Connecting Rural Students to a Truckload of Learning and Career Opportunities

The Greater Oregon STEM Hub officially launches their Mobile Maker Lab for distant and isolated schools across Eastern Oregon.

February 6, 2023 |
The Greater Oregon STEM Hub Mobile Maker Lab

The new Greater Oregon STEM Hub's Mobile Maker Lab. Photo courtesy of David Melville.

The Greater Oregon STEM Hub (GO STEM), a regional effort to boost STEM opportunities at area schools hosted by Eastern Oregon University–Rural Schools Collaborative’s Pacific Northwest Regional Hub Lead, is taking action to provide essential learning and career-building resources to rural students across the region. With the launch of their new Mobile Maker Lab (MML), GO STEM is poised to enrich the learning experiences of distant and remote rural schools in Eastern Oregon. As the nation takes a serious look at our education system’s ability to not only provide for student success, but also address the growing, post-pandemic learning gap, innovative solutions like this from Oregon are essential to give rural students, teachers, and schools a leg up. RSC congratulates GO STEM and EOU on this milestone effort, and we look forward to championing your work in the future!

You can read the original articles here.

LA GRANDE, OR - Envision a frontier school in Eastern Oregon, hours from any urban center. Parked at the school is the Greater Oregon STEM Hub’s (GO STEM) Mobile Maker Lab (MML). During the morning classes, the MML staff are invited in the classroom to teach STEM (Science-Technology-Mathematics-Engineering) topics. The instructor uses electrical kits to teach fifth graders the basics of circuitry. Taking small groups to the MML trailer in the afternoon, the STEM instructor shows students how to use wire strippers, a soldering iron, and other tools to make a safe extension cord. A visiting electrical contractor inspects the cords so they comply with code and then stays to help students become aware of the kinds of occupations where electrical knowledge and technical skills are needed.

This is part of the vision of GO STEM, one of Oregon’s 13 regional STEM Hubs. The GO STEM Hub supports regional efforts to bring strong STEM awareness and career connectedness to seven Eastern Oregon counties (Wallowa, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Baker, Grant, and Harney). The Mobile Maker Lab and staff are the methods of delivery of direct instruction for students, professional development for teachers, and community resources for those needing/wanting access to technology and skills leading to career options. Specifically designed to serve regions where there are fewer resources and STEM opportunities, the aim is to provide students, teachers, and community members with access and knowledge that can help propel many to career options in STEM. The Mobile Maker Lab consists of a trailer designed with tinkering stations and a van fully stocked with tools and materials. The MML is staffed by an educator who has experience with STEM and especially maker technologies such as 3-D printing, electronics and robotics, industrial manufacturing, and a variety of trades technologies.

“We are very excited that with our Mobile Maker Lab, GO STEM will be able to offer additional STEAM resources and support to our educators and students across our wide region. We are also excited for the opportunity to visit diverse schools and strengthen our vast GO STEM community.” Stefanie Holloway, Program Director of GO STEM said.

Stefanie Holloway, GO STEM Program Director (Left) and David Melville, GO STEM Executive Director (Right) officially launch the Mobile Maker Lab.
Stefanie Holloway, GO STEM Program Director (Left) and David Melville, GO STEM Executive Director (Right) officially launch the Mobile Maker Lab. Photo courtesy of David Melville.

GO STEM’s Mobile Maker Lab staff will work with rural schools and communities to fill curriculum gaps by providing STEM instruction and competency directly in the Eastern Oregon communities where it is needed. This K-12 and community-focused curriculum will include concepts such as renewable energy, robotics and coding, placed-based science, hands-on building and crafting, as well as other career-focused projects that can accommodate different grade levels’ learning and diverse schools’ interests and needs.

“The Mobile Maker Lab will be a game changer for the way that Eastern Oregon students receive STEM education. Nothing else like this project exists in Oregon!” David Melville, Executive Director of GO STEM said.

The interior of the Mobile Maker Lab has been designed and painted by students, is ADA accessible, and equipped with shelving to hold curricular materials and supplies. A major focus of the MML build was to ensure that learning can happen anywhere, so a solar array, battery bank, and energy-saving devices have been installed to make the classroom completely off-grid

The interior of the GO STEM Mobile Maker Lab. Photo courtesy of David Melville.
The interior of the GO STEM Mobile Maker Lab. Photo courtesy of David Melville.

Additionally, the MML will also have a built-in electric car charging port to power the GO STEM support electric vehicles. Moreover, the MML is equipped with Starlink satellite internet,
allowing GO STEM staff, teachers, and students to access high-speed
internet even in Eastern Oregon's most remote communities. The Mobile Maker Lab trailer will be pulled by a van that has been outfitted with STEM materials, innovative learning supplies, and all of the tools that K-12 learners will need to travel across the vast rural GO STEM region.

This vision became a reality thanks to a generous grant from The Ford Family Foundation (TFFF) and funding from partnerships across Eastern Oregon, including Amazon Web Services, Oregon Community Foundation, EOU, Woodgrain, The Oregon Department of Education, students and staff of North Powder Charter School, Legacy Ford, and OMSI to name a few. This regional support provides GO STEM with funding over the next three years for staff, curriculum development, data collection, and to build the MML during its pilot phase.

“Our goal for this effort is to support our communities through STEM resources and learning as well as to strengthen our wider Eastern Oregon community,” Holloway said.

Thank you to David Melville and Pacific Northwest Regional Hub Contact, Dave Dallas, for sharing these updates with Rural Schools Collaborative.

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