As he walked from one display to the next at the January 17 STEAM Showcase, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera stopped to observe students from the Duquesne City School District. As Mr. Rivera chatted with staff, he fired off intrigued questions that were eagerly answered. As one student showed his project, a small electric guitar, a smile spread across the face of Mr. Rivera as his fingers danced along the fretboard while he played air guitar.
For everyone involved, the STEAM Showcase truly rocked.
The event gave students like those from Duquesne and 22 others who were recipients of the AIU’s STEAM Catalyst grants the opportunity to display their hard work and engage with a crowd of nearly 1,000 people, from educators to legislators, who stopped by, asked questions and were treated to the unique talents of our diverse students. The STEAM Catalyst grants were generously funded by the Grable and Hillman foundations.
Jayden, a sixth grade student at Duquesne Elementary, used Little Bits to code and control a robotic arm in only a week’s time. He said that he surprises himself with what he has been able to do and that, because of STEAM education, he feels inspired to someday develop technology that helps law enforcement. This newfound passion, he said, will travel with him for the rest of his life.
“It makes me more confident in myself knowing these things,” said Jayden. “Especially the things I want to learn.”
At W.R. Paynter Elementary School in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District, fifth grader Dylan was driven to develop a podcast that focuses on The Great Attractor, a gravitational anomaly in intergalactic outer space. He worked on the project for a month, both at school and on his own at his home. By following his passion, he was able to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter, as well as the technology involved in developing a podcast.
“When I started researching it, I learned a lot more than I through there was,” said Dylan. “I’m very excited I made it into a podcast.”
The STEAM Showcase was a hit with students, educators and attendees. The day also featured breakout sessions highlighting the efforts made by various districts to integrate new and innovative methods of educating their students. The last session featured an announcement by Mr. Rivera that another $5.7 million round of PAsmart grants are coming and that all current applicants would be approved and able to better implement innovative, technological and computer-based learning.
It was an exciting and important day for education across Pennsylvania.
“The STEAM Showcase has grown into the premier demonstration of STEAM learning in Pennsylvania due to the region's commitment to innovation and partnerships,” said AIU Director of Instructional Innovation Tyler Samstag. “At the showcase, it has become commonplace for first graders programming Bee Bot robots to be sitting, literally, next to roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University. The resulting dialog is exciting and has led to sustained partnerships.”