La Grande, Ore. – Envision a frontier school in Eastern Oregon, hours from any urban center. Parked at the school is the Greater Oregon STEM Hub’s (GO STEM) Mobile Maker Lab (MML). During the morning classes, the MML staff are invited in classroom to teach STEM (Science-Technology-Mathematics-Engineering) topics. The instructor uses electrical kits to teach fifth graders the basics of circuitry. Taking small groups to the MML trailer in the afternoon, the STEM instructor shows students how to use wire strippers, a soldering iron, and other tools to make a safe extension cord. A visiting electrical contractor inspects the cords so they comply with code and then stays to help students become aware of the kinds of occupations where electrical knowledge and technical skills are needed.
This is part of the vision of GO STEM, one of Oregon’s 13 regional STEM Hubs. The GO STEM Hub supports regional efforts to bring strong STEM awareness and career connectedness to seven Eastern Oregon counties (Wallowa, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Baker, Grant, and Harney). The Mobile Maker Lab and staff are the methods of delivery of direct instruction for students, professional development for teachers, and community resources for those needing/wanting access to technology and skills leading to career options. Specifically designed to serve regions where there are fewer resources and STEM opportunities, the aim is to provide students, teachers, and community members with access and knowledge that can help propel many to career options in STEM. The Mobile Maker Lab consists of a trailer designed with tinkering stations and a van fully stocked with tools and materials. The MML is staffed by an educator who has experience with STEM and especially maker technologies such as 3-D printing, electronics and robotics, industrial manufacturing, and a variety of trades technologies.
This vision becomes reality thanks to a generous grant from The Ford Family Foundation (TFFF) and partnerships in Eastern Oregon. The Foundation provided GO STEM with $500,000 in funding over the next three years to support staff, curriculum development, and data collection for the MML for this three-year pilot project. Extensive funding and support also come from Amazon Web Services, Oregon Community Foundation, EOU, Woodgrain, The Oregon Department of Education, Students and staff of North Powder Charter School, Legacy Ford, OMSI, and numerous other Eastern Oregon companies and organizations to build out the trailer and van and equip the MML with the required resources.
“We are very excited that with our Mobile Maker Lab, GO STEM will be able to offer additional STEAM resources and support to our educators and students across our wide region. We are also excited for the opportunity to visit diverse schools and strengthen our vast GO STEM community.” Stefanie Holloway, Program Director of GO STEM said.
“Greater Oregon STEM Hub’s collaborative approach is a great way to increase technology and career equity for children and youth in rural and remote schools,” shared Nate Schult, program officer for The Ford Family Foundation. “We’re inspired to see so many funders and community organizations in support of this important program that will create opportunities for rural children and youth to thrive.”
GO STEM’s Mobile Maker Lab staff will work with rural schools and communities to fill curriculum gaps by providing STEM instruction and competency directly in the Eastern Oregon communities where it is needed. The GO STEM Hub coordinates outreach efforts of Eastern Oregon University’s College of Education, the services of Eastern Oregon Educational Service Districts, Career and Technical Education Coordinators, school districts, schools, and employment and industry partners. Through these partnerships, GO STEM continues to develop high-quality programs, outreach, and service to the students and communities across our vast and rural region.