By: Morgan Sexton
Wayne County Schools
Wayne County High School students are way ahead in the statewide MakerMinded rankings. When students complete the STEM activities on the MakerMinded website, their school gets points. Wayne County High School is the first school to reach over 1,000 points on MakerMinded.
At the end of the school year, MakerMinded will hold a statewide event to recognize the schools with the most points and present that school with a prize. With a lead of over 700 points, a win is looking promising for Wayne County High School.
According to their website, MakerMinded exists to expose students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) early in their education. This program was started by the manufacturing company Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, with the intention to create trained workers in the future of manufacturing. Manufacturers are located where they can find a trained workforce and the Lake Cumberland area is putting itself on the map.
Last spring, Marsha Bertram, a computer science teacher at WCHS, was contacted by MakerMinded to become a partner school. WCHS was already doing many of the activities that are outlined on the MakerMinded site, so Bertram has encouraged students and educators to log activities in MakerMinded.
One of these activities was the worldwide “Hour of Code”, a hands-on experience in learning to write computer code. This experience captured the interest of many students and teachers. In his MakerMinded submission, WCHs junior Landon Emerson said he learned about encryption during his Hour of Code experience. Landon wants to be a software engineer, so he knows how important these early lessons will be to his future career.
Jamie Foster, a high school teacher, led an Hour of Code class. She provided her students with a list of coding resources that related to different content areas. She was surprised that so many students took an interest in the coding projects.
MakerMinded also challenged students to create something using technology. Art teacher Tim Withers empowered his students to create with a 3-D printer. Sophomore Ben Vickery, one of Mr. Withers’ students, created a miniature copy of himself using the 3-D printer and facial scanning technology in the Xbox Kinect. Ben believes this experience will give him a head start in the manufacturing industry.
Several students have taken field trips to manufacturing plants and job shadowed industry professionals, earning points through MakerMinded. One such student is Alex Piercy, who attended a field trip to the John Sherman Cooper Power Plant. On this trip, Alex learned how electricity is produced and “how complex” the production is. “It helped me to better understand where my electricity comes form, so I will be more conservative of my power in the future”, said Alex.
WCHS senior Colby Corder has been job shadowing with the school district’s computer technology center. As one of Bertram’s students, he spends roughly five hours every day studying computer science. Colby has been working with computer technology professionals to install SMARTTVs and projectors in classrooms to create an immersive educational environment for his classmates. After graduation, Colby hopes to get a certificate in 3-D printing and a degree in computer technology in the future.
Students aren’t the only ones benefiting from an emphasis on STEM education. Teachers are also learning through these programs. Freshman science teacher Brenda Hoover completed an “externship” with Toyotetsu America, Inc. (TTAI) that helped her better understand how her subject area would impact her students.
“My classroom goal is to allow freshmen students the knowledge of what kind of careers are out there for them when they graduate,” said Hoover. She wants her students to know that traditional colleges are not the only option. Her goal for this school year is to present her students with many opportunities to “grow and learn for their future”.
Of course, it is the goal of all educators to provide students with the skills they need to have a career after graduation. Emphasizing STEM education will likely make all students more successful. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupations relating to STEM will increase to more than 9 million by 2022. Receiving this STEM education will give our Wayne County students a competitive edge as they enter the job market.
While STEM education is nothing new to WCHS, MakerMinded is making STEM more accessible to all discipline areas. “We would not be as successful as we are without our teacher participating and entering points for the activities already being completed in their classrooms,” said Bertram “One teacher cannot carry the school for MakerMinded. It takes the entire school.”
For Bertram, the next step for WCHS students will be Virtual Reality (VR). With VR technology, students can train for future careers while inside the classroom. “Kids can learn how to put a motor together; they can practice surgery. Pilots are even learning how to fly with VR.” Bertram is hoping that this year’s MakerMinded prize will be a Virtual Reality program so her students can expand their education beyond the bounds of a high school curriculum.
Ben Vickery holds a 3-D printed minature copy of himself
WCHS Principal Justin Alley visits an Hour of Code class. Alley is a strong supporter of the MakerMinded program. He often completes his own activities to earn points for the school and encourages teachers to do the same.
A group of students tour Toyotetsu America, Inc. Students have also toured university engineering programs and electric power plants this semester.
Photos courtesy of Tim Withers and Marsha Bertram