Real-World Projects Spark Girls’ Interest in Science

How do middle schoolers at St. Catherine’s School engage in design thinking and experience the engineering process? One example is by learning to build underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). In coordination with their Robotics Genius Hour curriculum, and utilizing the school’s innovative maker spaces, girls gain hands-on experience with tools, electrical circuits, and switches as they create their unique designs.

“This is the way things are actually done in the real world,” says eighth grader Compton Sprinkle. “And it’s really fun and interesting to work with tools like a soldering gun, a drill, and electrical wires.”

The project-based learning activity requires them to work collaboratively —troubleshooting problems, resolving issues, and modifying their designs. Teachers motivate students to fully engage in the engineering process, helping them grasp key concepts such as buoyancy and density.

This interdisciplinary program is one example of how the school provides girls the opportunity to explore and embrace STEM-related curricula and careers, and highlights the importance of solving real-world problems. Another example is the eighth grade’s annual three-day field trip to the Chesapeake Bay, when they discover the potential benefits to environmental sciences by using their ROVs to explore the Bay’s estuaries.

“Working with the underwater ROV’s gave me a new perspective on engineering,” says Cannon Diradour. Her classmate Eleanor Robb agrees. “We’ve spent a lot of time learning to build and program FIRST LEGO Robotics,” she says. “With the ROVs, we’re not working with kits — in life, things don’t come in kits.”

Does your school do something similar?

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