The smack of wood striking wood reverberated throughout the 6th grade halls of Dowell Middle School on Friday, October 25 as students operated miniature wooden catapults called “statapults” to explore physics and engineering alongside volunteers from Raytheon.
It was just one of several engaging learning and leadership activities that students tackled during the first LASER (Leadership and Science Ensure Results) STEM Day at Dowell, an event that will be repeated in coming weeks at Cockrill, Evans, Faubion and Scott Johnson middle schools.
LASER is a project-based learning curriculum developed through the collaborative effort of Raytheon and McKinney ISD. Raytheon supplied approximately $19,500 to fund the original program which was embedded in the district’s high school physics classes during the 2010-2011 school year. Raytheon engineers and managers visit the classes every other month to work with teachers and students on four different modules that focus on 21st century leadership skills.
Launching small rubber balls of various size and composition, the 6th graders sought maximum distance by adjusting variables to tweak their statapult’s performance. In another activity, they built “Puff Mobiles” and were allowed one puff of air to move the device as far as possible. Along the way, Raytheon engineers encouraged innovation while providing expert guidance and feedback.
Teamwork, leadership and communication were major themes of the day. The first activity of the morning gave students a chance to learn more about themselves through a personality assessment. Then, they were placed in teams to practice effective communication while building puzzles. The culminating activity of the day called upon the students to hone their presentation skills through discussion of the activities, the challenges they faced during the day and what they learned through the process.
“The students had an eventful day as they collaborated about the design of their Puff Mobiles and the data collected from their Ballistic Statapult,” said Chaurcley Cook, McKinney ISD Coordinator of Secondary Science.
“Middle school is an important time to introduce career opportunities and help students make the important connections to their everyday learning in the classroom. One student told me, ‘I like learning this way,” and another liked learning about what the engineers do at Raytheon. One student said, ‘I think I want to be an engineer.’”’
Story submitted by Shane Mauldin