By Jessica Miller, Instructor, Science Department
At Missouri Military Academy, our goal is to prepare cadets for success in college and career. MMA has partnered with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to enhance the Academy’s STEAM offerings in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. This is my first year teaching a PLTW course, and I have to say I absolutely love how our cadets show their creative side.
My PLTW course is Automations & Robotics. In this middle school course, cadets use tools such as the engineering design process, a digital engineering notebook and VEX Robotics programming software to invent and innovate. They have learned about gear ratios and how to build 11 different mechanisms. Cadet projects this year have included creating windmills with given parameters plus researching artifacts and explaining how they have changed throughout the years. Cadets recently created pull toys made completely out of VEX Robotics parts with some sort of additional movement. This project had some constraints — it had to have four wheels, it had be pulled and functional on a smooth surface, and it had to have a mechanism attached to the wheel axle as well as the mechanism to move the toy. They also had to include an illustration to make the toy more realistic. One group made a Mario character move or “jump” up and down using a cam and follower. Another group designed a race car with the race car driver heads moving around on a chain drive. The cadets move on to automated systems next, where they will build and program robots to move through a series of commands.
In the video below, cadets demonstrate our recent pull toy project.
Middle school cadets in my Earth Science class have been studying the Earth. We started off by learning about the Earth’s layers and what is contained in those layers. Then we learned about convection currents in the mantle and how that moves the crust layers that ultimately resulted in the continental drift. Cadets are exploring plate tectonics and how they move and cause landforms as well as earthquakes. In a recent introduction lab, the cadets saw how volcanos and mountains are formed with the shifting of the tectonic plates. The pictures that you see below are of the hands-on learning that is happening in our classroom.
Other STEAM Class Offerings for Middle School Cadets
Keith Morgan, in the business and technology department, has been teaching PLTW for three years. He teaches Computer Science for Innovators and Makers, where cadets learn about programming for the physical world by blending hardware design and software development. Using microcontrollers with inputs and outputs, they develop code that brings their physical designs to life. Mr. Morgan also teaches a course in App Creators. In this course, cadets learn and apply computational thinking and technical knowledge and skills to create mobile applications. Cadets also acquire and apply skills pertaining to the design process: problem solving, persistence, collaboration and communication.
As a PLTW school, MMA is exposing cadets to a highly rigorous curriculum. Project Lead the Way is a brand widely associated with educational excellence, providing resources for exceptional classroom experiences at partner schools. The PLTW course materials are durable currency in schools all across the United States, exemplifying creativity and high-order thinking among the cadets. At times, the coursework moves our cadets out of their comfort zones, which ultimately makes them stronger students.