A collaboration has brought a WNY Mobile STEAM and Maker Lab to some area schools and after school programs. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says students at the Buffalo Academy of Science were the first school to try out the program.
Fifth-grade students at the Buffalo Academy of Science on Franklin Street downtown were testing out solar cars they built for a competition to be held next month. AT&T, Computers for Children and WNY STEM Hub recently launched the traveling lab. The mobile lab was created to give public and charter schools in the region a chance to engage students in STEAM.
“The mobile STEM lab is an opportunity for students to explore science, technology, engineering and math -- the acronym -- STEAM -- with throw in an "A" for arts,” said John Brown, managing director with Computers for Children.
The mobile lab travels to afterschool programs as well to expand STEAM learning for those students who don't have a chance to explore it in the classroom. Brown and a team of trainers work to provide tools and guidelines.
“So in an afterschool program, when I bring in a box of stuff – we build lightsabers, so I went to Global Charter High School with this box – I come out and open out the box, put all the supplies out and say ‘hey, guess what we are doing today? – We’re building lightsabers. ‘What?’ We’re building lightsabers?’ -- So here’s a little bit about light. You get a little science lesson, reflection, refraction, diffusion,” Brown explained.
The mobile lab include a variety of materials from rocket kits, robotic kits and 3-D printers. It provides resources and instructions for teachers.
“The biggest hurdle is the financial issues and especially as a charter school, we are not getting enough funds to run the school,” stated Joseph Polat, director of Buffalo Academy of Science.
Polat tells us the mobile lab has supported their mission of teaching STEM in an urban setting and providing resources they need.
“We need different external funds to work with, plus we need experts from the outside to work with because without financial strength you cannot build your experts, so definitely working with Children for Computers, working with other industries is really, really important for us,” Polat said.
“And they put it into action and as you can see here, the kids are learning all about STEM careers,” remarked Kevin Hanna, director of External Affairs at AT&T.
Hanna said they remain committed to education in the Buffalo community. The lab introduces students to a broad spectrum of STEM disciplines. Hanna tells WBFO they hope to entice students to seek future careers in STEM. He said that's where the jobs will be.
“This is important to a company like AT&T because, we and other tech organization have a need for the future workforce and we struggle to find people who have STEM backgrounds – who can fill the jobs of the future, because the jobs of the future are the jobs we have today and just one example – is that 75-percent of young college graduates hired into AT&T are hired into STEM positions,” Hanna noted.
Another student built project involved a solar robot that rolls along a wooden table top. It is carrying a small, plastic ball, following a path to tiny bowling pins to knock down. This projects also promote teamwork in the classroom.
Fifth-grader Miyronne Thomas said she is learning new things about how the robots work.
“What I like about this is that we get to like spread our imaginations by making robots,” Thomas declared. We asked Thomas about a future career. “I do want to be a doctor and it involves robotic things,” said Thomas.
Classmate Rahafiqual Alam said he's excited about working toward an upcoming rocket competition.
"When I grow up, I want to be an engineer and I want to build like an android robot that would be like a human and do all your chores for you,” responded Alam.
Fifth-grader Savannah Reed said the STEAM learning is allowing her to use her imagination to create.
“Like he lets us choose what we do before we actually do it. He always gives us these ideas what we should do and when we should do them,” Reed replied.
Global Concepts and Tapestry Charter Schools are also participating in the Mobile STEAM Lab program. An effort is underway to the mobile lab into more schools next school year.