Pictured from left: New York Tech student coaches Adnan Quresh, Alyssa Petrosky, Mohammad Ishtiaq, and Sakshi Rambhia.
Twenty-one rising sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students came together virtually in August for the weeklong Middle School Summer Maker Academy to learn about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) topics and careers, as well as learn about the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. Four New York Institute of Technology students assisted New York Tech instructors with lessons and workshops.
NYIT College of Engineering and Computing Sciences undergraduate students Alyssa Petrosky, Mohammad Ishtiaq, and Sakshi Rambhia and NYIT School of Architecture and Design graduate student Adnan Quresh taught the middle school students 3-D modeling and printing, laser cutting/engraving, and Arduino programming. The student coaches also each mentored a team of middle school students for their final project: to build a Clean Cargo Allocation Ready Truck (CCART) that meets the main objectives set forth by U.N. Sustainability Development Goal #3, which is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages.”
Teaching student STEAM topics was not new to many of the coaches but the virtual format was. They enthusiastically took on the challenge of teaching topics via Zoom that are typically taught in-person. To ensure the program remained hands-on for the middle school students, the materials were mailed to them, including the software that they could download.
“The experience to teach the next generation of inventors new technological skills from 3-D modeling and programming over Zoom was fantastic,” said Ishtiaq, a computer science major. “Through Zoom, the students were able to access the knowledge of the future. Knowing that I completed my goals not only as a student coach but also as a role model for the future engineers brings a lot of joy and excitement to me.”
“Students today are far more equipped than we were 20 years ago,” added Quresh, an architecture master’s candidate. “Hence, venturing virtually into 2020 may have looked like a challenge to many, but the Middle School Summer Maker Academy was proof that it is one of the best advancements for the generation today, leaving us with no excuses to exceed expectations.”
The program included five days of lessons and concluded with a showcase of the students’ final challenge, the CCART. The project encouraged the middle schoolers to think critically about how STEAM can help solve challenges associated with the global pandemic.
“The U.N. goals make students aware of the challenges that other cultures and societies are facing around the world, not just those in our local area,” said David Fanning, one of the instructors for the Maker Academy and laboratory engineer at the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences. “In the current climate of the COVID-19 pandemic, the greater awareness for them is that the world’s challenges are our challenges.”
During the five days, the students always showed up to the lessons with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn new concepts.
“Learning programming can be challenging, like learning a new language. The students who took part in our Maker Academy had a chance to learn some programming skills, and get a glimpse of the possibilities that these skills could open up to them,” said Christopher Springston, program instructor and graduate advisement specialist in the College of Engineering and Computing Sciences.
“The Middle School Summer Maker Academy emphasized to students the importance of STEAM education. The program introduced them to 21st-century skills that spanned from art and design to engineering and technology,” added Louie Aragon, program instructor and adjunct instructor of digital art and design at NYIT College of Arts and Sciences.
Although the tropical storm that hit the area during the first week of lessons caused many to lose power, the instructors and student coaches quickly adjusted by scheduling make-up lessons and on the final day, the groups presented their final challenge projects in front of a virtual audience that included friends, family, and New York Tech faculty and staff. The teams were judged on how their CCART design met U.N. Sustainability Development Goal #3, the integration of technologies, the fit and finish of the design, their teamwork skills, and their presentation. Student coach Adnan Quresh’s team took first place.
“I really enjoyed this [program] and learned so many new things, like how to code in Arduino and model a 3-D design,” said Ahiri Ghatak, a seventh-grader from St. Joseph’s School Yorkville in New York City and a member of the winning team. “This was really fun, and the teachers and coaches were extremely helpful and helped in the process of building the CCART. Thank you for this opportunity!”
Hosted by NYIT College of Engineering and Computing Sciences and NYIT College of Arts and Sciences, the Middle School Summer Maker Academy was made possible through a Voya Foundation grant.