STEM RESEARCH AND THE SAE ELECTRIC CAR PROJECT
At the completion of the first semester at Streamwood High School in Streamwood, Illinois I initiated a summative engineering-based challenge for my physical science students to accomplish. Upon reflecting on NGSS and its renewed emphasis on engineering-based modeling in the science curriculum, I recommitted myself to utilizing the AWIM electric car challenge as a means to meet these new learning outcomes. Using STEM research models and publications, I modified the electric car challenge into a comparative analysis of prototype models of the SAE electric car and student- designed models. I wanted to provide students with the challenge of engineering-based problem solving, but with controls on variables and with a goal of achieving collaborative assessment of data.
I am thankful for the resources that AWIM provides, with respect to the classroom kits of electric cars and the ease in which to modify curriculum to meet students’ learning needs. I was able employ the electric car project in three high school physical science classes with a combined enrollment of nearly 90 students.
STEM research models can be tailored to the classroom environment and to the culture of learning in the school. The future of engineering-modeled curriculum initiatives will rely upon educators of science at the K-6 and middle school levels to design learning models that stress problem solving attributes that need to be learned by students at all age levels. If we want to keep pace with changes taking place in science education that are sweeping the globe, then we had better commit ourselves, as educators, to break the current curriculum mold and try new approaches to learning science. These new learning environments will develop student creativity, critical thinking and ultimately create a sense that collaboratively students have the ability to solve real complex problems.