Principal tells school board about STEM program
By Robert Stevens
MORONI—North Sanpete Middle School (NSMS) is helping students prepare for a future career in technology or engineering.
During the North Sanpete School Board (NSSD) meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 20, NSMS Principal O’Dee Hansen reported to the board and to Dr. Sam Ray, district superintendent, on the school’s strong emphasis on STEM education.
“As a former middle school technology education teacher, I am excited with the career and technical education provided by NSMS,” Ray told the Messenger. “We have fine career and technical educators at NSMS who provide amazing opportunities for their students to stimulate future career preparation. We are clearly preparing students for their future, not our past.”
Hansen’s report served to reinforce Ray’s statement.
As a One-to-One school, NSMS issues an iPad to every student, and the devices are used to complement education in most subjects. But other exciting technology is being implemented there as well.
Corby Briggs has been teaching at the school for 16 years. Although he is still teaching traditional skills, a visit to his class reveals a myriad of technology and engineering opportunities for students.
Alongside 15 different specialized STEM learning stations, Briggs has multiple 3D printers and CNC (computer numerically controlled) machines for use in conjunction with computer-aided drafting.
Students design their own creations (cell phone cases are popular) and generate them via 3D printing.
Hansen says many students have proudly taken home their creations, and the levels of intricacy in some of them have been impressive.
Briggs’ two-level classroom is also home to the school’s electric race car. Students designed and built the car; they have raced it on the school’s track and have competed in races against schools all over the state. The car took sixth place in its most recent race.
Briggs also teaches about flight technology, including drones and drone safety. The unmanned aircraft continue to increase in popularity for recreational and commercial use. As with other STEM equipment, the school gives kids a taste of the concepts to wet their appetite for more as they move on to high school and college.
“Middle school is an exploratory period in education,” Hansen says. “By the time they get here, they’ve gotten a strong basis of fundamentals from elementary school, and we want to provide them with a taste of what is to come in the future.”
He adds, “We are creating an environment to prepare our students for the 21st Century workplace.”
Elsewhere in the school, other STEM concepts are being taught.
Carey Ivory runs an after-school program that teaches coding and robotics. Students choose to participate outside school hours and during school flex time.
“They love to come in here and tinker,” Ivory says. “I’ve been to some workshops, but a lot of it has been providing the opportunity and telling them, ‘Let’s learn this together.’”
Hansen says some of the kids who have tried their hand at coding immediately displayed interest in the highly marketable skill.
Other tech-related education is in the works at NSMS. With a grant from Rocky Mountain Power, the school is the site of one of the largest Blue Sky solar energy projects in the company’s catchment area. Solar panels outside the building meet nearly 80 percent of the school’s energy needs.
Hansen says he wants to use the school’s solar system to educate students about renewable energy and allow them to collect and analyze solar energy data.
The school is also planning to install a real-time, digital stock market ticker for use in a business class, where students will be given “play money” and required to invest it as they see fit and see how their investments create returns or losses.
Hansen says the funding for some of these programs and classes has come from Gear Up (a federal program created to help prepare students for future education and careers) and from the State and Institutional Lands Trust Fund. Gear Up gave the school a $90,000 grant, while the school received approximately $60,000 from trust lands.
He hopes the school can continue to offer more STEM opportunities to students hungry to learn.