Learners to Explore Engineering in Pull Toy Parade

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Students in Doerre’s Gateway to Technology classes recently hosted a pull parade to show off their 100 percent student-built pull toy prototypes. Although pull toys are typically for toddlers, this event was entertaining and curriculum-rich for these intermediate STEM pathway explorers.

Gateway to Technology is offered through a nonprofit organization called Project Lead the Way (PLTW) that aims to empower middle school-aged learners to engage in, and ultimately own, their educational experience. Klein ISD is in its third year of PLTW program implementation, and thanks to a gracious grant by Chevron, it keeps getting bigger and better.

“Gateway, offered by Project Lead the Way, truly provides students the opportunity to gain that early set of knowledge and skills, as well as exposure to hands-on learning that will develop the requisite knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in high school, college and career,” Klein ISD Director of Career and Technical Education Deborah Bronner-Westerduin said.

For this project, confidence, creativity and collaboration were key. The learners were split into groups to design and build a fully-functioning prototype in only one week. Their only requirements were that it had to have four wheels and a chassis; the rest was all a product of their imagination, teamwork and technical expertise.

“My favorite part of building this was that it’s not like other classes. You have to think outside of the box,” Sila Keha, whose team brought the Mystery Machine to life for the pull parade, said.

Gateway to Technology teacher Becky Teague has been leading the learners through multiple pre-engineering topics this year such as design and modeling, electronics and automation and robotics.

“This gives them an overall view of how science, technology and engineering all come together in one field,” she said. “Some like the initial designing, some like the electronics, and some don’t want anything to do with it.”

Stephanie Kramer has seen her son Harrison come to truly understand and fall in love with engineering, thanks to Gateway.

“He had an initial interest in engineering, but I don’t think at this age they have a grasp of what that means,” she said. “This has given him a glimpse into many different aspects of engineering. It’s neat as a parent to see that enthusiasm [in him].”

From pull parades to building electrical circuits, Gateway is enhancing Klein ISD’s goal of fostering an insatiable desire to improve and grow in a generation of future engineers.