Meaningful STEM

Presentation I gave at the NSTA STEM symposium in 2016


  • Make a Difference
  • Be Empowered
  • Find You Passion

Spend 5 months learning engineering or have a life changing experience?

How I pitched the assistive technology engineering class to my students

October 27, 2016, 12:30 PM – 01:30 PM

Minneapolis Convention Center, 203 A/B

  1. Introduction
  2. Meaningful
    1. A real purpose
    2. Engineering a real issue
      1. A true need for 1-off
    3. Most students have someone close to them that has or had a disability that impacted the student
      1. Stories
        1. Student with dad who died from ALS
        2. Student whose brother has autism
      2. An often hidden influence in student’s lives during their teen years
        1. Empower them to make a difference
  3. Design Process
    1. Empathy
      1. No pity
      2. Disability does not mean helpless
      3. Certain Proof documentary
      4. Difficult conversations
        1. Work differently
        2. All have strengths, identify and focus on those
    2. Business model
      1. Gives students a real reason to evaluate and iterate their design
  4. Skills
    1. Engineering
    2. Entrepreneurship
  5. Inspiration
    1. Start each day with a short video, quote, or photo to start class positive
    2. Guest speakers
      1. Kickstarter
      2. Local entrepreneurs
  6. How to start
    1. Find people to collaborate with
      1. Special education teacher, therapist, etc.
      2. Organizations
        1. PACER, Courage Center, etc.
        2. Activities/simulations to understand what it’s like to have a disability
    2. Frame the class
      1. Standards
      2. Theme or topics
        1. Bio, Env Sci, Physics, Economics
    3. Find funding
      1. Groups like lions club like the entrepreneurial aspect
      2. A set budget for each group ($100)
    4. Talk with parents
      1. Explain class and get permissions
    5. Find Clients
      1. In your school, district, or community
    6. Talk with your admin
      1. Have clear goals and foundation set
      2. Some admin will be weary of this type of project and say no purely for legal fears
      3. Get support from parents, students, staff first

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