The student hated every day in her new high school – until the district hired a teacher who taught computer coding. That student, who shared her experience at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s 2017 STEAM Showcase, is now president of the robotics and coding clubs she founded and plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University.
Her story demonstrated real-life impact as the AIU’s grants for school instruction in STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – help western Pennsylvania’s young people envision their place in the 21st century economy.
In 2016, the AIU funneled grants of $20,000 each to 26 school districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The grants were made possible by the Chevron, Claude Worthington Benedum, and Grable foundations, and it wasn’t a “here’s the check, see you in a year” situation, said Assistant Executive Director for Teaching and Learning Rosanne Javorsky.
The AIU helps schools define goals for use of the funds, starting with fundamental questions of the communications, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills sought by employers. The grants serve purposes customized to each district. Schools have used the funds to:
Help students explore the use of renewable energy in their own school.
Create “maker spaces” equipped with the technology for turning ideas into reality.
Infuse STEAM learning throughout the entire curriculum and create partnerships that expose students to real-world STEAM practices in local organizations.
The results are displayed at the AIU’s annual STEAM Showcase, where tech leaders convene with students. Pittsburgh's most innovative organizations in such budding STEAM industries as artificial intelligence, design thinking, and gaming spotlight their initiatives and the skills they need in their workers.
Students demonstrate the ideas they cooked up through the STEAM grants distributed by the AIU’s Center for Creativity.
Through the showcase and the STEAM grants, students understand how their STEAM skills fit in the workplace they will soon enter.
“The showcase is one of the few spaces where you see students, educators, community members, business leaders, technologists and artists all interacting for a common purpose,” said Javorsky “Everybody’s thinking about what we want the future of this region to be.”