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Learn how to carry out a student-led Robotics STEAM Fest to showcase inquiry-based learning at your school.

STEAM = SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, ARTS AND MATHEMATICS 

Who we are

Matthew Carrington and Jennifer Waldron, two public school teachers in Charleston, South Carolina.  

We've led our arts magnet school's robotics team to district championships, encouraged membership by minorities and young girls, and most importantly  we've figured out how to get the rest of the school involved.

Check out our model for a School STEAM Fest and replicate our success at your school.

Why we love STEAM-based learning

"In 2020, there will be an estimated 1.4 million computer specialist job openings. Unfortunately, U.S. universities are expected produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29% of these jobs." U.S. Department of Labor.

We believe that STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics) should start at the elementary level and is a key component of 21st-century education. STEAM learning equips students with the essential skills they will need for an ever evolving technological world. 

what we do

At the end of each school year, we organize a school-wide STEAM fest so our students' peers and our fellow teachers can witness the merits and creativity of innovative STEAM tools.

"Welcome to the Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School STEAM fest! The robotics group has been working hard to bring this to you. We have played with, built, programmed and problem solved with many contraptions. The group believes that art and design are important. They are right. We have many stations to go to. Just have fun and hopefully you'll see all the amazing things we've worked on."

- Max, 5th Grade Co-Captain

logistics

Location

We first held the STEAM Fest in the school gym because it was the largest space available to us, but we had to deal with the fact that WiFi does not consistently reach this building. A couple of the pieces of technology only had limited functionality without WiFi, and so it cut down on what we could plan on doing. This year we held the STEAM Fest in the school media center and although there was less space, it overcame the problem of connectivity and gave us the ability to easily charge all of the robots in between sessions.

Scheduling

It is a challenge to find time for every class to visit the event, and for student presenters to be out of their classroom for a number of hours. With support from administration, special area teachers, and classroom teachers we were able to resolve this. We created a signup sheet for classes to attend when it best suited them, and made sure to schedule the event in the Spring after state testing so that teachers were not as worried about letting robotics students miss valuable instructional time. The only problem with having it at the end of the year is that we don't get much time for reflection with the students about the successes and challenges they faced during the event. In order to gather feedback on what participants thought of our event, we did send out a Google Form to teachers and students who attended the STEAM Fest. This gave us valuable data with which to improve the event for next year.

Planning

This three-hour event is entirely driven and planned by students, and facilitated by two coaches who help with logistics (timing, location, equipment set up, funding etc.). Stations are set up on tables, each of which showcases a different aspect of the robotics team’s work during the year. Two robotics students are put in charge of each station and conduct three-minute presentations to groups of approximately ten students who are rotating through each station. Students have to engage their audience, explain the technology, give a demonstration, answer questions, communicate to different age groups, and troubleshoot problems all in just a few minutes. They accomplish all this almost non-stop while maintaining their good humor, energy, and interest!

Funding

The STEAM Robotics club is funded in part by a $25 contribution from the family of each student who is selected for the club. In addition, a $1,000 Bosch 40th Anniversary Grant was procured for the purpose of establishing a STEAM lab at Ashley River Creative Arts. A Walmart Community Grant was procured for additional STEAM equipment. We also sold advertising space on our team t-shirts to local business and organizations.

Stations

Pedagogy

Students select how they are going to demonstrate the unique aspects of that particular technology and what they learned through the process of exploring it such as the device’s capabilities and shortcomings, how it could be improved and added upon. They are constantly problem solving in real time the issues that arise with finicky WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, short life batteries, time constraints and audience diversity/engagement. They are making both individual and group decisions before, during, and after the event.

The STEAM Fest is very impressive because kids are making robots that move, dance, jump, and respond to things.
Harper, 4th Grade

Many students outside the robotics club have never seen this type of technology before, and the hope is that they are inspired to explore it further. We are especially keen to reach more girls and minorities. Many in the students who were in the STEAM Fest audience have since purchased the devices on show. They have informally shared their learning and enthusiasm with other students which has, in turn, caused in an increase in robotics’ club applications. As a result, the club’s diversity now more accurately reflects that of the school’s diverse population and that of the general population. As we know, girls and women are a minority in computer science based fields. It is our hope that we can be an instrument of change through events such as our STEAM Fest.

There are amazing and cool things that can do mind-blowing and funny things. Also remember KIDS made these things!
Jenna, 3rd Grade

Students need to consider how to cater to different age groups by considering varying attention spans and developmental levels such as vocabulary proficiency and knowledge of the field, as well as what to do when they have a group for an unforeseen shorter or longer period of time depending on the flow of ‘traffic.’ Central to this, is how best to present their learning and how their learning has, in turn, resulted in new ways of thinking. This metacognitive exercise illustrates the depth of learning that happens when students are able to explore their passions and interests through a playful, inquisitive and mutually supportive environment that is fostered in the STEAM robotics club. Cooperative and project based learning coupled with reverse engineering type thinking lead to valuable inductive and deductive reasoning. The STEAM Fest is synthesis of student learning that is summative in nature revealing what students have mastered along the way

These students have awesome learning skills. I want to be in the robotics club next year!
Jarom, 3rd Grade

Student Empowerment

Students assume responsibility for framing their learning, helping plan the event and to troubleshoot technology when the event is underway. Much like mini TED talks, these upper elementary students share their mindful explorations of innovative and emerging technologies and articulate and solidify their new thinking. Students need to think critically about the key aspects of their technology explorations, such the design and function of each device and what purpose it serves. 

If you have never been to the STEAM Fest then you will be blown away at how much these kids can really do.
Emory, 5th Grade

Students select how they are going to demonstrate the unique aspects of that particular technology and what they learned through the process of exploring it such as the device’s capabilities and shortcomings, how it could be improved and added upon. They are constantly problem solving in real time the issues that arise with finicky WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, short life batteries, time constraints and audience diversity/engagement. They are making both individual and group decisions before, during, and after the event. For example, they need to consider how to cater to different age groups by considering varying attention spans and developmental levels such as vocabulary proficiency and knowledge of the field, as well as what to do when they have a group for an unforeseen shorter or longer period of time depending on the flow of ‘traffic.’ Central to this, is how best to present their learning and how their learning has, in turn, resulted in new ways of thinking.

The STEAM Fest is synthesis of student learning that is summative in nature, revealing what students have mastered along the way.
Jennifer Waldron, Co-founder

This metacognitive exercise illustrates the depth of learning that happens when students are able to explore their passions and interests through a playful, inquisitive and mutually supportive environment that is fostered in the STEAM robotics club. Cooperative and project based learning coupled with reverse engineering type thinking lead to valuable inductive and deductive reasoning. The STEAM Fest is synthesis of student learning that is summative in nature revealing what students have mastered along the way.

I saw students that are shy and reserved speak confidently and excitedly about their work.
4th Grade Teacher

Testimonials

It's science mixed in with a little fun!!!!

- Grace, 3rd grade

The robots can dance, change color, and move and you can see all that at the STEAM Fest!

- Daniel, 4th grade

 

 

It is soooooo much fun and you learn things while you have fun! You get to play around with robots!!

- Kalea, 5th grade

I liked the Makey Makey because it took Play-Doh to the next level. 

- Parker, 4th grade

 

 

The robotics team provides good role models both in their knowledge and showing how much fun they were having!  It was a great hands on experience!!

- Kindergarten Teacher

 

 

Are you ready to have some fun? 

- Megan, 5th grade

 

"The best part were the Ozobots because the robot would take a different path and you would not know which one."

-PEYTON, 2ND GRADE

It was an excellent showcase of the importance of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics and how they are interrelated.

- 5th Grade Teacher

 

The students had elaborate presentations and they were very knowledgeable.

- 3rd Grade Teacher  

 

"I would say it's totally epic, rad and your would love it!"

- KYLER, 2ND GRADE 

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We are always looking to make connections & spread the word about STEAM education! PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, OR SUGGESTIONS.

SCHOOLSTEAMFEST@GMAIL.COM