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FD?Community Schools receive 7 STEM?grants

Program aims to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, math

November 3, 2012
By BRANDON L. SUMMERS, , Messenger News

The Fort Dodge Community School District has received seven grants intended to increase student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and math.

Butler Elementary received a First Lego League STEM grant for its Butler's Learning After School Time, or BLAST, program.

A team of 10 advanced students will work from a kit to design, build and test a Lego robot. Teams demonstrate their knowledge and compete with their peers at tournaments held across the state.

"We have a topic of 'senior solutions' this year that the kids will focus on," Lyndsey Steck, BLAST coordinator, said. "They'll work on a robot Lego project to improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in our community."

The effort has three parts: a robot game, where students build a robot; the project, with a playing field and different obstacles simulating senior challenges; and last, the core values, emphasizing the rules the kids will follow.

"Hopefully, we'll be ready to go to the competition December first at the science fair in Des Moines," Steck said.

According to Steck, participating in the league is an excellent educational opportunity for the elementary grade students.

"It will enhance their science, technology and math skills, along with building teamwork skills," she said. "They're really excited. They're calling each other teammates now."

Fair Oaks and Phillips middle schools together received four First Lego League grants.

"This is an opportunity for students in middle school to problem solve, do some research and create solutions to a problem," Diane Pratt, Talented and Gifted program coordinator, said.

This challenge has two parts: create a robot that will solve a distinct problem, and research a problem related to the theme and come up with a solution to the problem of their own, then deliver a presentation of their facts.

The students, this year, however, will not compete statewide, Pratt said.

"We are going to take the students to the competition to observe," she said. "And we're still going to go through the whole process in the spring, and demonstrate what we've learned to the parents."

According to Pratt, the opportunities for the students to learn are many.

"One nice thing about these kinds of opportunities that the whole STEM idea provides is students are working collaboratively and each contributing to a bigger picture," she said. "Those are 21st century skills that they're going to need to have in the workplace. If they can practice and get used to those skills, it's going to make it easier for them later on."

Fort Dodge Senior High was awarded both a First Tech Challenge grant and a Partnership for Engineering Educational Resources for Schools, or PEERS, grant.

Similar to the Lego League, First Tech Challenge teams are responsible for designing, building and programming robots that can perform specific tasks. The teams will also compete in head-to-head competition.

The PEERS grant will be used as part of the school's basic career development program, Dave Keane, FDSH principal, said.

"It's going to be a regional thing where we're going to be working with the people out of Iowa State, which is our hub, to try to educate students about the science, technology, engineering and mathematics opportunities that are out there for them," he said.

According to Keane, both grants will enhance the quality of education offered at the senior high.

"The PEERS grant will help us make some connections with people in engineering to come in and promote those to our classes," he said. "The First Tech Challenge, we've got a lot of kids that are interested in the programming aspect of things and industrial tech."

Keane and the school's faculty are excited to have received the grants.

"Those were the two that we applied for, so we were excited to be selected for that," he said.



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