Grant funding boosts Haslett’s STEAM and robotics programs

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Video of middle schoolers using VEX-IQ robots, courtesy of Chris Luea

A focus on education in technology and science may be drawing families and money to the Haslett area.

Haslett’s STEAM and robotics programs have earned the attention of the Dart Foundation. Last year, the elementary schools earned a grant to purchase technology for STEAM classes, and in February Haslett received $124,865 to help expand middle school robotics.

Sixth and seventh graders can take robotics as an elective, which puts them through a seven-week course learning the intricacies of the VEX-IQ robot kit, said robotics teacher Chris Luea. The eighth grade program is expanding toward competing like the high school, and the Dart grant is helping the school achieve that.

Part of the grant was allocated to purchase more elaborate and competition-level robots.

“It was kind of like Christmas day, you know. We got everything that we needed, and it will allow us to expand pretty quickly, and without that I don’t know that we would’ve been able to go into the eighth grade component of that yet.”  — Middle School Principal Susan Gillings.

Luea said learning elements of STEAM can help bring a real-life context into the skills learned for robotics. Students are able to piece together how skills like math and code can make something run.

Several Ingham County schools run their curricula based on the STEM or STEAM program (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). At the elementary level, Haslett students learn the STEAM curriculum for an hour every four days.

Lisa Wickman, the STEAM teacher for Murphy Elementary, says the program was generated in part because people in the private sector are saying there are not enough people to fill these up-and-coming STEM positions.

She said that STEAM is “unleashing creativity and helping them to think like scientists, engineers and designers.”

Wickman and Luea said programs such as robotics and STEAM have allowed students to work collaboratively and interact more than they seem to in other classes.

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