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Pennridge Fab Lab an incubator for STEM projects


Pennridge School District is bringing hands-on STEM educational concepts to its youngest learners.

From rolling Sphero mini balls (they light up) intended to help kids learn digital coding to creating budgets for crafts and tactile Makey Makey electronic invention kits, youngsters at Robert B. Deibler Elementary School in East Rockhill Township are learning everyday concepts the STEM way.

Karlie Freier, 9, of Sellerville likes controlling the Sphero balls from her iPad. “You have to make it move, it’s my favorite station,” third-grader said.

But what Karlie may not realize is that she’s using digital code to move the flashing ball. She’s doing math computations to tackle the sum of the number of block units she hits or knocks down, and she’s creating the process in which the ball moves toward an end result. She’s created the entire process herself.

Third-grader Anna Kantor, 9, learned how to budget and “shop” for art supplies to create her Valentine’s Day bag because the station required planning as well as executing the art project.

She made choices based on her “budget” of $2. She seemed happy with the end result, though “it was hard,” Anna admitted.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics based curriculum driven programs.

Anna, Karlie, and their peers are learning cutting edge skills in a dynamic way.

Thanks to grant funding from the Pennridge Community Education Foundation and a $1,000 grant from PPL in Allentown, kindergarten through fifth-graders at Deibler can explore the Fab Lab as part of their regular school day.

Tracee Myers a third-grade teacher and Amy Weir, who teaches fourth grade at Deibler, co-wrote the grants to set up the space, formerly a storage area.

“[Students are] learning math and problem solving and creativity. It’s all about engagement and taping into that while giving them a purpose,” Myers said.

Myers said the space was designed to augment regular classroom activities and prepare students better for 21st-century jobs.

Weir said because students learn in different ways the Fab Lab provided a chance to use their specific “learning intelligences” – among them mathematical, visual/spatial, verbal/linguistic and body or kinesthetic, to relate to core subjects such as math, science and English.

“The types of skills our kiddos are learning are for jobs that don’t even exist yet,” said Casi Plourde, Deibler principal.

Derstine, who is PPL regional affairs director for Southeastern Pennsylvania, said Pennridge received one of 25 grants provided to area educators to further STEM education through the company’s Empowering Education Grant program.

“We support STEM-focused learning and getting kids interested in science career opportunities with this exposure. … It’s really exciting to be here,” Obando-Derstine said.

The FAB-LAB/Maker space is available to teachers for their students on a first come, sign-in basis.

The room includes a green screen space to create video content and a Bloxels Builder video game creation station.