Partnership provides STEM field trips for area schools

A new partnership between The Foundry at Block22 and the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center at Greenbush is providing new STEM education opportunities to area schools. 

On a Friday morning in January, fourth graders from Arma watched intently around tables in The Pitsco Idea Shop, located in The Foundry, as Greenbush science educator Lisa Little demonstrated how to code a Sphero Edu robot. 

Then, in teams of two they fanned out on the floor with iPads to try it themselves. 

Idea Shop robotics

“Our goal is to move this little robot to the target,” said student Gracious Schroeder. “If it doesn’t work, we make changes and try it again.” 

She’s referring to troubleshooting — a process used by real-world coders in which they change small variables one by one, like direction and speed. 

“We’re trying to get it to go to the piece of tape and then back again,” said student Trevin Kessinger. “It’s fun because I like robots and getting to see how they work and how to control them.” 

In coming weeks, classes from St. Mary’s Elementary School will visit the Pitsco Idea Shop for similar lessons.  

Staff from The Foundry and from Greenbush then will do troubleshooting of their own, evaluating the pilot program and adjusting as needed, with the goal of broadening the reach to other area school districts. 

“We’re excited to be able to help provide these kinds of resources to students,” said Foundry Director Mary Louise Widmar. “You just never know how it might inspire them and what that might lead to.”  

Fourth grade classroom teacher Lisa Wood said such field trips allow self-directed learning and soft skills like teamwork, but also provide her students with something they don’t have access to at their school. 

“I have students very interested in coding, but I don’t have the technology or the equipment — or the expertise in it, really — so this is a great opportunity,” she said. 

Idea Shop field trip

Little said such experiences would help lay a foundation on which the students could build in later years and could eventually lead to careers in a field that is rapidly growing. 

Kay Lewis, director of the student enrichment center at Greenbush, said the partnership with Block22 felt natural. 

“This definitely fits our mission for outreach,” Lewis said. “I’m excited about the possibilities!” 

About The Pitsco Idea Shop 

Along the lines of a makerspace, the shop is housed in the space between the National Bank Building and the Opera House Hotel in Block22. Resources include a mix of 3-D printers, large-scale printers, and other technology. 

Past events for area students in collaboration with Pitsco Education and Greenbush have included a C02 dragster competition, Tetrix Taskbot Tournament, robotics camp, and drone competition. 


Contact Wes Streeter, deputy strategy officer for business operations at Block22, at 620-235-4920.