St James primary school in Yamba are helping students prepare for the jobs of the future, thanks to the implementation of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) initiative three years ago.
Students from kindergarten through to year six are learning how to create computer programming for their own games, using their own programming codes.
In kindergarten, students are taught basic coding with ‘Beebots’ (small robots) robotics. They create the programme themselves for the robots by telling the robot where they want it to move.
The moves are calculated in steps where the children have to use maths to work out how many steps forwards, right/left or backwards, that they want their ‘Beebot’ to move.
A floor map has been created of ‘Yamba Town’ where the children have to programme their small robots to move around the town. The students learn how to reprogram their ‘Beebots’ if they run off a road or into a building and are forced to rethink the process and correct the mistakes.
The enjoyment on the faces of the students says it all about this forward thinking learning system.
Every stage has a different robot. Kinders – “Beebots”, Stage 1 – “Cubetto’s”, Stage 2 – “Ozobots” and Stage 3 – “Sphero’s”.
The school has used the money from State government grants to purchase two 3D printers which print out their 3D drawings which are designed on the student’s laptops.
Years 5 and 6 created a garden bed in their ‘Gardens are for Food’ campaign and with the assistance of a retired Tech Drawing teacher, students learnt how to do the isometric (3D) drawings needed to create the garden bed.
The ‘Men’s Shed’ built the garden bed from the drawings and specifications and now the students are selling their vegetables to the school canteen.
The children have also created a maze in the school yard using their technology to create the maze design.
Other projects in the pipeline are: creating a watering system for the garden bed and feed machines for the schools chickens. Every application has to have a purpose, to tackle real world problems.
With Science and Engineering being a prominently male domain, the teachers have formed a girls group which they have aptly named ‘STEM Sisters,’ to help encourage more girls to take an interest in these subjects.
The STEM initiative is an exciting and fun way of giving students 21st century skills.