Monday, July 13, 2015

Running on STEAM

Science Technology Engineering  Art Math

“I can build a computer doing this with Piper.” said one of 7th grade students, “This is so cool!”

Piper, a start-up gaming company, is designing kits that allow students to assemble their working computers and begin their journey into creating lights, motors and DIY hardware. Piper is currently partnering with the Madeleine to bring engineering into the school’s STEM curriculum.

Mr. Willers describes Piper this way, “Think: Erector-Set meets Minecraft. Where you build in the real world and create in the virtual.” 

Mr. Willers met the co-founders of Piper at an EdTech Summit, hosted by BrightBytes (a technology company that measures the impact of technology on learning and education) this fall in SF. At the summit Mr. Willers commented when he saw the kits, “Our students would love this. So many of our students are doing Minecraft anyway, lets bring what they’re doing at home into the learning that’s happening at school.”

Wasn’t too long after, that Piper and the School of the Madeleine formed an innovative partnership. As Willers put it, “Think: Where beta-tester and student engineer become one. One of the parents remarked, “What a great opportunity for students to experience engineering while helping the developers create their product for launch.”

On November 21, 2014 Piper’s founders, Mark Pavlyukovskyy, 23, and Alex Stokes, 24, brought their ‘build-it-yourself ‘ engineering kits to the Madeleine for beta testing with our students. 18 Madeleine students, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade, formed cohorts of three to a kit.  Each cohort embarked on a collaborative and student-directed learning experience with out any instructions or guidance from the founders.

“I was amazed at the engagement levels of the students,” remarked Mr. Nagel, eighth grade teacher.

After the visit, one of the founders, Mark, sent the principal the following e-mail, “Working with your kids at the Madeleine actually really inspired us. Your kids not only completed the entire game level we were testing with them, but gave us really valuable feedback that we are currently incorporating into our platform. We really enjoyed working with you and Ms. Anthony and your children are really blessed to have such enthusiastic mentors.”

The Madeleine continues to partner with TechEd companies and Piper is the latest partnership to date. “If we want our students to thrive in the 21st Century, we have to provide them with opportunities of self-directed learning.” Willers believes, that TechEd companies like Piper, inspire students to own and initiate their own learning while developing the critical thinking skills around engineering concepts. TechEd Teacher, Ms. Anthony observed that, “With no instructions, our 3rd through 8th grade students moved through Piper’s entire sequence of challenges of building circuits and semi-conductors using only Minecraft and the collaboration of their classmates.”

The STEM curriculum at the Madeleine is literally, ‘out of the box teaching.’ “If these type of partnerships continue,” Mr. Willers says, “I’m confident our students will be building computers as part of our curriculum—and that is really cool.”