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Elk Meadows students gain first-hand STEM experiences

Feb 01, 2018 05:25AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Rowdy Nielson was designing an elephant hook for his sister at a meeting of the school's new STEM club.

Elk Meadows sixth-grader Rylee Russell was inspired to learn about coding. So this past fall, she joined the school’s new club that offers learning about STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

“It sounded interesting and helped me learn about coding,” she said. “I learned all sorts of loops, and now I’m learning how to build so I can create objects on the 3D printer.”

Before the holiday break, Rylee had a goal of creating a unicorn pencil holder.

“I want to take what I learn to make something on my own and be able to create it to have the shape and design I want,” she said, adding that it may help her with her future career plans as an engineer or programmer.

STEM club adviser Becky Rendell said that this year, she has organized the meetings into three six-week sections that meet for 45 minutes Thursdays after school. The club is designed for fourth- through sixth-graders.

During the first six-week session, students learned some coding through the Hour of Code website.

“I wanted the students to know their way around the computer and learn how to program,” she said. “Some students got into it and continued to learn Scratch and Java. They’re able to figure it out and keep building from what they learned. It’s pretty amazing to see.”

Sixth-grader Brody Bell said it was fun.

“It could be hard sometimes and frustrating, but I kept learning more because I like the challenge,” he said. 

Classmate Rowdy Nielson said he thought the coding would help him build websites or design games.

“I think it will help with whatever I do,” he said. “I’d like to construct stuff as an engineer, so I can see programming and learning about 3D can help me with that.”

For the second section, Rendell went back to what she calls “vintage technology,” having students use clay to design and mold objects that were to be placed in the school kiln.

“I want them to understand shapes and creating something with their hands so they understand how thick it needs to be before they try making something original on the computer,” she said, adding that through the meetings other teachers, Josh Glover, Emily Crane and Elizabeth White, have helped teach the 40 students.

Students also will learn about paper automaton and the use of simple machines before beginning the final section, which will allow students to learn to create an object in TinkerCad and print their own personal original object on Rendell’s 3D printer. 

Sixth-grader Joshua Yates said it’s fun figuring things out.

“Coding started out easy but got harder and more challenging as I learned more levels,” he said. “Now, I’m deciding how to best create a pot so I can learn how to create objects with a 3D printer. My dad is an engineer, so learning all this now will help me if I want to have a job building things. Besides, it’s fun.”

Rendell also has brought in fossils and wants to introduce the students to trilobites.

“I love learning new things, and by exploring engineering and all types of science, it opens our minds up to new possibilities,” she said. 

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