September 18, 2012, by Ben Esner, Director, NYU-Poly Center for K-12 STEM
Can you conduct a chemistry experiment with lab equipment made by a MakerBot? Demonstrate the principles of soil erosion and civil engineering with a sand table and miniature buildings designed and printed by 2nd graders? Yes, you can. And maybe should too.
Through NYU-Poly’s signature education initiative, our National Science Foundation supported GK-12 Fellows Program, we work with 27 Brooklyn public schools, about 40 teachers and over 1,500 K-12 students. In this project, graduate students from diverse science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines are paired with K-12 teachers to develop and teach grade-appropriate STEM lessons, based on the research and applied science they practice.
In the Fall of 2011 MakerBot Industries education division and NYU-Poly launched a partnership that put 3D printers in the hands of some of our GK-12 teachers, their students, and our University’s graduate Fellows working in these public school classrooms. Teachers and Fellows designed and implemented classroom lessons that integrated 3D rendering and printing as critical elements in conducting hands-on, activity based demonstrations, projects and experiments highlighting concepts and applications across STEM disciplines.
These lessons included making a DNA comb with a MakerBot for a middle school DNA extraction experiment. These combs are used in extracting DNA to create wells in a porous gel that is placed in an electrophoresis apparatus. In another lesson, 2nd graders created and printed small buildings that were placed on a sand table with a ‘river’. The river was flooded, and students observed the principles of soil erosion and how different types of building foundations perform in those conditions.
Magic in the classroom, yes. But not magic. A teacher and a chemical engineer; and a teacher and a civil engineer; working together, using real tools, applying expansive thinking. The opportunities for creativity and real engagement with students are many, and are exciting. But more than that, this might demonstrate in microcosm what STEM education could be like for students everywhere: interdisciplinary, applied and taught to show how to bring together knowledge and skills to investigate, learn, solve problems and to convey the ways in which the medium of science, engineering and technology are a path for students to critical thinking. These are the things we want kids to learn, and here the medium truly is the message.
As we think about STEM education and how to prepare young people to understand the relentless pace of change in these fields, it’s worth noting that advances in computing allow for an ever more intricate understanding of the human genome and that engineers and technologists build colliders for physicists to research smashed particles. Today’s most remarkable discoveries, and each amazing advance in devices, robotics, health and more are based on a convergence of sciences, technologies and engineering. With that kind of a record, it’s a lead to follow as we reimagine classrooms.
GK-12 Principal Investigator, Prof. Vikram Kapila / Co-PI, Prof. Magued Iskander
Jennifer Haghpanah (Fellow) and Lindrick Outerbridge (Teacher) at Philippa Schuyler Middle School, IS 383 (Brooklyn, NY)
Eduardo Suescun (Fellow) and Ryan Cain (Teacher) at The Bedford Village, PS 3 (Brooklyn, NY)