A couple of Mondays ago (June 14th), the STEM Education Works team had the immense privilege of putting on a workshop for the Indiana GEAR UP program. GEAR UP (which stands for “Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs”) is part of a 7-year, 24.5-million-dollar project funded by the U.S. Department of Education and is dedicated to researching student STEM learning and preparing students for college and other forms of postsecondary education.
Building the Micro-Kart
As the leader of the workshop, it was my job to lead 19 students from high schools all around Indiana through our EV Micro-Kart Short Course curriculum, teaching them about mechanical engineering, electronics, and coding (and the careers associated with these fields) over the course of the day. I have to say, we had a GREAT group of students who were eager to learn and explore potential paths toward challenging and rewarding STEM careers!
We started the day by constructing the chassis of our micro-karts (using templates cut out by our very own Glowforge), then proceeded to mount a motor-and-pulley system onto each of them, discussing topics like pulley/gear ratios and power transmission systems along the way. Next, we challenged the students to wire and program headlights and taillights for their karts. This gave our students the chance to work with and familiarize themselves with tools like breadboards, LEDs, and the micro:bit microcontroller. The last step of the day involved some more wiring and programming, this time with the goal of creating a variable speed motor using electronics/circuitry components like resistors, transistors, and potentiometers.
Learning to Code with the micro:bit
From Concept to Reality
We here at STEM Education Works really enjoyed playing a part in the GEAR UP workshop and are especially thankful for everyone who came together to make the event such a success. For me personally, the event really took me back to my grad school days serving as a teaching assistant in undergraduate classical mechanics and electromagnetism labs. Truth be told, I originally went to grad school with aspirations of becoming a physics professor one day, but quickly learned that that path wasn’t necessarily for me. But the one aspect I always enjoyed and cherished was teaching and engaging with young people. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of taking complicated scientific concepts and making them “digestible” for students and the general public alike. It’s for this reason that I’m so very grateful for finding my way to my current position as Curriculum and Outreach Specialist here at STEM Education Works.
When I first joined STEM Education Works earlier this year, the first large-scale project that I really got my hands on was our Build Smart Clubhouse curriculum. But the project that I was there to develop from day one was the EV Micro-Kart curriculum, so I kind of think of it like my baby. My original goal with the micro-kart curriculum was to introduce students to complex STEM concepts in a fun and non-intimidating way and to build up their confidence in their STEM skills when they see the fruits of their work right there in front of them. I think we really caught a glimpse of that goal being fulfilled at the GEAR UP workshop. As the name suggests, the EV Micro-Kart Short Course is a shortened version of the full curriculum; our team is currently working on a “Long Course” version with enough content to fill a whole semester, so stay tuned!
To learn more about the wide range of projects you can take on with the micro:bit microcontroller, check out this video from ezContents. And as always, to learn more about our products and curriculum, visit our website! Until next time.
– Dr. Jake Roark