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Oshkosh Area School District students present STEM-related ideas to UW Oshkosh students

LEGOS are more than just toys–on the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh campus the little bricks are helping to build problem solving skills, creativity and confidence in children.  

Students from the Accelerated Learning Program (ALPs) charter school in the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) recently demonstrated how LEGOS are helping build these skills when they presented their STEM robotics projects to graduate students in the Educational Leadership and Policy Course 755: Technology, Culture and Learning at UW Oshkosh.

The OASD students are members of two ALPs FIRST LEGO League (FLL) teams–the teams called themselves Polystyrenes and Code Orange. ALPs Charter School is an accelerated alternative to traditional schools for students in grades four through eight, with approximately 50 students. Its small size allows for unique learning experiences through individualization and compacting the curriculum based on the knowledge of the children.

Nari Kim, associate professor at UW Oshkosh, invited the ALPs students to her class as a way to share successful STEM project-based learning.

“I believe it was a great opportunity for our students to learn what K-12 students do in and out of classrooms to build up their 21st century skills,” Kim said.

FLL is an international competition where each year teams are presented with a new challenge representing real life problems. The goal is to introduce students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) through project-based work. This year’s theme, Trash Trek, explored how to make less trash or improve the way people handle trash. Both ALPs teams had different approaches and answers to combat the challenge.

Hannah Chung, a member of the Polystyrenes team, explained how her team noticed a lot food was being wasted in the school cafeteria. “It’s being thrown away and sent to the landfill,” she said. Her team contemplated the question: “What if the wasted food could be sent to the UWO biodigester instead?”

The biodigester could then turn the wasted food into energy. UW Oshkosh is home to a commercial-scale dry fermentation biodigester, which is a renewable energy facility.

Code Orange noticed a different problem in the cafeteria–no recycling bins. Milk cartons and paper lunch bags were being sent to landfills instead of being recycled, something the ALPs students thought was a problem. Code Orange’s solution was to place recycling bins in the cafeteria as a solution.

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