Finding Unique Ways to Support Students Through the Pandemic

LIFT, Skillman Foundation, DPSCD Provide STEM Kits to Students Through Remote Learning

In a school year unlike any other, LIFT, the Detroit-based national manufacturing innovation institute, and its ecosystem teamed up to keep Detroit-area students engaged in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities while school was held virtually or a mix of in-person and virtual instruction.

LIFT joined with the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) to provide STEM kits for students to

work with while the Detroit schools operated virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 345 kits, funded by The Skillman Foundation and DPSCD, were delivered directly to the homes of students from Davis Aviation, Martin Luther King, and Southeastern high schools, provided them with hands-on educational projects continuing their engagement with LIFT while learning from home.

Students received one of five available kits, including:

  • Rocket Kit: Students studied rocket science by building and launching a rocket that uses baking soda and vinegar.
  • Hot Air Balloon Kit: Students built and launched hot air balloons. They will learn how they work and fly.
  • Gliders: Students learned about flight patterns and how weight and design affect the flight of a plane including distance, time, and speed.
  • Newton’s Laws Kit: Students learned about Newton’s laws of motion. By building different models including a catapult, a collision car, balloon powered plan, and others, students will study the effects of kinetic and potential energy, forces, motion, acceleration, momentum, and the properties of energy.
  • Simple Machines Kit: Students learned about mechanisms that multiply force including levers, inclined planes, and pulley drives by building catapults, helicopters, windmills, and more.

“We understand the challenges working and learning from home can present, and our goal was to ensure students were still able to work on hands-on projects to keep their focus and interest in science and engineering alive,” said Kevin Kerrigan, vice president of business development, LIFT.

Throughout the year, LIFT also continued to support and work with students from Detroit’s University Prep Science and Math High School who, under normal circumstances, would have been taking part in the institute’s IGNITE: Mastering

Manufacturing ® curriculum in the LIFT Learning Lab in Corktown.

Amatrol, a LIFT member and IGNITE partner, added online simulators to the IGNITE curriculum, which allowed students to continue learning from home by replicating the hands-on equipment in the Learning Lab while at home. For example, while going through the Control Logic Circuits module in IGNITE, students were able to build circuits and control systems to power virtual motors and lights on the simulators. Students also programmed a microBit to simulate the safe delivery and storage of the COVID-19 vaccines. This included temperature monitoring and delivery to a distribution site without being damaged.

“I was very happy to see those simulators and how close they were to the physical devices at LIFT,” said Michael Gruber, Manufacturing and Engineer Instructor,

UPREP Math & Science High School. “It made my job transitioning to online teaching a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. All things being equal, I was happy with the way things progressed this year.”

“Everyone agrees that hands-on learning is the best way for students to learn, because students remember and understand what they are learning – especially if they enjoy doing it – which is why it is important to measure active engagement to assess an educational program,” said Marianne Donoghue, Learning Lab Director, LIFT. “By providing STEM kits to students which require hands-on activity, we are guaranteeing active engagement.”

Prior to the pandemic, DPSCD and other local students had been utilizing the LIFT Learning Lab every day during the school year participating in LIFT’s IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing curriculum and other educational activities. Detroit Edison Public School Academy students used the lab to complete their designs for additive manufacturing – or 3D printing – prototypes related to improving hip and knee prosthetics, car engines and computer hardware to complete their International Baccalaureate (IB) program projects, and Western International High School students had toured the lab and learned more about CNC, welding, and other advanced manufacturing careers.

Currently, UPrep is planning to return to the LIFT Learning Lab for the 2021-22 school year.