As a 26-year veteran teacher, Dr. Alesia Slocumb-Bradford has spent her career teaching middle-schoolers mathematics and science. Dr. Slocumb-Bradford chose middle school as she believes it provides her with great resources for tapping into how students “think about learning.” Over the last eighteen years, she has used her role as the robotics coach to do just that. Her pet project is Jefferson Middle School’s “Project AIM” (Activities Involving Mathematics). More about the course:
Prerequisite: A desire to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) instruction in a fun and exciting way.
Course Description: To actively engage students in activities surrounding mathematics. Activities will involve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The “technology” component of STEM is the foundation for each activity. With technology as the basis, students will learn about: robotics (science), building bridges and flying airplanes (engineering), and financial education, PSAT, MATHCOUNTS/Challenge 21 (mathematics).
For the robotics component, students will actively engage in designing, building, and programming robots to complete specific tasks. For the engineering component, students will actively build and test bridges, fly airplanes through a computer simulation program, in addition to design, build, and program robots. For the mathematics component, students will learn how to select and sell stocks through an on-line computer “Stockmarket Game.” Students will also enhance their mathematics skills by participating in competitions surrounding the PSAT (Pre SAT Prep) and MATHCOUNTS/Challenge 21.
Expected Learning Outcomes: Upon the successful completion of this course, the students will be able to become critical thinkers and better decision makers; build upon their cooperation and communication skills; become independent researchers; understand the difference between a saver and an investor; learn “rigorous” mathematics; better understand the components of aviation; compare the five senses of humans to those of robots; describe a robotic design qualitatively, observing it quantitatively (torque, speed, distance) over time, and incorporating the standard units for all measurements; and, lastly, classify the many types of robot components (types of sensors, motors, power sources, structures, etc.)
In her words, Dr. Slocumb-Bradford says, “Student achievement has just been out of the stratosphere! Students have made the connection that mathematics is not simply this isolated course of a series of numbers and algorithms. Mathematics plays such a critical role in so many different aspects as well as in helping to solve real-world problems. With Project AIM (Activities Involving Mathematics) students are involved in presenting their ideas and solutions to the public throughout the school year. After intense hard work arriving at plausible solutions to real-world problems, Jefferson students have entered their solutions in STEM fairs across the city; presented their projects to the Police Department, Transportation Department, DC Mayor; and entered them into two national competitions!”
All in all Project AIM has been a great success. The amount of time and effort our students spent working was nothing short of a miniature thesis/dissertation exercise. Success stories include second place in the Alliance Division at Mt. Vernon HS in Alexandria, Virginia; a top 20% ranking (out of more than 4,000 groups) for the Stock Market team; and multiple students won at STEM fairs this year as well. To top it all off, two teams entered the eCybermission competition, and both teams won – first and second place with awards totaling $6,000!