November 8 is National STEM/STEAM Day, a time that celebrates and encourages learning in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. STEAM is a topic we’re passionate about here at Infinite Energy. And so each year, we give out STEAM grants to public schools in Gwinnett County, Georgia—our biggest customer base.
This week, in honor of National STEAM/STEM Day, we caught up with Mill Creek High School engineering teacher Kelly D. She’s heavily involved with Mill Creek’s makerspace and robotics program, which we’ve helped fund for the last three years.
Here’s more from Kelly:
What do you think about National STEM/STEAM Day? Is it important? Why?
I do think a National STEM/STEAM Day is important. We’re in an age of rapid innovations in technology, and we don’t know yet what jobs will be out there for students in twenty years. By laying a foundation of STEAM and an excitement for STEAM, we’re preparing this next generation. In addition, STEM/STEAM connects the academic studies together into authentic and engaging learning for students, during a time when they’re sometimes easily distracted by the technology available to them.
A national day just helps to continue to bring awareness to a growing trend of STEAM education. We’re so lucky to have school systems here that encourage STEAM. So, hopefully, we can help spread the word of the success we’re having with STEM education to other school systems and communities.
So, you’re seeing STEAM have a positive effect?
It’s definitely paying off! Students are seeing how to discover, persevere and connect their learning. Instead of just knowledge, students are gaining experience and are developing their critical thinking skills. We see this not only in data from testing but just by the confidence we see in our students along with stories they share with others.
I know part of the focus on STEM/STEAM learning was a hope that more young women would explore STEAM subjects. Would you say that’s true at Mill Creek, that more young women are looking into these fields?
This is close to my heart as I was definitely one of the few women in my engineering degree field in college. While we’re not quite to our goal, we definitely have grown the number of young women looking into STEM fields. Percentage wise, we have twice the number of females taking STEM engineering classes as compared to traditional engineering classes. Our young women are some of our strongest students in the EPIC program, and we can’t wait to see how they’ll change the world!
How did this last grant from Infinite Energy help with your STEAM efforts?
Infinite Energy funded the portion focused on our FIRST Robotics team. Our FRC team is heading into its third season with FIRST Robotics. We’ve grown from 15 to 40 students, and the funding has allowed our team to dream big as we design our robot this year. The new season starts in January, and we’re very grateful to Infinite Energy.
FIRST Robotics is unique because it not only involves a competition that requires you to build a robot – it also includes teamwork, perseverance, outreach, branding and more. Our favorite element of FIRST Robotics is gracious professionalism, a concept where we support each other and still compete against each other. It’s the pinnacle of good sportsmanship. This is the first year our team has seniors, and the money from Infinite Energy will help us shoot for our goal to make the state competition in April.
How’s the makerspace? Are kids still excited about it? Are more using it? How else is it growing?
Yes, the EPIC Makerspace continues to grow and the kids are excited about the possibilities. Right now, we have project-based learning units going for our 9th, 10th and 11th-grade students. And the prototype building wouldn’t be possible without the makerspace that the Infinite Energy grant created and expanded. This week, the 3-D printers have been going non-stop, and it’s such a joy to see students making their ideas come to life.
And what about the school’s EPIC program (project based learning program)? How’s that going?
The EPIC program is continuing to grow each year, and the students continue to amaze and inspire us. Recently, our 10th-grade team presented at the Georgia Department of Education STEM/STEAM Conference in Athens to share our passion for STEM Education. We love that we get to teach a STEAM program that uses a variety of strategies with the focus on the student and preparing them for our rapidly evolving world. When learning can be experiential, project-based, innovative, collaborative and cross-curricular, EPIC things happen.
At Infinite Energy, we’re thrilled to play a part in STEAM learning. And we’re looking forward to taking part for many more years to come. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we hear more from our STEAM schools.