DISD STEM FairTags: connect, motivate, and outreach
DISD STEM Fair was one of our busiest events, but it was also one of our least chaotic. Our team has trouble turning anyone away because we want to introduce as many people as possible to STEM, but letting everyone onto the MXP usually results in more stress and less efficiency because it becomes so crowded. This time we implemented some of the improvements we had been discussing for the past few weeks like a keychain waiting list and regulating entrance to the MXP. We were able to reach 400 students with our three activities and spoke to over 1500 parents and students. We had the opportunity to set up a field and demo our competition bot for everyone there, including some FLL and FTC teams, which is something we don't usually get to do. A lot of kids actually got to drive the robot, as seen below.
We offer two activities on the Mobile Learning Experience(MXP):3D Modeling & Printing and EV3 Lego Bots.
Using laptops, presentation monitors, and 3D printers donated to us by Best Buy, we teach students how to design and print their own keychain. We use SketchUp, a free 3D modeling program by Google, because our hope is that if we teach people the basics they can go home and use SketchUp themselves. They learn the basic functions of CAD, such as the push/pull tool, shape tool, and 3D text. We had lots of people express interest in SketchUp for their kids or students. The highlight of my day was seeing kids who had been taught SketchUp helping those who were still building their keychain.
With our EV3 kits, we help everyone code their own robot and battle it against other bots. Most of the time, it's someone's first interaction with code so what they are coding is fairly basic. The simple code gives them a real taste of programming in a way they can understand.
Among our sponsors that make our outreach possible is BigThought. They help us with the costs of maintaining the MXP as well as staffing. What we do would not be possible without them. During this event, the CEO of BigThought was able to tour the MXP and see what we do to further interest and ability in STEM for young students.