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Preparing the Future Workforce Through Integrated STEM and Robotics

With an aim to address inequities in STEM education at elementary and middle schools by exposing more students to robotics and engineering, UBTECH’s Early Innovator program was made for educators like Warren Wise. Mr. Wise, the sixth grade science teacher at Kelly Mill Med Pro Middle School in Richland, SC, received 32 Intermediate UKITs through […]

With an aim to address inequities in STEM education at elementary and middle schools by exposing more students to robotics and engineering, UBTECH’s Early Innovator program was made for educators like Warren Wise.

Mr. Wise, the sixth grade science teacher at Kelly Mill Med Pro Middle School in Richland, SC, received 32 Intermediate UKITs through an Early Innovator grant awarded last fall. Rather than implement the kits only in his science class or Kelly Mill’s robotics club, however, Mr. Wise distributed the robots to every sixth grade faculty member, including the English Language Arts and social studies teachers, and challenged his colleagues to put robots and coding to work in their content areas.

Showing exactly why is was selected South Carolina’s 2019 STEM Teacher of the Year, Mr. Wise proved integrated STEM instruction can excite and inspire kids across subject areas. Read on to find out how.

An Integrated Approach to STEM

Mr. Wise used robotics to demonstrate Integrated STEM, an instructional approach that blends the traditional STEM content areas – science, technology, engineering, and math – in creative ways to solve real-world problems and enrich student learning experiences. The STEM Leadership Alliance defines Integrated STEM by three central principles:

  • The advancement of learning for each core STEM discipline
  • Logical and authentic connections between and across the individual STEM disciplines
  • Connections between classroom learning and STEM careers

By blending curricula in a project-based environment, Integrated STEM’s whole is greater than the sum of the parts as subject matter is no longer siloed and disconnected, making learning engaging, challenging, and relevant.

Overcoming Skepticism

Some of Mr. Wise’s colleagues were initially skeptical about robotics even though they were accustomed to making STEM connections, but the robots bring to life required content such as Greek mythology and ancient history.  In one social studies project, for example, students used their robotics kits to create an earthquake simulator to test building designs that could withstand an earthquake of historic proportions. “Once they see how the kids respond and how well the information sticks,” Mr. Wise said, “they want to do it and look for ways to use the robots.”  Their robots became more than machines to program. They became tools for invention, exploration, and creativity.

STEM Work-Ready Connections

In Integrated STEM classrooms such those at Kelly Mill, computer science and emerging technologies such as drones and robotics help students connect required content with work-ready skills. Imagine current scenarios that demonstrate Integrated STEM in practice: Think of the biologist who uses a drone to examine shifting bird migration patterns or the geologist who uses a robot to test lava flow ahead of a volcanic eruption. Integrated STEM and UBTECH’s NGSS- aligned curriculum encourage cross disciplinary thinking, just as the emerging workforce requires, and it does so in a way that emphasizes accessibility and equity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, jobs in STEM will increase by 8.8% by 2028, but many of those jobs could go unfilled because too few students are entering the workforce unprepared for STEM jobs. Additionally, women remain vastly underrepresented in many areas of the STEM workforce, and without K-12 educators reimagining STEM education, those disparities could remain. Integrated STEM encourages STEM career exploration by providing expanded access and ensuring relevancy that could help address these disparities in the workforce.

Is Your Robotics Program Inclusive?

Consider how Mr. Wise’s Integrated STEM approach to robotics differs from the typical use of robotics in schools where they are limited to the science classroom or an afterschool team or club.  Although these approaches can encourage more students to explore STEM careers, they are, by nature, exclusive in that they frequently rely on students to self-select by perceived interest in robotics or computer science or they just simply have transportation available for after school or Saturday activities. Integrated STEM exposes students to STEM through the subjects like ELA or social studies they may enjoy most and during their regular school day.

UBTECH Education supports Integrated STEM and teachers like Warren Wise who are blurring the subject matter boundaries to better prepare students for the future workforce by encouraging them to be creative problem solvers, entrepreneurs, and life-long learners.

Learn more about our UKIT integrated STEM curriculum. To register for access, visit: https://ubtecheducation.com/curriculum-registration/

Warren Wise has been an educator for over 16 years, teaching Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Intro to Engineering, Graphic Design, and Middle Level Science. Warren is a recipient of South Carolina’s Inaugural STEM Educator of the Year Award in 2019, and SC’s NAACP Presidential Citation Award in Education Advocacy in 2019.

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