By Julie Ann Madden
A duck mobile. A tank. A forklift.
Those are what Akron-Westfield sixth graders have created through a World In Motion II grant program to enhance students’ Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Through this STEM grant, students, ages 6 – 10, were given the scenario that a fictitious toy company wanted toys designed and created, meeting the following three criteria:
• Able to move 3 meters in less than 3 seconds;
• Climb a 15-degree slope, going at least 1 meter in length in less than 2 seconds; and
• Climb a 30-degree slope, going at least 1 meter in length with no time limit.
After completing their creations, the students have to make a presentation to sell their “toy” to toy company officials. At A-W, this presentation is made to a group of teachers.
A-W Grades Preschool-6 Principal Cathy Bobier chose this project for a sixth grade exploratory class under the direction of Industrial Arts teacher Matthew Jongeling.
The sixth grade class is divided into four groups with each group having 9 weeks in the exploratory class. Each group is broken into teams.
Jongeling has each class of students choose teams for this exploratory.
During the first few weeks of class, the students learn about drawing blueprints of their creations, including using a variety of design techniques such as isometric drawings. They also learn about gear ratios and factors that affect the toy’s actions such as weight and flexibility of materials used to build the toy and differences between gear types like a 15-tooth gear, 45-tooth gear and 75-tooth gear and gear ratios.
Students also interview potential “customers,” such as their parents and siblings about toys they bought recently to find out what appealed to them about the toys.
The Society of Automotive Engineers through its A World In Motion II program designed a STEM curriculum with materials such as a versatile chassis kit for these projects.
Student teams take a kit and begin designing their “toy.” Students create the drawings, then make the toy from the chassis using Industrial Arts skills such as cutting wood pieces with table saws.
One lesson the first teams learned was wood’s weight slows their toys’ movements so most revised their designs using cardboard or paper.
When The Akron Hometowner visited this exploratory class in March, the students were just finishing the creation of their toys and testing them to see if they met the criteria and preparing to make their sales pitch presentations.
On March 21, another group of sixth graders began the exploratory class.
STEM education is a priority of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad who has a goal of creating a skilled workforce for Iowa.
A-W administration applied for a STEM grant to be one of the state’s STEM pilot projects. They can apply for additional grants each year, said Bobier.