2017 STEM Grant Recipients & Projects

STEM Innovation Grants

Academy of Whole Learning, St. Louis Park
Title:   Physical Science STEM
Grades:  K-12

Students will use physical science concepts to solve problems and answer questions. Throughout the year, students will develop their own essential questions based on their individual projects. In order to help students develop the necessary skills in physical science, students will first participate in mini-labs to teach the key concepts including energy, matter, motion and stability, and waves. Each activity is scaffolded to meet the needs of our individual learners. The students will then engage in a project problem, which will allow students to test and explain the various concepts of physical science. The students will use the scientific method to engage in hands-on learning projects. Students will be able to explain and present their findings through the use of technology, depending on the level of our students. The students will then apply the physical science topics that they have learned to a science fair project that they will design and present to parents and our community members in the spring.

Students will explore the topic of energy by looking at the cause and effect of sunlight, energy of objects in motion, changes in energy when objects interact, and how energy converts from one form to another. Students will build their understanding of matter by exploring its structure and properties, chemical reactions, and nuclear processes. Students will learn about waves by describing its patterns, predict characteristic properties and behaviors of waves and gain an understanding of how interactions of electromagnetic radiation can transfer information. Students will explore the science of motion and stability through pushes and pulls, unbalanced and balanced forces, mass, magnets, and electric currents. When learning these topics, students will also learn and practice the process of planning and conducting investigations, analyzing data, making observations, asking questions, and using mathematical representations.

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Annunciation Catholic School, Minneapolis
Title:      Mobile STEM Cart
Grades:    K-8 (with 6-8 emphasis)

This grant would allow us to create a mobile STEM cart and implement STEM activities throughout all grades. Our primary focus on STEM integration will be in the middle school. The materials would include coding materials, robots, simple machines kit, virtual reality goggles and curriculum to go along with the materials. The coding materials would help us implement coding activities in math in the middle school to integrate technology as they learn the algebra standards. The STEM materials fit well with our methods of teaching and learning as inquiry becomes woven throughout our curriculum through our IB implementation. The materials will be used at many different grades levels for new curriculum as well as supplement the curriculum already in place. The middle school curriculum currently includes a Dimensions program for selected students to participate in STEM activities and this would help us expand those activities for all students in the middle school and similar activities for those students in the elementary school. In the Dimensions program as well as the elementary IB units, students will use hands on activities to understand real world situations, make connections to other subject areas, think critically about solutions to problems and take action using these solutions. Students are and will be encouraged to pursue STEM careers and use their knowledge to make the world around them a better and more peaceful place. The grant will also be used to host an STEM night where students and families could experience STEM together.

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Benilde-St. Margaret’s, St. Louis Park
Title:   Permaculture Food Forest
Grades:  7-12

Benilde-St. Margaret’s proposes to have students design, build, monitor, and maintain a Permaculture Food Forest Garden. This garden will include species of trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables that symbiotically work together for maximum sustainability and efficiency. This approach has recently gained importance as the world attempts to feed a growing population and simultaneously create an environmentally sustainable future. Students will learn about sustainable ecosystem design before personally picking up the shovels and rakes to build the food forest.

Students will also be engaged in monitoring the health of the food forest over the coming years through data collection and analysis.

There are several core disciplines that will be incorporated from both the STEM and non-STEM fields. Student learning in the Permaculture Forest Garden will include the following:
• Science: plant cycles, food web analysis, symbiosis, water quality analysis, soil analysis
• Math: statistics, geographic plotting, graphical analysis of variables over time
• Engineering: designing the most efficient whole systems design (e.g. plant placement for optimal canopy design, and land grading for water flow and retention)
• Technology: keeping track of metrics related to the health of the garden (water testing, soil testing with vernier probes), designing videos/websites/social media to educate the community about the process and importance of food issues.
• Social Studies: food security issues, indigenous environments, food & water politics
• Art: inspirational space for outdoor art production, nature-based design principles
• Religion: social justice issues related to food and water
• English: journaling based on the issues, literature that aligns with food issues
• Life Class (a class that every 7th grader takes that spans topics from self-awareness to global perspectives): learning a sense of our place in the world and the environment through the study of food, understanding the origins of how we survive and thrive in the world

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Bethany Academy, Bloomington
Title:   Introducing the Engineering Design Process Using Mathematical Modeling and Computer Design with 3-D Printer Technology in Classroom Settings
Grades:  7-12

Throughout our science and math textbooks examples that illustrate the application of basic math skills are given to motivate students to get past basic skills development and pursue exciting and rewarding careers in various STEM fields. This proposal seeks to extend textbook descriptions of the application of math and science to projects that students can build, design and test in the classroom by coupling mathematical modeling and computer design with new low-cost 3-D printer technology.

The primary project initially will be to model and print honeybee hexagonal cells as part of a pre-calculus review. This project is designed in greater detail below.

In 7th grade math we currently construct paper 3-d models of the 5 basic platonic solids. We also learn formulas for surface area and volume of simple 3-D solids. Adding a 3-D printer will allow us to demonstrate the process of using the math dimensions of the platonic solids to generate a computer model and then print a physical model of the solids. Students will learn how to create physical models from mathematical models and will be encouraged to explore new designs.

In 8th grade math we complete a project using piecewise linear equations to create a design on graph paper. A few students have explored doing this project in the DESMOS graphing software package as well. A 3-D printer will extend this modeling project to a physical model that students would design first using linear functions and then input into a computer design which extrudes the 2-D model to 1 3-D model and then print their model.

As part of our science curriculum our students use LEGO robots to learn basic programming skills. They construct parts for obstacle courses and for the robots as part of annual competitions and projects. We plan to use the 3-D printer technology as a resource for these projects by learning to use mathematical and computer modeling to design and print their designed parts.

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Cotter Schools, Winona
Title:   PLTW: Initiate Principles of Engineering, Design & Coding
Grades:  7-12

Our project is to expand our STEM curriculum by developing an Introduction to Engineering course for high school students and an Introduction to Coding and Design and Automation and Robotics courses for junior high students. Within these courses, students would begin by learning problem-solving strategies, and demonstrate their learning by completing basic projects such as designing and testing gear, pulley and sprocket systems or creating a puzzle cube. Students would then advance their application to analyzing real world problems such as developing a syrup dispenser that does not drip, a high efficiency solar vehicle, a prototype for a new toy, or a lights and siren component for police bicycles. Once students have identified problems in their environment, using the scientific method and the engineering design process, students would work in small teams to solve them.

Students would engage in all elements of STEM as well as incorporate elements from the English, Social Studies and Arts disciplines. Students would be required to research, collaborate with peers, evaluate solutions through testing, write reports, revise and retest, present their findings publicly, as well as utilize skills like persistence, inquiry, communication, and critical thinking. To complete these projects successfully, students will be need to use a variety of tools, materials, and CAD software as well. While this immediate project is the implementation of two new courses, the overall goal is to develop a line of engineering and design courses that intentionally encourage students to be problem-solvers, to transfer skills between content disciplines, and to grow their necessary critical thinking skills so that they can be positive, productive members of their communities and in many cases, pursue additional education in the STEM fields.

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Frassati Catholic Academy, White Bear Lake
Title:   Memory Boy and the Energy Efficient Vehicle Challenge
Grades:  6 & 7

Frassati Catholic Academy is the first STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math) school in Minnesota. Starting in 2014, integrated curriculum is constantly created, improved, and tested. One project that we would like to develop with the 6-7 grade students connects the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, Literature and Social Studies. This is a literacy-based, engineering challenge based on a novel the students will read in class. Well-known author Will Weaver wrote a book titled Memory Boy. Described as being “post-apocalyptic”, the book shares a story about a family affected by several worldwide issues such as climate change, violence in cities, and the aftermath of a real historical events. The character and his family move to a place where survival depends on the very skill we would like our students to have – intuitive decision making, creativity, application of ideas, problem solving and more. The interdisciplinary approach and project based learning allows each teacher working with these students in this unit, an opportunity to have discussion about the science of climate change, current events, engineering, math, and more mak