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‘Think like an engineer’: This Baltimore City school is going all in on STEM

Johns Hopkins is making a $5 million investment in equipment and curriculum at Barclay Elementary/Middle School. Here's why.

City Schools CEO Gregory Thornton, left, and JHU President Ron Daniels get a STEM lesson. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Ryan Boyce sits at a computer, plugging in measurements. Using AutoDesk, he quickly lined out a 6×6 cylinder. But that wasn’t the end of the project. Later, the sixth grader at Barclay Elementary/Middle School planned to get a chance to produce the abstract shape on a 3D printer stationed just behind him.
“Later on we get to print it out, and then we can play with it, and make something, like building blocks,” he said.
Officials from Baltimore City Schools hope that Boyce’s project is repeated many times over in the school’s new engineering lab. And in this case, Johns Hopkins University professors and leaders also have skin in the game: The university is making a $5 million investment in the school over 10 years, making Barclay the first city school to include principles of engineering and computer science throughout an entire curriculum for K-8 students, school officials said.
The school is located a few blocks from Hopkins’ Homewood campus, and the university is looking to offer engineering and computer science beyond its bucolic buildings.
“At the core of that partnership is the idea that we need great, thriving public schools to anchor and undergird the community,” JHU President Ron Daniels said at the school on Wednesday.

Gary Hawkins III, center, demonstrates his robot.

Gary Hawkins III, center, demonstrates his robot. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Hopkins’ investment includes 120 computers programmed with engineering software, smartboards, that 3D printer and two redesigned rooms at the school. The partnership will also extend to curriculum, with faculty from Hopkins’ engineering school assisting in development.
At Barclay, students will be exposed to computer and engineering skills when they’re in class for reading, social studies and art, as well as in science and math class. Faculty will also assist with weekend and summer enrichment programs.
“Really this is all about empowerment,” said JHU Whiting School of Engineering Dean Ed Schlesinger. “When you learn to think like an engineer, when you learn to think like a problem solver, you can apply to knowledge to address issues that have a direct impact on your family and on your community.”
A few tables over from Boyce and past where Gary Hawkins III was demonstrating his robot, Sha’kayla Thomas was using Prezi to create a presentation about smart watches. She was also sure to point out that another presentation on cars was being shown on the projector for the school’s visitors.
We asked if the Apple Watch was something she wanted to own at one point.
“Yeah,” she said. “And a car.”

Companies: Baltimore City Public Schools / Bio-Rad Laboratories

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