Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are all included in new core standards Tennessee teachers must now teach.
With ever-increasing demands and limited funds, providing state-of-the–art technology is challenging for most rural schools. Upper Cumberland Rural STEM Initiative partnered with Tennessee Tech University to provide a solution for teachers in many rural schools – the STEMmobile.
The STEMmobile is a 53-foot tractor-trailer equipped with the latest technology that moves from school to school within a 21-county district each week. Funding for the STEMmobile came, in part, from a government grant provided by the Race to the Top Program.
The mobile learning laboratory contains 30 iPads, a MacBook, LPC laptops, an audio visual system, six workstations with high-definition television, local area network, server, 30-kilowatt generator, handheld data collection devices and satellite Internet. A lending library is also available to supplement the equipment on board the trailer.
Rob Reab, information technology associate with the Millard Oakley STEM Center of Tennessee Tech University, deploys and monitors the STEMmobile to make sure it is working properly. Reab starts and stops the generator and monitors the alarms. He acts as a resource for remote technical support should something fail to work.
“The STEMmobile is taking a piece of technology from the STEM Center to schools,” Reab said in a phone interview.
According to Reab, 300-600 students use the trailer each week.
The UCRSI trained two teachers from each hub school in the 21-county district it serves to use the STEMmobile. Teachers may direct students in Power Point guided activities and experiments that allow students hands-on learning with modern technology. The students first take a pre-test, then they are guided by the teacher through a learning exercise.
Southside Elementary School played host to the STEMobile from Feb. 3-7. Students in third through eighth grades conducted experiments in the learning laboratory.
Mary Winfree’s sixth-grade science class built a lighted doorbell with two switches using a simple circuit. The activity utilized seven jumper cables, two D-cell batteries, two D-cell battery holders, one light bulb, one light bulb holder and one buzzer. Winfree guided students through directions, which were provided via Power Point presentation and displayed over a television monitor. All 12 students successfully built the doorbell.