After years of planning and fund-raising, the Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC) launched the innovative STEM to THEM mobile lab. The bus will travel to 14 elementary schools across Monroe county, introducing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to pre-K-6th grade students. The Smithville Charitable Foundation donated $25,000 to the project.
The Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools (FMCCS) raised and spent about $375,000 for the vehicle and robotics and maker labs, according to FMCCS Executive Director Cyrilla Helm. Numerous other community sponsors contributed as well.
A long-time dream in the making, the bus will travel to all MCCSC elementary schools twice a year, remaining at each school for approximately one week in the fall and one in the spring. Debra Prenkert, MCCSC director of elementary education, said students would complete a computer science lesson and coding in the fall and study engineering in the spring.
Grades K-2 will use Bee-Bots to learn algorithms and problem-solving, grades 3-4 will use Dash Robots to learn block-based coding, and grades 5-6 will use Micro:bits to learn more advanced coding, Prenkert said. Each stage acts as a building block to the next, encouraging collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
The STEM mobile lab helps bridge economic divides, allowing MCCSC children in every school an equal opportunity to learn with resources not all schools can afford to purchase. Also, the STEM bus will provide STEAM resources to students in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.
The bus comes equipped with a laser cutter, 3D printer, color-coded lab stations, whiteboard cabinets that students can write on, three TV monitors, and robots to assist the learning process. It also has a wheelchair lift, a TV monitor, and an awning outside the bus. If COVID-19 regulations remain in place through the fall, the outside TV monitor and awning will allow students to continue lessons outside.
“This was a dream, and today it’s a reality,” MCCSC Superintendent Judy DeMuth said.