2018 STEM Grant Recipients & Projects

STEM Innovation Grants

Academy of Whole Learning, St. Louis Park
Life Science Mini-Labs
Grades K-8

Students in grades K-8 will explore life science, integrating the engineering and design process. The Academy of Whole Learning has multiple grade levels in each class, as a result teachers are required to meet the needs of different learning levels within one classroom. We plan to meet our students’ needs by teaching through “mini-labs.” Mini-labs will expose the students to a topic and allow them to explore through hands-on experiences. This will also allow us to build on concepts over time and provide flexibility with our learning path. Bio-mimicry will be the focus, as it incorporates both life science and the engineer and design process in an engaging and relevant way. Students will create a final project using bio-mimicry to solve a problem. Life science is a great platform to integrate the crosscutting concepts for students. Learning about topics such as life cycles, ecosystems, cells, environmental changes, habitats and more, students will also be exploring the crosscutting concepts, providing students with a sustainable way of thinking that they can apply to various situations on a personal, local, and global level. Often, our students struggle with generalizing their knowledge—using what they learn in school and applying it in other ways or areas of their life. Teachers will use the crosscutting concepts to help students apply their thinking outside of the classroom.
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Benilde-St. Margaret’s, St. Louis Park
Design Thinking in Math, Engineering, Computer Science, and Art
Grades 7-12

Design thinking is a real-world entrepreneurial process in which the designer (whether an engineer, artist, or computer programmer) proceeds through an iterative cycle to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Benilde-St. Margaret’s is creating several student experiences to follow this model, giving students direct experience with a methodology they may use later in their careers. This grant is being written to support four classes that will use this process during the 2018-2019 school year: Junior High Math, Junior High Engineering, Senior High Coding, and Senior High 3D Make It art class.  We are also planning to start a new “Shark Tank” competition in which students compete by proposing new products or processes to a panel of adult entrepreneurs. The prototype stage of the design thinking process can best be supported by allowing students to have the tools necessary to create realistic representations of their ideas.  Benilde – St. Margaret’s will use the MINNDEPENDENT STEM grant to augment the purchase of some flexible, maker technology that can be used throughout the school.  We will use these initial successes to expand this real-world design thinking process to other disciplines, including science, business, and faith formation.
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Cotter Schools, Winona
Cotter Bike Shop
Grades 9-12

We are seeking to develop a Cotter Bike Shop class. Students will register for this Flex class.  Flex groups meet twice per week for 40 minutes. Students in this Flex class will learn the mechanisms and systems that make bicycles work. They will learn how to diagnosis a problem when a bike isn’t working properly, as well as how to fix the problem. Students will be trained in the art of bicycle mechanics, learning one system at a time, and graduating to a new system upon demonstration of accurate diagnosis and solution. Cotter currently has a large collection of bicycles for student and staff use. Imagine taking class on a bike ride to study science, art, literature, architecture, nature!  Students in this class will use the scientific method, the engineering process, math skills, tools and technology to identify and solve problems. These students will maintain and repair the Cotter bikes and eventually repair other bicycles for a small fee or for free, and then donate the working bicycle to community members in need. Our goal is to grow and provide bike maintenance services to others in our community and to encourage students to get out and ride!
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Cretin-Derham Hall, St. Paul
Cretin-Derham Hall Challenge Lab
Grades 9-12

Cretin Derham Hall is seeking an Innovation Grant to create the CDH Challenge Lab. The Challenge Lab is a place where learners define the problems they want to solve and design solutions to address them. Leveraging technology, students engage in activities and projects that expose them to design thinking, engineering, and real world experiences. It also provides for an opportunity for students with great ideas and initiatives to mentor other students. The Challenge Lab is an incubator for student ideas and dreams – it offers partnerships with companies, alumni, and community members to help students recognize their responsibility to be agents of positive change in the world.  In the Challenge Lab students will be able to explore robotics, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, 3D printing and computer-aided design. It provides students with a place to take risks, make mistakes, reach a little higher and dream bigger each time. The Challenge Lab will be open one day a week after school in conjunction with the existing FIRST Robotics Program. The Challenge Lab will allow for more than just robotics team members to experience and explore design thinking, building and dreaming all year round.
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Frassati Catholic Academy. White Bear Lake
Space: Rocket take off with dings, buzzers and lights
Grade 6

Frassati Catholic Academy is in its 4th year.  We are a STREAM school, meaning our curriculum integrates Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Math and is coordinated among the staff. As a new school, a grant from MINNDEPENDENT could help our middle school team create an interdisciplinary STREAM curriculum unit for grade 6.  This grant could support a new curriculum with a scaffolding effort in mind, around circuitry and Maker opportunities in the middle school.  On a broader level, we will start 6th by introducing simple circuits using a product called “littleBits.” In the coming years, 7th grade can progress to paper circuits, and by 8th grade, the effort will be to reinforce and expand the curriculum using more sophisticated circuitry work such as breadboards and Arduino projects.  Perhaps, after this effort, robotics won’t be such an overwhelming concept for staff and students. This is the broad vision for the development of a STREAM middle school curriculum. This grant application is the start of a three-year effort to build and grow a circuitry curriculum that is integrated, interdisciplinary and could be a cutting edge model for other schools.  The 6th grade would apply the knowledge of circuitry in a unit called Space: Rockets take Off with Dings, Buzzers and Lights.
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Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School, Minneapolis
Lower School STEAM Lab
Grades K-5

Heilicher Day School is creating a STEAM lab. This past year, administrators, a STEAM consultant, and teacher leaders guided our faculty–improving pedagogy, providing training, and advising on curricular changes to build an inquiry based approach for K-8. As our faculty’s knowledge has grown, the need for an innovative learning space has become clear. We’ve raised the initial seed money for overhead and construction, to transform an existing classroom. Beyond the initial design and construction, there is a need to fully outfit the space for the many “makers” we want to support. This calls for sewing machines, hand/power tools, technology and a wide range of materials for tinkering, designing, coding and creating. While Heilicher can budget for the renovation, this grant would enable the school to purchase materials and be fully operational for the 2018-19 school year. Teachers incorporated a hands-on, inquiry-driven approach to teaching, and identified projects that align with the school’s curriculum and state standards. For example, students designed and made doorstops, a STEAM mural, sets for the school play, and tzedakah boxes.  While students learned and applied knowledge in new, cross-curricular ways, teachers enjoyed the excitement that drove students to dive deep into their work.
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Maplewood Academy, Hutchinson
Virtual Laboratories for Science, Math and Technology
Grades 9-12

Maplewood Academy wants to implement the use of virtual laboratories in our science, technology and advanced math curriculum. We use the connected learning model, which means that all of our classes utilize live video conferencing technology to provide a complete, interactive educational experience for high school students on multiple campuses or in a home setting. One key challenge we have faced with this model relates to the lab science classes of Chemistry, Physics and Physical Science. While students can see what is going on in these science classes through live video conferencing, we are aware that some things are lost for those who are not physically present for these lab demonstrations. Virtual labs will empower all our science students to learn from experiments that mimic what happens in the lab. We will also be able to use aspects of the virtual labs in our technology and advanced math courses like trigonometry. If funded, this project will strengthen our science courses through the use of technology. It is a final step in our goal to offer our best holistic education through the connected learning model.
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Martin Luther High School, Northrop
Fish, Flora and Fuel for the Future
Grades 9-12

The Fish, Flora and Fuel for the Future project will provide equipment, teacher training and curriculum used in the new energy classroom building at Martin Luther High School. It will be half greenhouse and half classroom/shop and heated by combination of a geothermal system, solar power and biomass. The green house, in addition to a traditional, soil-based growing area, will contain an aquaponics system. The shop will contain an area for experimenting with alternative fuel sources such as alcohol, electricity, and bio diesel. STEM education will take place on all levels. The aquaponics systems will allow the school to develop and use hands-on curriculum that apply to biology, chemistry, physical science, and physics. Students will study an enclosed ecosystem in which pH levels, bio-filters, temperatures and the health of all organisms will have to be carefully monitored and maintained. This project will enhance and expand the school’s ability to reach and capture the interests of students in our agriculturally driven community. By developing this project from the ground up, teachers and students will learn how to solve problems, whether it be maintaining constant temperatures in a volatile Minnesota climate, treating plant diseases, or keeping fish healthy.
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Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School, New Ulm
Robotics Course