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For the past month Dixon Middle School’s seventh and eighth graders have had the opportunity to work with Suzy Cox, Phd, Associate Professor of Secondary Elementary at Utah Valley University (UVU), and become engineers. As an effort to increase science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning, the students were put into teams and assigned to build a robot. This robot would need to communicate a social or environmental issue the team is concerned about. These subjects ranged anywhere from bullying, texting and driving and recycling. The topics that were chosen were important issues that, for the most part, directly affected the students. It was amazing to see how these youth were aware of the happenings of the world, and the importance of these social and environmental issues in the news. The students not only displayed the issue but then provided a solution. The creativity used to solve these problems was astounding. The robots were required to use at least one input (sensor) and one output (light, motor, servo, etc.). Every group was able to use the outputs, and most were able to activate the outputs using the sensor. The students at Dixon are very fortunate to be able to work with Cox. She is passionate about STEM and wants to help students understand that there is a lot more to computer science than coding. Building these robots was a thrilling way to get students excited about STEM. Cox taught the students that computer science is fun, and a good way to communicate and solve problems. Cox finds it very important to get students involved with STEM early and avoid labeling it as “nerdy”. “I like to work with middle school students because middle school is when we tend to lose kids – especially girls – from STEM fields as they start to give in to stereotyping.” Cox said. According the to Department of Commerce, only 5.9 percent of the workforce in the United States are STEM related careers. Women hold less than 25 percent of those jobs, and women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees. This is provides evidence that there is a need to encourage and support youth, especially girls, when they spike an interest in STEM learning. Cox has done, and continues to do, a wonderful job helping students understand the many opportunities that are available in the STEM line of work. Cox works hard to encourage students to continue finding joy in the field of science, technology, engineering and math. Cox spends a lot of time helping students understand the importance of STEM learning, and the fun that is involved!

The finished robots were displayed in a Showcase at the UVU School of Education. #ProvoGotSkills

Paige Simpson
  • Paige Simpson