, a lead teacher from Stratford STEM Magnet High School‘s Academy of Science and Engineering
The new school year looms just around the corner promising new interactions, knowledge, and growth. Oh yes, and impressive moments. My students never fail to impress me, whether it’s through their ability to talk their way out of a consequence or their innovative solutions to different problems. Today, my students delivered; and they delivered at a whole new level. The halls have yet to be roamed and the dust has just been wiped off of my desk yet my students have already blown my socks off. Students from Hume-Fogg, MLK, and, our very own, Stratford STEM High School participated in an internship at ISIS (Institute for Software Integrated Systems), a research organization of the school of engineering at Vanderbilt, this summer.
The students were challenged to improve a bike’s safety in a user friendly way. The students launched head first into the task and came out the other side with an informational and entertaining presentation to the public of their inventive new products. These included wheel lights that have the potential to be customizable, a brake light and turn signals, and a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that can track and display various metrics- i.e. speed, distance, calories burned, etc. All of these features are controlled by a computer attached to the bike. Developed safety features can all be sold separately, allowing a potential customer to pick and choose what s/he feels is important to her/him. Furthermore, their software is open source, allowing the program-savvy consumers to expand upon the existing framework and add their own features.
During the presentation, the students were transparent about their struggles and how they overcame them while creating their bike products. Students came into the internship with a multitude of experiences and skills amongst them. Specifically and thanks to our engineering program, Stratford STEM students brought the ability to work with CAD software (Computer-Aided Design) and 3-D printing. Throughout the internship, the students sought the expertise and advice of professors, graduate students, undergraduates, and each other to develop bike safety tools. In addition, students self-taught, using the vast resources of the internet, the majority of the material needed to progress. They learned new, and improved familiar, skills including: collaboration, communication/presentation, problem solving, programming, etc. through the summer internship. Their intense motivation to learn came from the ownership they felt, their interest, and the relevance of the project, to name a few. This is the heart of Project Based Learning (PBL). The presentation I saw today further confirmed the importance of PBL to a students’ love for learning and the development of 21st century citizens. Stratford is no stranger to PBL and is actually becoming a MNPS PBL demonstration school this upcoming school year. So, stay tuned for the amazing projects our students will be engaged in throughout the year as well as the new bike safety products that will be hitting the market soon??!!