The NexStep Alliance partnership expanded to add a mobile STEM lab in 2017, helping students get a hands-on look at science, technology, engineering and math careers in fields like nursing, advanced manufacturing, aviation and more.
Wichita Area Technical College and Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc. are working together to develop a Mobile Learning Lab to allow middle/high students and adult learners alike to have the opportunity to experience the thrill of hands-on, interactive learning in “high-demand technical fields” as identified by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The goal of this mobile lab is to educate Kansans by bringing these in-demand careers to their doorsteps through the use of technology. In this mobile lab students will experience actual and virtual tools that are used in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers throughout Kansas and the United States. The lab will capture the interest of all ages through exploration of STEM education using virtual reality, information technology and hands-on experiences. This exploration of technical careers will ultimately lead more Kansans into career pathways such as Aviation, Advanced Manufacturing and Health Sciences.
The Mobile STEM Learning Lab will consist of a 34-foot trailer that will be pulled throughout the state. Inside the trailer students will participate in a variety of potential STEM career fields with hands on activities. Students will use equipment such as a virtual welder to simulate metal repairs, a virtual painter to get a sense for Aviation/automotive coatings careers, and robotic devices that introduce computer programming, and industrial robotics. The lab will also carry ten zSpace computers which provide students a virtual reality learning experience. These computer stations contain programs related to all STEM careers which allow students to virtually dissect, wire, build and explore STEM topics in 3D. (See the computers, programs and curriculum at zspace.com.)
The FutureMaker Lab is an entire package, intended to provide exploration in the world of STEM. To ensure students receive the most benefit from the visit, teachers will be given curriculum and a lesson plan to present to their students before the Learning Lab arrives in their community. Once there, zSpace computers will be moved into a room in the school for part of the class to explore STEM in 3D, while the remainder of the class goes on to the trailer for hands-on activities; after the allotted time, they will switch.
There will be 2 employees assigned to the lab; one driver/instructor who will assist the students in the trailer and a second coordinator/instructor who will work in the classrooms with the zSpace units. The plan is to have the FutureMaker Learning Lab on the road in the Wichita area by fall of 2017 and touring throughout Kansas during the spring of the 2017-2018 school year.
Our goal is to make the lab available at no cost to students throughout Kansas. Koch Industries, Spirit AeroSystems, Textron and Westar Energy have joined us to start making that goal a reality.
The Mobile Learning Lab will initially introduce students to selected high-demand career paths that they may not be aware of, or considered an option for further study. These paths include topics in:
Using a virtual spray-gun painting device, students will experience in 3D what it might be like to paint objects such as a car door or engine cowling. Once finished, each student can see areas where paint was too thin, too thick, or coated well. Instructors will then assist students in making the connections between cost and quality.
Using small mobile robots that respond to specific colors in combinations, students will be asked to “program” a course that will successfully guide each robot to a destination. This fun demonstration offers students a unique introduction into computer programming as a means step in the process of automating tasks, such as self-driving cars. Instructors will offer a look into the future of industrial automation, and career paths in this growing field of study.
Utilizing a virtual reality welding system, students will try their hand at steel welding in a virtual helmet which simulates the real thing in surprising fashion. This will offer students a look into the balance of art and science that skilled welding requires. Instructors will aid in making the connection between careers, and the importance of welded metal joints in manufactured everyday use products.
If you would like more information about one of our programs or services, please complete the secure form below to contact us or call Program Manager Shea Zuckerman at 316-677-9912.