The class, led by librarian Brenda Kahn, encompasses the four disciplines of STEM: science, technology engineering and math, said Courtney Carmichael, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for Closter public schools.
"I hope they see the future potential … I want them to love science and math," she said.
The class is divided into three cycles, each running for one third of the school year. Each class is comprised of 20 to 25 students. The first cycle will end in December, during which time a new group of eighth-graders will begin the STEM class. The final cycle begins in March and runs through the end of the school year.
According to Carmichael, districts tend to reserve these types of classes for "gifted students." However, in Closter the STEM class has been made available to all students, and she has seen all of them thrive and enjoy the class.
"We are living in the age of technology and teamwork and engineering and we wanted to give them the opportunity to step into that world a little bit," said Superintendant Joanne Newberry, who, along with Carmichael and other science teachers, spent a year researching, discussing and planning the class.
"I think that eighth grade is a pivotal year … we want the kids really engaged. At the same time, we were looking at the next generation of science standards and we wanted our students to be ready," Newberry said.
Using the Lego Mindstorms program – provided by the Parent Teacher Organization – students use math and programming language to control the robots. Students began programming the robots using a brick, which allowed them to program the robot directly. As the class progressed, students learned to program the robots from the computer.
"It's more complicated by using the computer, it's another level," Carmichael said.
The students are currently midway through the class, and are programming the robots to conduct various tasks, Carmichael said.
One group of students is using a sensor to make their robot follow a specific color on a path.
Other students are participating in a "sensabot challenge," wherein the students must program the robot as if it were deployed into a hazardous environmental situation to test it for safety.”"
For the full story: http://www.northjersey.com/news/education/expanding-the-reach-of-stem-1.1438399?page=all.