May 07, 2013 12:00AM
Malachi Cook is like a lot of high school students. He goes to class. He takes notes. He studies for tests. He gets good grades.
Yet, one lingering question tends to remain: Why?
“There are definitely a lot of things we study that seem like things we’ll never actually use in real life,” Cook, a junior at Pittsburg High School, said. “It’s never really clear how it applies.”
During the past couple weeks, in conjunction with technology education students at Pittsburg State University, Cook and his fellow Dragons have participated in a project aimed at answering that question in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Dubbed the i-STEM Project, the goal of the 10-day activity was to test a variety of creative teaching strategies and methods that are effective and could be easily replicated in other schools. The project was designed by STEM educators at PSU and PHS, as well as students in PSU’s Contextual Topics in Technology Class, taught by associate professor Mike Neden.
On Tuesday, May 7, the project culminated with the AeroMax at Gorilla Gulch competition, which featured a motorized ramp for model cars built by the students. The ramp was designed and built by PSU students.
The project took place in the Center of Applied Learning at PHS. The PHS students were judged on the distance their cars traveled in the air and after first contact. Cook was a member of the winning team.
“This was a pretty cool activity, because it got us out of the regular classroom setting,” he said. “It was hands-on, fun and we can see how these things apply in the real world. We were using science, technology and math to solve a real problem that was put in front of us.”
That, according to Neden, was exactly the point.
“It was a great success,” Neden said of the i-STEM Project. “There is a big push nationally for STEM education, and I think the students saw during this project why that is so important.”
Stuart Perez, a science teacher at PHS, said there were many benefits for the students.
“When you look at the different subjects that went together in this project, you can see in all of them how they applied and why they were needed,” he said. “It truly does benefit the students when they can see why they are learning what they’re learning.”
Perez also said getting to work with PSU helps the high school students learn even more.
“It’s a neat partnership because our students get to see what is being done at the university level,” he said. “They are seeing a little bit of what can be done. With PSU bringing this project to us, it gives our students something to look forward to.”