Vicksburg, Miss.— The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) is continuing efforts to introduce the community’s youth to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL) is taking its ERDC Mobile STEM Lab to various elementary schools across the Vicksburg area, giving students in grades 3-6 a chance to participate in STEM, while introducing them to ERDC and the career potential that it offers. An Army Education Outreach Program (AEOP) grant was used to purchase the stream table used in the mobile lab.
The lab spent the first three weeks of the school year at Bowmar Elementary and is currently displayed at Bovina Elementary School until Friday, Nov. 3.
The ERDC Mobile STEM Lab focuses on introducing students to Fluvial processes – the most prevalent mechanisms acting on Earth’s land surface— as well as landforms, new terms and concepts related to the movement of water over land. The goal is to provide hands-on STEM activities to students, exposing them to real-world connections through science and engineering.
Lauren Dunkin, chief of CHL’s Coastal Engineering Branch, and her team developed the mobile lab to help move ERDC’s community outreach initiative forward, encouraging possible future STEM professionals in the process.
“Elementary students are the perfect age group to interact with the stream table and reinforce science and engineering problem-solving practices through observation and measurements,” said Dunkin. “The stream table and lessons are designed to support our local STEM educators and inspire future ERDC team members through hands-on discovery of channel formation and sediment movement.”
Elementary school teachers praised the project for piquing the students’ interest. Tondia Ferracci, who teaches STEM to kindergarten through 6th grade at Bowmar Elementary, said her students enjoyed learning how the project has been used in the Mississippi River.
“The lab created an amazing opportunity for students to see the results of drought, normal rain conditions and flood conditions along the banks of the Mississippi River,” said Ferracci. “Students were intrigued by how much the river was altered and how much it changed course.”
One of Ferracci’s students, Annalise Henry, was happy to see how the lab is applied to real-life situations.
“The thing I loved about the lab is that I could get a close look at what it looks like when things happen in the Mississippi River and other water,” said Henry. “I loved the lab.”
Marion Margaret Hern, a STEM teacher at Bovina Elementary School, applauded ERDC for providing the community’s youth with technological resources and expanded knowledge.
“ERDC’s collaboration with teachers provides resources and hands-on opportunities for my students,” said Hern. “My students have built solar-powered cars, participated in First Lego League robotics and hosted the mobile STEM Lab with ERDC’s collaboration with the local schools. These opportunities allow students to expand their knowledge and understanding while exposing them to science and engineering concepts and ideas.”
The mobile lab has been successful, as STEM educators have responded positively about the project and its effectiveness. Tracy Gordon, ERDC’s education outreach coordinator, appreciates Dunkin and her team for developing another method to connect ERDC to the community.
“It’s been exciting to receive positive feedback from the teachers and students about the lab,” said Gordon. “We are hopeful that the mobile lab will ignite interest in the students to research concepts and connect those to possible future career paths and opportunities at ERDC. Many thanks to Lauren and the team for all their work.”
Below are dates when the ERDC Mobile STEM Lab will display at other elementary schools:
- Beechwood Elementary School – Nov. 12 – Dec. 8
- Redwood Elementary School – Dec. 18 – Jan. 19
- Warren Central Intermediate – Jan. 29 – Feb. 16
- South Park Elementary School – Feb. 26 – March 22
- Vicksburg Intermediate – April 2 – 19
- Warrenton Elementary School – April 29 – May 17
For more information about the ERDC Mobile STEM Lab, contact Tracy Gordon at Tracy.H.Gordon@usace.army.mil.