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Virginia Tech professor helps middle schoolers develop hands-on skills with STEM technology

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Category: research Video duration: Virginia Tech professor helps middle schoolers develop hands-on skills with STEM technology

Students in each Blacksburg Middle School are getting hands-on experience with a STEMbot, a large, mobile, raised-bed 3-gantry robotics system provided by Integrative STEM Education in Virginia Tech’s School of Education. Professor John Wells, along with his doctoral students, worked with middle school Technology Education teachers to set up the systems in their classrooms and prepare them for how to use the robots with students.


[When it moves in this direction, which axis is this?] These Blacksburg Middle School students are working with STEMbots. "What we're trying to do is to bring in those kinds of experiences which they might not have." The unique educational robots give these seventh graders another way to learn and hone their creative and critical thinking skills as part of their technology education curriculum. "We're looking at addressing all of the STEM disciplines from a trans-disciplinary perspective and engaging them in design-early ways of knowing design-based learning because designing is inherent, inherently imposes cognitive demands on the students, which are higher-order thinking." The STEMbots, provided by Virginia Tech's Integrative STEM Education program, uses a web-based application that allows students to control the program and make decisions every step of the way. "They might decide that since they have a watering tool and they want to water young plants, the water's coming out too hard, damaging the plants. So we challenge them with okay, we need a different sprayer and so they research the sprayer that's on there, something that might mist it. They create a three-dimensional CAD drawing, they 3D print it, they put it on the STEMbot and they use it. So they test their own designs and we will increasingly present him with other open-ended design challenges like that." Wells and his doctoral students design, develop and test the instructional modules and work with the middle schoolers, giving them a chance to see STEM in action. "I think for our students to see realistic STEM in action, especially the technology and engineering part. You hear so much about it but when they actually get to code and use this for a realistic situation, it just goes so far." The experience gives students a chance to engage in and explore career opportunities in STEM fields, One of the fastest growing and in-demand professions in the country.