STEM Collaboratory Taking Root

There was no summer break for the Pace STEM Collaboratory. Between hosting a major conference and a summer camp, STEM is full-steam ahead. The Pace STEM Collaboratory continues to advance its work to enhance STEM teaching and learning among students and teachers alike.

The School of Education and the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University launched the Pace STEM Collaboratory in late 2012. Led by Drs. Lauren Birney (School of Education) and Jonathan Hill (Seidenberg), the Collaboratory facilitates interdisciplinary research and the exchange of ideas among students, faculty, and staff in STEM disciplines, while improving and supporting STEM education at the middle and high-school levels through continued and expanded relationships with public schools in the region.

Using one Collaboratory-developed app, students can program small robots.

The STEM Collaboratory hosted its first conference on June 1. More than 75 science and math teachers from New York City attended the one-day event which was packed with activity. One highlight was demonstrations of mobile apps developed by New York City science and math teachers with Seidenberg graduate students to advance student learning, engagement and achievement in STEM subjects. These apps were developed in less than six months for use on Android operating system devices.

“The success of the STEM Collaboratory is evidenced by the growing network of teachers, students and faculty that have come together to create unique mobile apps to be used in the classroom,” says Lauren Birney, EdD, professor with the School of Education and Co-Director of the Pace STEM Collaboratory.

“As we expand our team,” she continues, “growth and support in the private sector is a critical component.  Establishing partnerships and affiliations with multinationals will permit the Collaboratory to act as a repository and resource for all STEM Professional in the NYC area. Dr. Jonathan Hill and I look forward to continuing to create these opportunities for our STEM community.”

Media Theorist Douglas Rushkoff.

Media theorist Douglas Rushkoff spoke about the need to teaching programming to students (as young as elementary school) to prepare them to be the entrepreneurs and consumers of tomorrow in a morning address, "Program or Be Programmed: Why Students Should Be Code Literate.” Rushkoff’s remarks began a discussion about resources and limitations faced by many public schools in offering this type of coursework for students.

Participants enjoyed learning about the origins and inspiration behind the Zoob system, an award-winning open-ended building system toy, from artist and inventor Michael Joaquin Grey. Based on DNA nucleic acids and patterns of movement and connection found in nature (from the fields of zoology, physics, botany and human anatomy to name a few), Zoob has many applications for teachers and students alike, Grey explained. Another hands-on, interactive demonstration with Boswyck Farms allowed teachers to learn more about hydroponic farming.

The conference included a panel discussion on “Perspectives in STEM Education.” Panelists included Steve Ettlinger, author of Twinkie, Deconstructed; Lou Lahana, teacher at The Island School; School of Education professors Brian Evans, EdD and Tom L. Lynch, EdD; and Meghan Groome PhD, Executive Director, Education and Public Programs; New York Academy of Science; and moderated by Ben Esner, Director, K-12 STEM Education at Polytechnic Institute at New York University.

Trading s’mores for science

The Collaboratory welcomed 22 rising high school seniors from diverse backgrounds to participate in the STEM Summer Scholars Camp.  Students created mobile apps to be used in their STEM classrooms while attending seminars at Codeacademy, Media Breaker Test, Eyebeam and Unicef.  Expanding their horizons, students participated in STEM-concentrated field trips to museums, aquariums and exhibits in NYC. Students also enjoyed robotics workshops with Seidenberg professor Dr. Richard Kline, as well as guest speakers from the office of STEM-education supporter New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Pace University Provost Uday Sukhatme and Pace University Associate Dean Richard Schlessinger (of Dyson College of Arts & Sciences).

At a closeout celebration to the STEM Summer Scholars experience, the students made final presentations summarizing the apps and websites they created, as well as possible marketing avenues for these products.  Parents and members of the supportive Downtown community were in attendance to share in the teens’ achievements. 

Looking Ahead

The Collaboratory is looking ahead to engaging an even wider audience of STEM educators and professionals to enhance STEM education in today’s classrooms.

"An integral component of STEM education is the affiliation and partnerships between Universities and the multinational corporations.  The support of these partners in terms of funding, resources, and affiliate activities is critical for the success of STEM,” says Dr. Birney. “Establishing a network that is multilayered and integrates aspects of business into educational practices will create unique opportunities for both educational institutions and corporations to become substantial powerhouses in the STEM arena.”

Dr. Jonathan Hill (left) and Dr. Lauren Birney are Co-Directors of the Pace STEM Collaboratory.

Dr. Birney credits the Collaboratory’s success and achievements to date with support from not only the School of Education and Seidenberg School but also from the University and Provost.

“We continue to pursue and expand opportunities for students and teachers to participate in design institutes abroad in such countries as Malaysia, Finland and Bangkok.  It is through this international visibility and exposure that the Pace STEM Center Collaboratory will distinguish itself as a highly unique, inimitable, and exceptional entity," Dr. Birney continues. “We encourage everyone to reach out and participate in this amazing opportunity!”

Funding for the Pace STEM Collaboratory is provided through the Verizon Foundation, and Collaboratory members meet monthly. To learn more about the Collaboratory or to become involved, please visit www.pacestem.org or contact Dr. Lauren Birney at lbirney@pace.edu or Dr. Jonathan Hill at jhill@pace.edu