At February’s end, teams of students from Digital Harbor High School, Western High School and the Bryn Mawr School gathered at the Digital Harbor Tech Center in Federal Hill to show off products they had digitally manufactured with 3D printers, including accessories for women’s headbands and a functional pair of glasses (prescription lenses not included).
The Thursday evening exhibit was the first set of results from the pilot project of STEM Core, a program run by the Digital Harbor Foundation for Baltimore city students in grades 8 through 12 that pairs students with teachers, mentors and resources throughout the city.
The point? Having teachers provide students with consistent exposure to applicable digital skills in STEM-related fields, as opposed to asking students to test out possibly underdeveloped skills in a variety of one-time events.
“One of the problems is you’ll go from this event, to this different event, to another, and by the time you come around to learning what happened along the way, you’re like a year out,” said Shelly Blake-Plock, co-executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation.
Through a series of course offerings from week to week in web design, mobile app development and digital fabrication, STEM Core students gradually prepare for a number of competitive challenges, which take place at the new tech center in Federal Hill.
“We’re starting to see a shift from an event-based models into real curricular models,” he added. “It’s not just about the experience of getting into the finish line. It actually turns into a process.”
That process, the thinking goes, is STEM Core. For the first challenge in digital fabrication, the four teams of students worked under the mentorship of volunteer sponsor-teachers and spent time inside the fabrication studios of local universities, including:
- the Digital Fabrication Studio at the Maryland Institute College of Art
- the Object Lab at Towson University
- the University of Baltimore
- and the Fab Lab at CCBC‘s Catonsville campus.
Students having access to professors and professionals at these fab labs has “really been important,” said Andrew Coy, Blake-Plock’s counterpart at the Digital Harbor Foundation.
“We want the students to have real mentors in the community that they can turn to,” Coy said.
In addition to the course offerings in web design, mobile app development and digital fabrication, the Digital Harbor Foundation hopes to eventually include courses in cybersecurity and robotic design.
But the overall end goal will remain the same: encouraging Baltimore city students to learn through adaptation and change.
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