It’s never too early to encourage active participation in science, technology, engineering and math education, according to Provo City School District and the partners behind the second annual “Tech High Day.”
Tech High Day was hosted Saturday at Provo High School by the district, Google Fiber, DevMountain and other pillars in tech from across the valley.
The hands-on tech experience is designed for junior high students who are eager to learn how to code, design and create with technology.
“They’re making circuits, they’re doing some 3D printing, we have the Infini D space lab,” said Jared Ferguson, science director for the district. “We tried to provide a variety of different things to appeal to kids from all of the different creative aspects that we could.”
This is the second year Google Fiber has partnered with Provo High School to deliver a tech experience to junior high students. It originally started with a focus on involving girls in tech and coding, but that focus broadened to offer free tech classes to any Provo junior high student eager to learn more in the STEM focuses.
One way in particular that was on display at Tech High Day was the Infini D space lab. The mobile trailer is set up like a command bridge, similar to the U.S.S. Enterprise. But rather than Captain Kirk taking the chair, elementary and junior high students are encouraged to “fly” a spaceship by writing and executing basic command scripts.
“We want to give students an opportunity to love learning again through applying the curriculum they learn in the classroom and applying that in lifelike problem-solving situations,” said Brooks Heder, who ran the Infini D space lab module.
As fun as commanding a spaceship or designing a 3-D-printed smartphone case can be, a focus on more common tech use, like internet safety and digital literacy, was also a primary goal of the Tech High Day experience.
“We want these kids to have every opportunity to become producers rather than just consumers,” said Bret McCabe, principal at East Bay Post High School.
But children in Provo City School District don’t have to wait until next Tech High Day to participate in ongoing STEM education. Ferguson said students should visit with their counselors and teachers to find out about extracurricular opportunities and classes that offer opportunities to broaden their STEM goals.
“We want the kids to reach out, to be brave and bold, and we then want to better promote information through the district’s website,” Ferguson said.
The early emphasis on STEM isn’t a once-a-year project or just reserved to Tech High Day. Ferguson said the district plans to emphasize STEM and arts at earlier ages in more active, engaging ways.
“We are particularly interested in making sure we don’t leave anyone behind,” Ferguson said. “That’s going to be a consistent push in our district to get the kids in younger ages involved.”