Students show off robotic skills

Middlesboro Middle School eighth grade students showcased some of the skills they have acquired from Project Lead The Way on Tuesday for the Middlesboro Independent Education Foundation.

The projects on display were from Georgina Anderson’s automation and robotics class in which students learn about gear systems and robotic programming.

In the class, students complete a series of challenges. The challenge on Tuesday included completion of an obstacle course using their robot. The students had to adjust the speed of the robot motor and the time the motor runs to complete the course.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” said Anderson about the robot obstacle course.

The next challenge the students will face in the upcoming weeks includes the design and operation of a store sign. For the challenge, the sign must include the name of the shop, rotate in a complete circle when turned on and be able to be turned on by a switch and turned off by another switch to conserve energy throughout the night.

The student will also take part in a robot drag race. Students will have a starting line, finish line and a stop point. Students will be evaluated on how fast the robot gets from the start line to the finish and how close the robot stops to the stop point.

Following this, the students will continue to have a series of challenges.

Students in the class told the foundation’s members that they enjoy their new science classes over the more traditional classes. Students said they have barely touched a textbook, learning through more hands-on activities.


13th robotics competition set for Nov. 3 on WKU campus


The Western Kentucky University Department of Engineering will conduct the 13th annual Kentucky Bluegrass Robotics Competition on Saturday, November 3.


The event is from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the WKU Engineering and Biological Sciences Building. About 15 teams from a dozen schools are expected to participate.


The competition is a high school outreach effort for the Department of Engineering.




T.K. Stone students lead the way in engineering


Students at T.K. Stone Middle School gathered in a hallway Tuesday to launch cardboard with rubber bands. But instead of a teacher breaking up the party, adults grouped around them, impressed by the engineering lesson unfolding in front of them.

T.K. Stone Middle School teachers and students demonstrated the efforts of Project Lead the Way to corporate partners who helped make the engineering course possible.

Teacher Missy Mills explained class structure to representatives from companies including LG&E, Lowe’s and Dow Corning, and a group of eighth-graders shared class work and lessons they’ve learned in the new program.

Project Lead the Way introduces students to engineering in middle and high school and recently was adopted by several other local schools including North Hardin, Central Hardin and Elizabethtown high schools and J.T. Alton Middle School.

Mills was hired this year to teach the classes, which are taken by more than 100 eighth-graders at the middle school — almost the entire grade.

The course gives students a chance to learn about career opportunities in engineering and its role in developing everyday products. Students begin by studying the design process and are creating three-dimensional designs with software. Energy and robotics lessons follow.

Mills said she is impressed by how quickly students have taken to the lessons.

“This generation, this is the type of stuff they need to be doing,” she said. “Because they’re so good at it.”

Students showed models and presentations they’ve developed in class, including cardboard “skimmers” they built using blueprints. They launched the models with rubber bands, sending them flying along the hall.

While students used blueprints, they were able to tweak the plans to study effects of different designs.

Dania Shoaib and Emma Vaught shared a presentation on the evolution of the cellphone. Shoaib has several family members who are engineers, so she’s had a lot of exposure to the field.

“I’ve always liked putting stuff together,” she said.

Vaught said the class quickly became popular among her classmates.

“It was the new class and everybody kind of wanted to try it,” she said.

The classroom is walled by new computers donated by LG&E, and Vaught said they’re the best ones in the school. Vaught said administrators wanted the room and class to be “outstanding, and they did a really good job.”

Ed Staton with LG&E said workforce readiness is a critical issue for Kentucky, as is student retention. Schools need efforts like Project Lead the Way to keep students interested in school. The partnership also benefits the company because it hires engineers, he said.

“We want kids to be excited about engineering, because I’m getting ready to retire,” he said.




Statewide ArcGIS Site License Expands STEM Education in Kentucky

The Commonwealth of Kentucky's recently signed Esri Educational Site License makes ArcGIS technology available to all K–12 public and private school students in the state. The license will be managed by the Kentucky Geographic Alliance (KGA), a longtime supporter of geography initiatives for elementary and secondary schools.

KGA will assist local schools with the integration of geographic information system (GIS) technology into math, earth science, and social studies classes based on statewide curriculum standards and will work with Kentucky Department of Education curriculum coordinators for guidance.

"The Kentucky Geographic Alliance is interested in providing the K–12 Kentucky STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] communities with an opportunity to participate in a top-three technology of the future," said Scott Dobler, faculty member of the Department of Geography and Geology at Western Kentucky University and codirector of KGA. "Along with nanotechnology and biotechnology, geotechnology was named as one of the three most important emerging fields by the US Department of Labor. Geography skills are necessary in today's globalizing market. Our students must learn how to interpret spatial information and understand complex linkages to be successful in today's global economy."

Dobler indicated that students will work on projects that reflect local community issues. ArcGIS Online will be used as a tool to communicate the results of these projects to neighboring schools and districts and, potentially, local legislators and other interested parties.

KGA plans to introduce GIS through workshops for teachers and technology coordinators. The teachers, including those in career and technical education (CTE), will focus on classroom implementation, while the coordinators will emphasize support center chain of command network decisions.

"Kids can build readiness for college and careers in many different subjects and activities with GIS, even at a young age," said Charlie Fitzpatrick, K–12 school program manager at Esri. "Kentucky's long history of GIS use means folks know that it is a problem-solving technology, and they want their kids to develop long-term integrated content knowledge and procedural skills in a real-world context."



Conference to explore STEM opportunities for Kentucky girls

Kentucky educators and others interested in helping girls succeed in math and science will convene a conference next month to explore new opportunities and to share strategies for overcoming roadblocks.

The Kentucky Girls STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Collaborative, in partnership with The Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University, will hold its fourth annual conference, “Collaboration: The Key to Successful Programming for Girls in STEM,” on Friday, Oct. 12, at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green.

Educators, counselors, business and community leaders, parents and girls are invited to come meet others with a strong desire to see girls discover opportunities available to them within the STEM fields. Conference attendees will explore up-and-coming career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math and learn proactive steps to help girls overcome roadblocks to their success in these fields.

Keynote speakers include Claudia Rawn, faculty in the University of Tennessee, Department of Material Science and Engineering; Brian Mefford, founder and chairperson of Connected Nation; and Ron Crouch, director of research and statistics for the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet. For girls attending the conference, young women in STEM fields will share their strategies for success.

Exhibitors from prominent Kentucky industries as well as girl-serving organizations and programs will be available to meet with conference attendees. Lunch will be provided on-site.

The Kentucky Girls STEM Collaborative will also host a “Girls STEM Day,” in partnership with Western Kentucky University’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the SKyTeach Program, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, on the WKU campus. Registration is $5 per student and includes a pizza lunch.  Girls in grades 5-8 are welcomed to join for an afternoon of hands-on, minds-on exploration into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Female STEM practitioners and educators will lead girls through activities that mirror real-world STEM tasks and highlight creative and innovative problem solving. Participants will also learn how to best prepare themselves to study STEM fields in high school and college.

Click here for more information and to register for the conference and Girls STEM Day. Registration for the conference is $25 per person, $10 of which will go toward sponsoring future Kentucky Girls STEM events. On-site registration and check-in for the conference begins at 8:30 a.m. Welcome begins at 9 a.m. Professional development credit is offered for all teachers, and EILI credit for school administrators and counselors.

A flyer for the conference is available for download as a PDF.



STEM grant leads to new student program


Northern Kentucky University recently received a $600,000 grant to establish a program that will recruit, retain and graduate “financially needy, academically talented students” in the STEM discipline. The National Science Foundation Scholarships in STEM grant will contribute to Project SOAR. The key elements of the program will include faculty mentors, a year-long freshman seminar; STEM learning and living communities, opportunities for research, internships and co-ops, entrepreneurship training and academic support services.


Educators push to improve STEM skill sets


People in Kentucky and across the country increasingly realize the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes. “STEM” is a popular buzzword these days, but one national group is actually doing more than talking about it, here in Kentucky and elsewhere.
Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a 501(c)3 organization, provides rigorous and innovative STEM education curricular programs for secondary and middle schools. More than 4,200 schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses.
PLTW’s comprehensive curriculum has been collaboratively designed by teachers, university educators, engineering and biomedical professionals and school administrators. Its focus is developing critical thinking, creativity, innovation and real-world problem-solving skills in students.
To engage easily bored students, the curriculum is hands-on and project based. It exposes them to areas of study that they typically would not pursue. It is also designed to provide them with a foundation and proven path to future success in higher education and the workforce.
In Kentucky, Project Lead The Way operates within the College of Engineering at the University of Kentucky. Of the state’s approximately 250 public secondary and 250 public middle schools, 109 offer PLTW classes.
Dianne Leveridge serves as the state’s affiliate director. A former electrical engineer now retired from Lexmark, she enjoys working now in education. Her job is “an honor and a privilege,” she said, and provides “an opportunity to build that STEM pipeline.”
Leveridge said she enjoys visiting PLTW schools to see students so excited about and involved with learning.
“It’s not the sage on the stage,” Leveridge said. “Students are solving the problems.”
Middle and high-school teachers attend summer programs at UK to become certified by PLTW to teach classes in biomedical or engineering tracks in their schools. After taking the three or four PLTW courses and passing rigorous exams, high school students can earn college credit from UK.
Kentucky’s PLTW program has hosted the Gateway Academy, a week-long pre-engineering day camp for matriculating seventh graders, but future sessions are uncertain because of UK’s budget cuts. The MARS Rover Challenge Competition, held on a Saturday in March, draws fifth-graders from across the state.
Franklin County’s school system is a model for PLTW, according to Leveridge. Teachers with the program have received national recognition and the PLTW methods have even been added to some elementary school classes.
Middle and high-school students can participate in PLTW STEM classes only at schools within a certified school district, but there are exceptions; sometimes students can attend school in another, certified district. Apollo High School in Owensboro allows even home-schooled students to attend its PLTW courses.
Scott County and Woodford County school districts have adopted PLTW. Fayette County, however, has opted out, due to cost.
“Although we have been unable to participate in Project Lead the Way in the past, we are currently exploring ways to partner with area businesses to enable the district to join the initiative,” said FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton.
“Our district currently uses the Engineering by Design [EbD] curriculum for teaching STEM education in our technical education classes,” said James Hardin, Fayette County Public Schools’ coordinator of career and technical education. “Since the EbD curriculum is provided at no cost to all school districts throughout the state, and with the continuing reduction in Perkins funding from the federal government, this seemed to be the most logical and best stewardship of the funding resources.”
Among the Kentuckians who are concerned about the academic weak points of recent high-school graduates are members of the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (KAM). The organization has a clear insight into how unprepared young Kentuckians are to land or keep skilled jobs in STEM fields. As jobs go unfulfilled for lack of qualified workers with strong STEM backgrounds, the economy grows at a slower rate.
That situation is reflected in an October 2011 survey conducted by Deloitte for the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Institute. (See “The Manufacturing Skills Gap” on page 11 of this edition.)
Recently KAM members decided to endorse Project Lead The Way (PLTW) as a valid solution to reduce the high level of remediation that high-school graduates currently need as they try to continue their education or acquire selective work skills.
Greg Higdon, KAM president and CEO, said that his organization “fully endorses PLTW as a highly effective, nationally recognized program that is already having a significant impact in developing the talent pool we need now and in the future to compete in the global economy.”
Higdon described PLTW as “a great asset to our commonwealth [that] is helping develop the high-performance workforce that is critical to facilitating the transformation of Kentucky’s manufacturing community from traditional to advanced.”
In fact, KAM believes so strongly in STEM education’s importance to the state’s economic future that in January 2012 the organization prepared a white paper on the subject titled “Remediation Reduction:  A Pathway for Postsecondary Readiness.”
The paper explains the high cost of remedial education in lost jobs and opportunities, and it argues for the expanded STEM education opportunities that PLTW offers.
“We are pleased with our partnership with the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers to provide students of the commonwealth access to STEM choices they may otherwise have overlooked,” Leveridge said. “Today’s manufacturing jobs in Kentucky, as well as the nation, depend upon highly developed critical and analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills.”
PLTW’s President and CEO Vince Bertram said that the organization “is proud to be endorsed by the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers.”
He noted that PLTW works “to prepare students for the global economy, and that means preparing them for postsecondary and workforce experiences in STEM fields, including advanced manufacturing.”


Eastern Kentucky University hosts summer camp for gifted and talented


A summer camp at Eastern Kentucky University for gifted and talented students entering grades 4-6 emphasized the STEM-H disciplines: Science, technology, engineering, mathematics  and health.


The fifth annual event, titled “Soar to the New Heights,” was conducted June 18-29 at EKU’s state-of-the-art New Science Building, which opened to students earlier this year.


The camp ran 8 a.m. to noon each weekday through the two-week period and featured five courses taught by EKU graduate students mentored by EKU faculty:


• “Science on the Move” — Students combined their curiosity of science with the excitement of physical activities. Students traveled through and explored a variety of science modules, including anatomy, exercise physiology and nutrition.


• “Explore the Universe: The Solar System” — Students learned about the motion of the planets, the relationship between the Earth and moon and more. They also created art projects based on what they learned. Students created bottle rockets out of 2-liter soda bottles and launched them using a bike pump.


• “CSI: Crime Science Investigators” —Students were a part of a detective team and learned about different techniques forensic scientists use to catch lawbreakers.


• “Space Odyssey” — Students traveled back in time with the Greek and Roman gods and learned dozens of constellations and the stories behind their characters. They spent time in the Star Lab —a bubble big enough for 30 kids – where they learned how to chart the stars and find constellations. Students watched a video about how NASA used the space shuttle to explore space and experiment with objects in zero gravity. Teams built the interior of the cabin of a shuttle and designed their own space station.


• “Lego-Botics” — Students enjoyed a hands-on robotics lab where they built problem-solving skills in the STEM disciplines. Students modeled real-life mechanisms to explore the world of engineering while showing their critical thinking and logic skills.




Central Kentucky teachers win STEM awards

Lexmark International has honored two Kentucky teachers with its INSPIRE Teaching Award. John Grieb, a biology teacher at Bryan Station High School, and Jessica Roberts, a seventh-grade science teacher at Beaumont Middle School, received $1,000 checks this spring for classroom needs.

The INSPIRE program recognizes outstanding Central Kentucky area middle and high school teachers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 


See Blue STEM Camp 2012

The University of Kentucky invites your student to participate in the See Blue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp June 11 – 15, 2012 at the University of Kentucky. The week-long day camp is designed to help students explore and integrate the STEM disciplines through hands-on projects and real world applications.
Dates: June 11 – 15, 2012
Ages: All students entering 6th – 9th grades for the 2012-2013 school year
Cost: $200
Where: University of Kentucky, Mining and Mineral Resources Building
Activities: Instruction in engineering, mathematics, neurobiology, astronomy, and LEGO robotics. There will be a robotics competition on the final day.
Time: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each day
Lunch: Provided for each participant of the camp.


NSF Awards $1.3 Million for Science and Engineering After School Program

BLACKSBURG, Va. (Feb. 13, 2012) — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the School of Education at Virginia Tech and the College of Education at the University of Kentucky$1.3 million to implement and evaluate an inquiry-based after school program for middle school students in rural Appalachia. The three-year project, titled "Studio STEM: Engaging Middle School Students in Networked Science and Engineering Projects," uses engineering design activities that integrate digital modeling, social media and game development tools to engage youth in investigating concepts and skills to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This new project is funded through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Program at NSF.


Michael A. Evans, associate professor in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech, serves as the principal investigator.


"Studio STEM is unique because it uses social media, the Internet, and digital communication technologies to engage middle school youth in science and engineering," Evans said.  "We've taken technologies often used for leisure and applied them toward purposeful ends. Our goal in Studio STEM is to prepare youth for the 21st century workplace where these skills are essential."


Christine Schnittka, assistant professor in the UK Department of STEM Education, is serving as principal investigator on the UK portion of the collaborative project.  Other collaborators include Brett Jones from the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech and Carol Brandt from Temple University.


"All children are natural engineers – they want to tackle the problems that are relevant to their lives, but often don't have the tools, resources, or confidence to even begin," Schnittka said.  "Children in rural, isolated Appalachian communities will benefit from Studio STEM as they work with mentors to engineer solutions, apply the math and science they learn in school, and connect to others."


At three after school sites in southwestern Virginia, Studio STEM provides teacher workshops and opportunities for middle school youth to explore relationships between energy transfer and engineering design in a studio setting. A design studio is a learning environment in which collaborative, problem-based learning is integrated with digital tools and online data exchange. Youth design, build, test, re-design, and re-test their ideas as they explore the materials and processes related to energy transfer and environmental issues related to energy conservation and sustainability.


The UK College of Education is developing engineering design-based curricula to engage youth in real-world issues related to energy sustainability and the environment. Science and mathematics conceptual understanding is key to the curriculum design. While these curricula are being implemented in after-school settings in rural western Virginia, they are also being used locally at middle schools in Central Kentucky, and in Kenton County, Ky.


The College of Education will lead teacher training in science and engineering for the grant, and evaluating the effectiveness of these curricula. Virginia Tech investigators add training on social media and motivating students, while Temple focuses on studio-based learning.


The Studio STEM model uses a team-based approach, led by teachers selected from the school sites with assistance from undergraduate science and engineering majors at Virginia Tech who act as volunteer facilitators.


"By asking the right questions at the right time, these mentors motivate and reassure girls and boys that they have the ability to solve difficult problems," Brandt said. "The undergraduates help youth build the confidence they need to participate in science and engineering."


Career exploration is another major component of Studio STEM and the project is partnering with the local engineering and technology businesses in southern Appalachia through the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council and the Science Museum of Western Virginia to offer youth information about new, emerging careers in technology, science, and engineering.


Studio STEM serves as a model for partnerships among universities, rural schools, science museums and centers, and businesses that can be adopted to address local education, professional development, and workforce needs.


"Studio STEM engages students in fun learning activities that involve important science, technology, engineering, and math concepts without the pressure of standardized testing," Jones said.   "By collecting and analyzing real-world data to test their ideas and solve problems, students get firsthand experiences in what it's like to be a scientist and engineer."


Schnittka summarized the goal of Studio STEM by saying, "Our hope is that youth will begin to feel empowered to be problem solvers for the world, see themselves as change agents, and see the relevance of STEM disciplines in their lives and communities."


For more information, visit, or contact Schnittka at or Michael Evans at You may also visit Studio STEM on Facebook.