STEM Truck Design and Education

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STEM Truck Design and Education

Two STEM trends US, based on expert analysis, are an interested in computer science education and an increase in STEM for early childhood education.

Computer Science

  • Interest in computer science education at the K-12 level is increasing, however, there is a lack of qualified teachers to teach this subject.
  • This can be seen as trending as, over the past four years, 40 states passed policies increasing the level of computer science education in K-12.
  • The need for computer science education is great because there will be "millions of unfilled computer science jobs opening in the next decade with not enough graduates to fill them."
  • Both New York City and Chicago public schools have begun working to integrate computer science education into their classrooms, and Virginia mandated that computer science be taught in Kindergarten.
  • Project Tomorrow is a non-profit working to develop a teacher professional development program to implement computer science programs and educational opportunities in their classrooms.

Early Childhood Education

  • Experts believe that STEM education will continue to accelerate in early childhood programs.
  • Exposure to STEM in early childhood is important as "science instruction in particular improves abilities in subjects outside of STEM, including literacy, language-learning, and executive functioning."
  • This subject is trending as evidenced by the development of a new STEM education certification program, Pre-to-3, which is an "early-childhood recognition [that] emphasizes learning environments that help develop young children’s curiosity and critical thinking skills." The certification is developed by AdvancED/Measured Progress as an extension of their AdvancED’s K-12 STEM certification.
  • One example is the American Museum of Natural History, which is "working to enhance early STEM education through active STEM learning experiences designed for PreK-1st grade teachers."
  • Another example is the ECHOS curriculum, which is being developed by Frost Science, the University of Miami and the Institute for Education Sciences. The curriculum is a "comprehensive early childhood science curriculum."

STEM Mobile Units

STEM mobile units have been gaining in popularity, with one study reporting that over 1.2 million kids in the US have "experienced interactive learning activities brought to them by mobile science labs." Four STEM mobile labs are profiled below: STEM Scouts' The Vortex, Seattle Children's Science Adventure Lab, Boston University's MobileLab and St. Cloud State University's Science Express.

STEM Scouts' The Vortex

  • The Vortex, developed by STEM Scouts, is a mobile STEM classroom that includes "multiple smart TVs, computers, microscopes and a variety of lab equipment for fun, hands-on experiments for all ages." The lab offers programs for elementary, middle and high school students.
  • STEM Scouts is a program of the Boy Scouts of America. It currently opperates in 20 BSA councils nationwide, including in Texas, Illinois, Colorado, Connecticut, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Missouri, Arizona, Hawaii, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
  • The program is considered successful based on the high-profile success of one of their recent projects, which was selected for a NASA Research Mission, and based on their continual expansion of the program. The program was piloted in 2014, expanded in 2015, and then expanded again in 2016 by 30%. Additionally, it has been shown to be very effective in schools; one school saw "a year-over-year increase in overall science scores" after using the STEM Scouts program.

Seattle Children's Science Adventure Lab

  • Seattle Children's Hospital runs a mobile STEM lab, called the Science Adventure Lab, which includes "research-grade equipment" and is designed for students in grades 4-8. The program uses "the principles of inquiry-based learning; components of the scientific method; and science process skills such as observation, measurement, prediction and experimentation."
  • The program is operation in schools across Washington State.
  • The program is considered successful for a number of reasons, firstly due to the fact that it was "the first mobile science lab program directly linked to a children’s hospital and the first mobile lab in the Pacific Northwest." Additionally, in one study in which the Seattle Children's Science Adventure Lab participated, it was found that "the hands-on, interactive approach many mobile science labs use[d] to engage students has been shown to not only improve test scores, but it also instills a deeper interest in STEM subjects." The lab also focuses on rural schools with a Title 1 designation, meaning they serve primarily lower-income students.

Boston University's MobileLab

  • Boston University's MobileLab is "a forty-foot traveling science laboratory whose mission is to increase community access to modern day biotechnology." The program focuses on education for grades 7-12 within Massachusetts and the surrounding area.
  • The program utilizes "laboratory-based learning experiences that promote inquiry and authentic applications of biotechnological principles."
  • The MobileLab is considered successful as its design has been replicated by other programs including by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and by the Connecticut United for Research Excellence program.

St. Cloud State University's Science Express

  • The St. Cloud State University Science Express mobile STEM lab "bring[s] hands-on experience and some of the latest knowledge and equipment in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to Central Minnesota schools."
  • It focuses on students in the 3rd-6th grade. Students get to "explore chemistry, infrared signals and sound waves and their applications in our homes through technology typically unavailable in the elementary classroom."
  • The program is considered successful based on its longevity (established in 2009) and the number of students served (more than 110,000 students).