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WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab Powered by AT&T looks to bring 'learning by making' experience to urban school districts

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Tue, Feb 21st 2017 02:10 pm

Innovative initiative is a collaboration of Computers For Children, WNY STEM Hub, AT&T to ensure more students have opportunity to experience STEAM and makerspace educational opportunities

AT&T, Computers For Children (CFC) and the WNY STEM Hub announced the launch of the WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab Powered by AT&T. It is designed to provide public and charter schools across Western New York with comprehensive resources and instruction to engage more students in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education and career paths through an immersive educational experience.

The launch was hosted at the Buffalo Academy of Science, the first school to receive the 10-week program for its students before packing up and moving on to the next school. New York State Sen. Chris Jacobs took part in the rollout of the mobile lab and joined students trying out some of the technological and maker assets the WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab is equipped with to bring to schools (pictured).

The innovative educational initiative will offer regional city schools' students hands-on demonstrations and classes, increasing youth's creativity and interest in STEAM fields through "learning by making," offering hands-on activities and access to technologies, while empowering the growing maker movement throughout the region and nation.

A makerspace is a place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge, and to make this more accessible for more for students is the impetus of developing a mobile version.

In addition, the WNY Mobile STEAM and Maker Lab will visit community events and public spaces across the region.

This marks the first mobile STEAM & makerspace in the region, a concept that has been growing in popularity and practice across the country to provide more students in STEAM and makerspace educational opportunities, and will serve as an extension of what students are learning in school by providing a curriculum and technological equipment for the students to build and create innovative designs. The WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab will include various materials that support engineering science, energy science, magnetic science, rocket kits, light science, robotic kits and LEGO Engineering interactive kits, 3-D printers and other engaging hands-on resources.

WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab works in partnership with teachers to develop a custom, 10-week curriculum that supports classroom instruction and expands the learning to the afterschool environment. Educational activities are designed to engage and interest students by exploring elements of light such as refraction and reflection, creating lightsabers and using LEGO "Mindstorms" robots to learn about analytical thinking to solve various courses and engineering problems.

Students work in teams to promote teamwork and collaborative learning. Buffalo ed-tech startup Thimble has also contributed a number of its award-winning electronic maker kits to be included in the WNY Mobile STEAM and Maker Lab.

The lab is unlike other mobile labs that have traveled through the region for a day to promote a new technology or service, as it was created to only service Western New York with the sole purpose of providing inquisitive students an opportunity to learn, innovate and create.

"I would like to thank AT&T for their great support and congratulate Computers For Children and Western New York STEM on the rollout of this new mobile STEM education program," Jacobs said. "These types of innovative partnerships and creative programs are exactly what schoolchildren of all ages need if we are to achieve our collective goal of better preparing our students for the high-tech, innovation economy of the future."

The WNY Mobile STEAM & Maker Lab will make its way to several partner schools, including Buffalo Science Charter (pilot), followed by Tapestry Charter Middle School, Global Charter High School and MST (Buffalo No. 197), by way of a mobile STEM van with equipment and engaging curriculum. Students will engage in activities that introduce them to the basic principles of coding, engineering, project-based learning, manufacturing and production skills, as well as the creative design process and critical thinking skills.

AT&T's support and collaboration in this program is part of the company's legacy of supporting educational programs focused on STEM disciplines in New York through AT&T Aspire, the company's signature $350 million philanthropic initiative that drives innovation in education by bringing diverse resources to bear on the issue, including funding, technology, employee volunteerism and mentoring.

"AT&T is proud to collaborate with these dynamic organizations to develop and support this innovative experience for local young minds as it further enhances our commitment to providing resources for STEM-related educational programming throughout Western New York," said Kevin Hanna, director, external affairs, AT&T. "Our economy continues to transform at a robust pace - requiring a workforce with a focus on technological education and literacy - and STEM and innovative programs like this one are vital to ensure that the students of today are equipped to compete in the global innovation economy of tomorrow."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Department of Labor report much of the growth in the domestic and global economy will come from STEM-related jobs - a highly lucrative and competitive field. It is estimated that, by 2020, there will be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs with more than half made up of digital engineering, computer and coding careers, underscoring the importance of providing youth the tools and skills necessary to compete in the innovation economy.

The WNY STEM Hub is part of the Empire State STEM Learning Network. It facilitates collaboration among business, education, community organizations, arts and cultural organizations, and government entities to advance the interdisciplinary teaching and learning of STEM/STEAM subjects in support of sustained economic and intellectual vitality in the Western New York.

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