A team of engineering students at James Madison University in Virginia has designed a mobile learning studio aimed at empowering the next generation of students to explore and pursue STEM disciplines.
The STEM Wagon is an ‘interactive, learning module museum’, said team member Emma Myers. ‘I think it’s important that we’re getting kids excited [about STEM] at a younger age, so as they go through middle and high school, they’ll know what to expect.’
The mobile trailer – repurposed from an old campervan purchased by engineering professor Steven Harper – features four interactive learning modules that revolve around engineering. Myers is working on a robotics module that will teach students simple coding. Other modules include a water-filtration system and an interactive game in which players’ body movements are captured and analysed. ‘We took some time figuring out what we think the kids would enjoy – getting them excited about STEM,’ said team member Kaylee Donnelly.
The project has been passed down for several semesters and is now under the management of its fourth student team.
Adebayo Ogundipe, head and professor of JMU’s engineering department, believes in the lasting impact of the project. ‘Engineering practice requires a strong sense of civic responsibility and a focus on the common good,’ he said. ‘This project is designed to educate and inspire, which are some of the bests impacts of good engineering work.’
The trailer can comfortably accommodate about 20–25 students.
In addition to polishing up the learning modules, the team is ensuring that the trailer has the correct weight distribution to travel safely on the road, the last crucial step to complete before the team can begin taking the STEM Wagon to local schools.