Sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students from DeKalb Middle and DeKalb West School are getting a firsthand experience this week in conducting science experiments inside a mobile learning laboratory, called the STEMmobile.
Housed in a 53-foot tractor-trailer with self-contained power, the STEMmobile has its own heating and cooling system, a satellite uplink for Internet connectivity and workstations to accommodate about 24 students at a time. The classroom on wheels is stocked with equipment from Tennessee Tech’s Oakley STEM Center and includes iPads and/or laptops, hand-held data collection devices, and other standard STEM industrial materials and supplies for activities at each grade level. With carpet lined walls, bright lights, and industrial grade metal drawers, the STEMmobile is also equipped with stainless steel countertops under flat screen TVs for students to conduct their experiments, bringing technology to the doorsteps of the school.
The science lessons, based on Tennessee science standards developed by the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative includes electromagnets, simple machines, electric circuits, heart rate monitoring, vitamin c indicators, sail design, magnets, motion, parachutes, chromotography, and more. “We’re working experiments with simple machines,” said DWS teacher Martha Damron , whose seventh grade homeroom class was using the facility at the time WJLE visited.
Caleb Dies, Kortney Skeen, Brianna Crotzer, Jeremy Brown, and Gavin Conger participated in making an incline plane while Gabrielle Wheatley, Chevelle Lockwood, John Ellis, John Iervolino worked with a lever system, testing whether the weight was at the farthest or closest point to the fulcrum.
The STEMmobile, which began visiting schools in October, 2013, is a one-of-a-kind product of the Oakley STEM Center and Tennessee Tech University as part of the Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative, a grant project funded by Tennessee’s First to the Top program. UCRSI is part of the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network, where the mission is to enhance student participation and interest in STEM subjects.
The STEMmobile is designed to help students learn more about three core STEM themes particularly relevant to rural students: water, with a focus on its importance, usage and conservation; energy, which highlights how power is generated, ways to lower consumption, green energy and long-term energy needs; and my food, my body, my health, which helps students learn more about agriculture, health, nutrition and physical fitness.
Science teachers are trained to use the learning studio at the Oakley STEM Center in order to prepare them to make the most of the STEMmobile.
For more information about the STEMmobile, please go to www.ucrsi.org.