Learning can be fun: STEM in the schoolyard

Michael Grancea has ideas. Lots of ideas. The fifth grade student at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet School in Dallas will gleefully share with you all his ideas if you ask. For example, how to combat forest fires.

“You know how we build really long pipelines? We could make really long hoses, lay them down in the forest, poke holes in them so the water could spread and put out the fires,” Michael said.

TI AvatarMichael’s teachers say his mind is always running, dreaming up big ideas to tackle the world’s problems. But they also realize the 10-year-old and his fellow students need engaging and interesting activates to keep those minds running.

“I don’t think Michael would be nearly as interested in science if we just wrote paper after paper. I’m sure he would tune out and get bored, and he has a lot of energy, so that would not be a good scenario,” said fifth grade science and reading teacher Jill Norcross. “But, when we have hands-on activities, that is when Michael shines. He likes to lead his group and just enjoys every aspect of it.”

On Monday, more than 100 students from Hamilton Park put down their papers and walked into the schoolyard for a morning of experimentation with hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students teamed up with real-life engineers and technology experts from our company to interact with robots, analyze soil and air samples and build tectonic plates using Play-Doh. The event is just the latest partnership between the school, our company and the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, with the goal of sparking an interest in STEM careers for these young and impressionable students.

“We are here today because we care about you, and we know you have the potential to do well in math and science,” Scott Roller, vice president of system engineering and marketing, told the students at the event. “I would be especially proud if someday you decide to pursue a STEM career and come to work just down the street at TI.”

TI AvatarSome of the students, like fifth grader Niya Brooks, understand exactly what Scott told her. She knows the opportunities that come with focusing on STEM studies and working for our company, as her uncle is an engineer with us and much of her family work in STEM fields. Niya wants to do the same.

“My family knows how to fix computers and phones, and I want to know how to do that stuff too,” said Niya, as she attempted to build a floating ship using nothing but tinfoil. “When you do all kinds of experiments like this, you get to figure out how things work in everyday life.”

The STEM in the Schoolyard event is part of United Way’s “Unite for Change Community Impact Series,” which focuses on improving education, financial stability and health across North Texas. While the students learned a lot from the experiments they performed, perhaps more importantly, they were able to interact with dozens of TIers who exemplified how studying hard and getting good grades can result in a long and successful career.

“It is important to see real people who actually work in the field and ask questions. In hands-on activities like this, they see people who really work in STEM careers and tell them what it is actually like,” said June Vo, an IT professional in ecommerce solutions.

As for Michael, the reason why Monday’s event was so important can be summed up in a word: fun.

“You are actually physically learning about it – and having fun doing it. You learn from having fun,” he said.

To watch a video from the event, see below: