After receiving a grant from Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, Athens State University has taken the initiative to launch STEAM Roller to address educational needs and expand education opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) to underserved youth in Limestone County. The STEAM Roller will be a mobile STEM lab traveling to Athens City and Limestone County elementary schools and community organizations to deliver on-site lessons and activities with a goal of stimulating underserved children’s interests in STEM fields. The mobile lab will be able to transform a parking lot into an outdoor classroom within twenty minutes.
The STEAM Roller project is rooted in research and statistics that demonstrate there is an opportunity access gap between underserved youth and their peers within the Limestone County community. Currently, Limestone County and Athens City have a combined total of eleven Title I elementary schools. Serving as the education and community outreach extension of Athens State, the Center for Lifelong Learning will be leading and executing STEAM Roller, and the Athens State College of Education will take a secondary role in the project with a proposal to offer education majors field experience through their involvement with the project.
The STEAM Roller aims to provide enrichment opportunities for students who are unable to participate in summer programs or outside of school learning opportunities. Dr. Andrew Dollar, Director of the Athens State Center for Lifelong Learning, reports a 25-30% increase in attendance of youth summer camps since shifting to STEM based camps this past summer. These statistics encouraged him to ask, “What does year-round development look like?” From there, the idea to develop the STEAM Roller project grew.
During the first year of operation, the STEAM Roller will target approximately 80 children in grades K-5 through eight workshops. The workshops will present lessons and activities crafted by local educators and the Center for Lifelong Learning to create an hour-long experience. The Center for Lifelong Learning plans to soon host their first STEAM Roller workshop with latchkey program students from iAcademy at Athens Elementary once equipment and supplies are delivered. During the workshops, students will engage in creative problem-solving activities that foster teamwork and collaboration and depart with a tangible item as memorabilia. Dr. Dollar is “grateful for the opportunity to enrich the lives of Limestone County children” with desires for the STEAM Roller to “create one more contact point in STEM fields and provide enriching opportunities to plant the seed that all children can grow up to become scientists, engineers, and so much more.”