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STEM in the middle: challenging middle school students, teachers

Club STEM students design and build a robot
March 22, 2012

Have you ever wished you could design and create your own video game? A wacky Rube Goldberg machine? A Sumo robot? How about a plane that stays aloft? A movie of a gum bubble popping?  If you were a member of Club STEM, you would have done these and more.

Club STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is the student component of the Helios Education Foundation-funded research program STEM in the Middle: It Takes a Village. The purpose of the three-year program that began in the spring of 2011 is to assess the degree to which middle-school student learning of complex and challenging mathematics, science and technology concepts, and engineering design principles, can be enhanced through long-term project explorations.

Students from grades five through eight collaborate to conduct hands-on activities and experiments directed by university or industry experts. Undergraduate STEM majors from ASU and high school students from Bioscience High School in Phoenix, assist and mentor the students during project explorations, and serve as role models for the students. All Club STEM meetings take place at the ASU Preparatory Academy in downtown Phoenix on Saturday mornings, every semester for seven meetings of three hours each.

The seventh meeting is a showcase for the community where students describe and demonstrate their projects. The most recent showcase took place on March 10.

The teacher component of STEM in the Middle is designed to enhance middle school math, science and technology teachers’ knowledge of their own and sister fields. Teachers learn ways to engage students in integrated projects that require the application of STEM concepts for their solution. They explore effective methods for assessing student learning and adapting program activities to fit student needs.

STEM in the Middle for teachers meets four Saturday mornings each semester for four hours per session. Teachers also meet during the summer for one week. Leaders of the teacher component are ASU project staff for STEM in the Middle, as well as other university faculty and master teachers from the Phoenix metropolitan area.

STEM in the Middle is offered through The Practice, Research and Innovation in Mathematics Education (PRIME) Center at ASU. The program’s principal investigator is Carole Greenes, Associate Vice Provost of STEM Education, Professor of Mathematics Education, and Director of The PRIME Center. The Project Director is Mary Cavanagh, Executive Director of The PRIME Center, and the Program Coordinator is Shelley Tingey, Coordinator of The PRIME Center.

STEM in the Middle, for students and teachers, is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, please visit The PRIME Center website at

Media contact:
Shelley Tingey,
The PRIME Center
Arizona State University