It was an exciting day at Winton Woods Middle School when 17 General Electric (GE) employees and volunteers of the GE Next Engineers program made a special visit to the school to speak and spark students' interest in engineering. In 2021, the Next Engineers program was created in hopes of increasing the diversity of young people in engineering. During their visit, students participated in the “Tallest Tower Challenge” where they were tasked with building and designing towers that could support the weight of a golf ball. A group of eight talented and determined eighth graders made a record-breaking tower of fifty-two inches, setting a new city record and surpassing Princeton Middle School from the previous semester by nearly 10 inches.
Over 700 students from schools around the Cincinnati area have participated in the challenge. “Students at Winton Woods have a unique learning experience as the building is modeled after a college campus,” said Abdine A. M. Lewis, Program Coordinator of GE Next Engineers. “The sense of agency that students have in their learning was evidenced in their ability to work productively in teams and create brilliant tower designs and structures. Many students showed courage and persistence as they strove to create a tower design that was tall, sturdy, and creative.”
STEM programs offered at Winton Woods include a GE Engineers summer internship opportunity for high school students, a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) Academy for girls in Grades 7-12, Project Lead The Way at the middle and high school, and elective classes such as robotics, computer engineering, and 3-D printing. “According to businessinsider.com, we have a STEM problem in the U.S.,” said Winton Woods Executive Director of Teaching and Learning for Grades 7-12 Dr. Tamra Ragland. “The U.S. currently ranks 27th among developed nations in the number of bachelor’s degrees given in science or engineering. This same research says that most Americans believe this issue is due to our education system not having the capacity to provide students with requirements necessary to fill these STEM jobs. At Winton Woods, we provide students with rigor and standards-driven project-based learning as well as innovative combined math and science courses. These courses provide cross-disciplinary projects and student-centered learning strategies which are evidence of a systemic change toward personalized, competency-based learning. This is translating to better outcomes and preparedness for our students in STEM.”
Recently in a robotics class students held a small parade for pull toys they created as part of a series of projects that will ultimately lead to students being able to write code to automate their projects. For their first project, they took basic mechanisms and connected them to a moving part to create pull toys. The next step will be automation. “The pull toy had to be physically pulled for the parts to move,” said Winton Woods Middle School robotics teacher Carlee Bongiorno. “The final project will require them to use buttons, switches, and sensors along with motors, other electrical components, and they will need to write the code and download the code into the main cortex so that the robot automatically performs the desired behaviors.”
The Girls STEAM Academy offered by Queen City (OH) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated, an organization linked in friendship and connected in service, has served Winton Woods Middle School female students in Grades 7-12 for over nine years. The Academy is a dynamic, interactive, 9-month program that exposes participants to interesting, fun, and often unexpected STEAM-related activities and workshops with guest speakers that talk about STEM careers. The group meets virtually once a month on Saturday. Each month the girls receive STEM time kits that contain the activities for the session. President of the Queen City (OH) Chapter of the Links, Incorporated Ruby Crawford-Hemphill says this year they added NSBE Jr. to join their engineering program so they can compete and attend national conferences. “Our aim is to expand the participants’ views of STEAM professions to encourage them to consider STEAM majors and careers when they attend college,” said Crawford-Hemphill. “We also encourage the young ladies to enroll in advanced math and science classes throughout high school.” There are fifty members of the chapter who are dedicated and committed to giving their time and wisdom to these young ladies to see that they are successful in this program and life. Crawford-Hemphill shared they are all very proud of them.
PHOTO CAPTION: Winton Woods Middle School students participate in a small parade for the pull toys they created in their robotics class. Photos by Drew Jackson.