Mobile Classrooms: Makerspaces and STEM Learning on the Move
STEM and STEAM learning doesn’t just have to happen within the confines of a classroom or a proper school lab. Many schools can’t afford 3D printers or makerspace equipment. Therefore, STEM learning is on the move and these companies, organizations and school districts are working to provide high-quality STEM learning on the road and in a town near you.
Traveling STEM buses
Designed by Stanford and MIT PhD’s, STEM Revolution offers its STEM Bus that visits over 40,000 students each year. Each STEM Bus visit includes a large scale kick-off assembly, including a life-size robot, and a full concert-style production to amp up students for STEM learning. The bus can fit classes of 35 students for 45 minutes each, where learners cycle through to explore STEM exhibits and engage in hands-on activities that include things like virtual reality, 3D printing, robotics, circuits, electronics and biotech.
The BioBus offers mobile science learning to minority, female, and low-income K-12 students in New York City. The bus has a $75,000 microscope, and school visits are hosted by real scientists. When the BioBus parks in front of a school, students engage in hands-on science lab sessions. Most of the science staff comes from groups that are historically underrepresented in science, which helps foster connections with the “primarily black, Hispanic, and female students” the BioBus serves.
The iTeach Maker Bus, is an initiative of Bagwell College of Education at Kennesaw State in Georgia. The bus has a laser cutter, 3D printer, a drone, circuit kits and Wi-Fi. “Students are able to engage in hands-on activities such as building a robot from a kit or using modeling clay to create a stop-motion movie. Along with a commitment to the STEM subjects, the MakerBus is utilized to teach reading, writing, and history lessons.”
From Carbondale Arts, an arts organization in Colorado, the Rosybelle bus “brings opportunity to our underserved communities through supplemental arts programming as well as bilingual offerings.” A former school bus, the Rosybelle was renovated into a mobile arts classroom for STEAM learning that serves up to 12 kids and eight adults at a time. The bus’ equipment includes Macbook Air laptops “with music, video, and photo editing software, screen-printing set-up, a utility sink, sewing machines, printing press, turntables, extra tables and an awning for outdoor work space.”
Mobile STEM labs
The Mobile STEM Lab by Teq includes things like a “3D printer, STEM curriculum, document camera, data loggers, professional development, on-demand support, and installation.” Each lab is customizable for a school’s personalized needs. The convenient lab carts make it simple for teachers to move STEM learning around a school or classroom to reach the most students. Teq also offers Stem Stations and a variety of a la carte STEM learning tools.
Mobile Stem Labs by Rokenbok Education are like STEM tool boxes on wheels. The goal is to utilize “reusable engineering materials” to make “project-based STEM education cost-effective for all schools and learning organizations.” Any classroom can become a STEM lab with these convenient and customizable carts. Carts include learning tools for block play, mechanical engineering, structural engineering, 3D design and printing, robotics, machine design, sensors and automation.
A self-made maker bus
The Cajon Valley Union School District in Southern California turned a yellow school bus into a state-of-the-art mobile makerspace. The CV MakerBus 537, renovated entirely by district staff, visits all schools in the district, reaching 16,500 students with technology and STEM-based activities. The bus includes “Mac-mini computers, a 3D printer, laser cutter, drawers full of circuit kits, robots, and tinkering tools.”
Teacher Katie Connolly drives the bus to each location and teaches its STEM programming and design challenges. The district’s Director of EdTech, Liz Loether, says, “This bus is important to our community to get those STEM, maker and workplace skills in place for our students to elevate our community and to move toward happy kids and healthy relationships on a path to gainful employment.”