Indiana University; DirectEmployers Institute; and Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division have worked together for two years to encourage Southern Indiana high school students to excel in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Workplace Simulation Project was launched in the Bloomfield School District two years ago. It was made possible by several grants, including a Skill UP! Indiana grant from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Students from five classes — algebra 1, computer science, Reserve Officers’ Training Corp, physics and principles of engineering — are each responsible for one part of an overall project to secure a building’s perimeter and counter intruders’ movements. At the end of the year, the classes make a final presentation and demonstrate their prototype.
Sophie Haywood, associate director of the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration in IU’s School of Education, said students began working on the project in September. Each class had a specific component to the project that aligned with their classroom curriculum. Students viewed a working prototype of the project in January. They worked independently until a couple of weeks before the end of the project at which time they came together to put all the components together to test the surveillance system.
“It was impressive to watch five different classes of students entering the gym at the same time,” she said. “Everyone was engaged, and it was very exciting to watch students doing their part and having success with the project.”
The results of the Workplace Simulation Project include greater student interest in the school’s computer science course than ever before. The project will expand to the Loogootee, Paoli, Shoals and Spring Valley school districts, with French Lick Resort and Stimulus Engineering as industry partners for the 2017-18 school year.
Haywood said the project benefits students and teachers in several ways.
“Students are working one day a week with professionals in STEM fields, so they are receiving quality mentoring from scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” she said. “We support teachers as they implement Project Based/inquiry based curriculum, developing their classroom curriculum to align with the project. The information the students are learning is applied to the project, so they make real-world connections between what they learn in the classroom and how it connects with the project. Teachers attend two weeks of professional development during the summer, and there are ongoing consultations throughout the school year from the IU School of Education and the P-16 team.”
“Our goal is student achievement and helping with college and career readiness,” she said. “We are supporting kids who might not have those experiences without these opportunities.”
Kirk White, assistant vice president for strategic partnerships in IU’s Office for Engagement, said employers throughout Indiana are experiencing a shortage of recent high school graduates who have an aptitude for technical positions.
“At IU, our hope is that this program will encourage more young Hoosiers to pursue additional education and be prepared for success in the many positions that are currently available,” he said.
More information about the Workplace Simulation Project is available online.