STEM Bicycle Club rolls hands-on learning into eight schools


Students at eight area schools will learn hands-on STEM skills while reverse-engineering a bike during a 10-week bicycle building workshop this spring.
 
The Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club is a demonstration project of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC). Kathie Maynard, GCSC convener as well as director of community partnership at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, describes the collaborative as a “STEM education accelerator. It is really about innovating the types of education that we should be having: connected to the real world and to careers. We really want the programs we develop to have a partnership between the K-12 schools, business and industry and community partners.”
 
GCSC launched the Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club in 2014 as a partnership among Woodward Career Technical High School, General Electric and Time Warner Cable. Students worked with mentors in a weekly after-school workshop learning science and math skills, developing their mechanical abilities and writing about their experiences.
 
Results for the 2014 program were so positive that GCSC is expanding the STEM Bicycle Club to seven other schools in six local school districts: Aiken High School (Cincinnati Public), Amelia Middle School (West Clermont Local School District), Campbell County Middle School, Clermont Northeastern Middle School, Holmes Middle School (Covington Independent School District), Ockerman Middle School (Boone County Schools) and R. A. Jones Middle School (Boone County Schools). Woodward (Cincinnati Public) will continue its participation.
Woodward student from last year's Bicycle Club 
Maynard says the selection of participating schools reflects GCSC’s efforts “to be inclusive and representative of the region. We most certainly have a heavy emphasis on high-needs schools and at-risk students, but at the same time we really think STEM education (science, technology, engineering, math) is a larger problem than any single school or any single district.”
 
The expanded program also illustrates GCSC’s community-based approach. Walmart is providing funding and materials for the 2015 Greater Cincinnati STEM Bicycle Club and connecting seven of their stores with schools in the community. Maynard says that the hope is to “create the deep partnerships so that one day every kid every year has multiple and extended exposure with these types of authentic STEM experiences (science, technology, engineering and math).”
 
Time Warner and GE have each expressed a commitment to continue their involvement with Woodward and begin new relationships with two other schools, “a sign of success that we are creating lasting partnerships and places where business and industry can really hook into a school and provide help,” according to Maynard.
 
The 10-week program concludes with a May 30 celebration at UC for all eight schools along with business and community partners. Maynard anticipates several big announcements will be made at the event, including that all eight schools will participate in the 2016 program. GCSC hopes to expand the 2016 program exponentially — to 40 area schools — if funding and partners can be secured.
 
GCSC will also be announcing the details two other demonstration projects — one operating on the same model as the Bicycle Club but focused on 3D printing, the other a STEAM collaboration.
 
“Even though we don't always say STEAM (adding arts) we most certainly think that the arts are critical for the development of the whole child … bringing what the arts have to offer in the making, in the dialogue and in the design thinking,” Maynard says. “Those creativity anchors are critical to becoming a STEM innovator.”
 
Demonstration programs are one aspect of GCSC’s work.
 
“Our larger role is to get partners together and look for alignment,” Maynard says. “Convening a group and really starting to have those hard conversations around some of the larger problems, like lack of girls in STEM education, then dream about what the solutions are and create projects that address those answers.”
 
For the 113 kids participating in the STEM Bicycle Club this spring, their dreams of getting their own bike are about to come true — with some assembly required.
 

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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