Corbett Prep’s “Hands On, Minds On”
STEM Elective Engineers Success
Video games help introduce Middle School students to computer programming and engineering basics.
Jan. 31, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Video games in class? The activity is more than fun — it’s a path to careers in medicine, aerospace, information technology, communications and more.
Video games provide the entry point into engineering and computer programming in Hands On, Minds On, an elective Middle School students (sixth, seventh and eighth grades) can take at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. The class uses Gamestar Mechanic, an interactive web platform, to teach students how game design and mechanics work through game playing. Once students work through Gamestar, they progress to the more advanced Greenfoot environment to learn Java programming and create games and simulations.
While the class attracts many students who like the idea of turning video games into a profession, the elective exposes them to other career choices that utilize engineering and programming skills. The students saw engineering in action this fall when they took a field trip to the University of South Florida. They visited the Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory and the Motion Analysis Laboratory to see a robotic arm, a hands-free wheelchair and a virtual reality system, among other technologies. Students used a computer program to build a simulated bridge and had a chance to try to program a robot.
Eighth grader Christian Cole loved the hands-on experience at USF. “They trusted us with everything,” he said.
Teachers Maria Cardona and Chris Ochoa worked with Corbett Prep parent Stephanie Carey, Assistant Research Professor in USF’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, to coordinate the trip. Carey said she hoped the Corbett Prep students learned that although engineering requires hard work, it also is fun and rewarding and can have a positive effect on people’s lives.
“To be a successful engineer requires knowledge and collaboration across disciplines, effective communication, the willingness to respect different perspectives and the ability to work in teams — all skills that are taught at Corbett Prep,” Carey said. “We appreciated the opportunity for our USF students to share their hard work and research with such an enthusiastic and inquisitive crowd.”
Corbett Prep’s strong emphasis on STEM education — science, technology, engineering and math — goes beyond the traditional classes of science and math to encourage the critical thinking skills required for students’ futures in real-world applications. The Hands On, Minds On elective strengthens STEM skills as students master the vocabulary of game design through the Gamestar program, which lays the groundwork for them to move on to programming-oriented projects in games and other applications. They also gain experience with creative problem solving, analytical thinking, understanding how systems work and even writing and storytelling.