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Clemson EXPLORE Mobile Lab Builds Bridge to Seneca Middle School

posted Oct 3, 2019, 5:02 AM by The School District of Oconee County, SC
In education, there is a long tradition of learning from lectures and textbooks.  For some students, however, that isn't the most effective method for learning.  Fortunately, hands-on activities sometimes bridge the gap for those students, especially in STEM areas.  Recently, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, Lead Engineer for the Clemson EXPLORE Mobile Lab visited the eighth grade science classes of Dona Gardner and Dr. Katie Gillespie at Seneca Middle School to work with their students on an activity that was not only hands-on but literally about bridge building, too.  The activity began with Dr. Rodriguez telling the students about the main types of bridge design.  The students then formed groups to brainstorm the best miniature bridge they would design and build in a class out of a proscribed list of available materials.  The challenge, as in real life, was to develop a design which would both meet specific design criteria and be cost effective.  The students were very creative and came up with very different design ideas, modified their designs as necessary throughout the design/build/test process, and were quite invested in the final results of their efforts.

Dr. Gillespie commented about the experience, "This was the first year CU visited SMS with the mobile lab and it was a wonderful experience for our 8th graders.  Dr. Rodriguez was very enthusiastic and kept our students highly engaged.  Our science departments are very focuses and committed to STEM principles.  I think I can speak for all of SMS sciences that it is essential for our students to construct learning through hands-on and real-world experiences.  We tell our students that life is like the design process:  we question, we plan, we design, we construct, we evaluate and if it fails, we try again."