Projectiles soared through the air in the Virginia K. Shehee Biomedical Research Institute Atrium on Saturday afternoon as Caddo Parish teachers and students demonstrated the range and accuracy of catapults they constructed as part of the CaddoSTEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) initiative. This weekend marked the finale of the first of two innovative professional development programs offered to Caddo Parish teachers with the first being TechSTEP (Tech STEM Talent Expansion Program) and the second being STEM EDA (STEM: Explore, Discover, Apply).
TechSTEP is a series of professional development workshops at which middle and high school teachers are mentored by Louisiana Tech University faculty as they participate in hands-on projects that drive to the STEM fundamentals while integrating the liberal arts. After each professional development workshop, the middle and high school teachers then brought their student teams to a subsequent workshop and guided their students in creating the same projects that they recently completed.
TechSTEP was originally created by Louisiana Tech University faculty to engage high school teachers and their students in challenging engineering and science projects that demonstrate applications of high school-level mathematics and science. STEM EDA was developed by the Cyber Innovation Center’s National Integrated Cyber Education Research Center (NICERC) and uses the engineering design process to guide middle school students through the design and implementation of the fundamental projects and concepts. The goal of the two programs is to empower teachers and to ultimately increase the number of students pursuing STEM education and degrees.
“Through these workshops, teachers and students work together to learn the fundamental theories governing projectile motion, explore engineering design methods, and practice global communication skills all within the context of a simple-to-construct catapult, ” explained Dr. Kelly Crittenden, Associate Professor at Louisiana Tech University.
Henry Price, Art Supervisor of Caddo Parish Schools, added, “Another layer of this initiative is the incorporation of the liberal arts. It’s important that students understand that elements of design are all around us and are integrated into a multitude of facets in life. Design can come in the form of marketing a good or service, developing a more efficient system, or innovating the next creation that will impact our daily lives.”
After three and half months of hard work, the final workshop was held on Saturday, February 1, 2014, and included a demonstration of the catapults as each catapult launched a projectile that was then caught by the next team’s catapult. This pattern continued until all eight teams, positioned in a circle, launched and caught the projectile. The eight teams also participated in a greatest accuracy contest and a longest distance contest. The winner of the greatest accuracy contest was North Caddo High School while Southwood High School received the trophy for the longest distance contest.
Billy Neill, an Algebra II teacher at Southwood High School, shared, “The TechSTEP program has allowed my students to better understand how math and science directly relate to each other. By tying the theoretical math to a concrete project, they have a much fuller understanding of why and how all of these ideas work together.”
NICERC Deputy Director, Paul Spivey, added “This weekend was the perfect finale for the TechSTEP portion of CaddoSTEAM with over 70 teachers and students collaborating with university faculty and college-level student mentors. This summer, we’ll continue the CaddoSTEAM initiative with middle school teachers receiving professional development training to implement our hands-on, project driven curriculum called STEM EDA.”
High schools participating in the CaddoSTEAM’s TechSTEP program are Booker T. Washington, C.E. Byrd, Caddo Magnet, Captain Shreve, Fair Park, Huntington, North Caddo, Northwood, and Southwood. Middle schools represented are Broadmoor Middle Laboratory, Caddo Middle Magnet, Keithville Middle, Ridgewood Middle, Youree Drive Middle, and Walnut Hill Middle.
CaddoSTEAM was made possible through the collaboration between Caddo Parish Schools, the Cyber Innovation Center, Louisiana Tech University, and the Biomedical Research Foundation (BRF) and was supported by grants from The Community Foundation of North Louisiana, the Grayson Foundation, Inc., the Poindexter Foundation, Inc., and the Biomedical Research Foundation.
Jay Meyers, BRF Vice President for External Affairs, shared, “The BRF, along with community donors, realize that initiatives such as CaddoSTEAM are an investment in the future of our children and the economic wellbeing of our region.”