The Gasconade County R-2 School District gave a bus to Kevin Lay’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) 4 class in November to convert into a mobile lab. Students were ceremoniously …
The Gasconade County R-2 School District gave a bus to Kevin Lay’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) 4 class in November to convert into a mobile lab. Students were ceremoniously given the keys on Feb. 7 at Owensville High School (OHS).
“What we are doing right now is converting the bus into a STEM mobile lab,” Lay said. “All we have done right now is gutted out some of it. They are working on the modifications and now the students are fitting items inside right now, including storage and some tables.”
Juliana Bayless is the project lead on STEM Mobile lab.
“The idea is we are going to be tables in where it is currently tapped off. We will have STEM technology, 3-D printers, and we will be able to take 20 kids on the bus and teach them about STEM and hopefully get STEM started in other schools.”
Students came up with the idea of a mobile lab at the beginning of the year. The class is entirely projected based. The students had several ideas. But, it wasn’t until they got together and came up with the idea of creating a mobile lab on a bus.
“A lot of people turn buses into houses, so we were like, what if we turned a bus into a STEM lab?” Bayless said.
The idea is to let younger students experience STEM and decide if it is something they might want to do.
“We had no idea how to get a bus, but Mr. Lay always says ‘if you want something, you can get it. You just have to want it,’” Bayless said. “So we contacted (Transportation Director Gary Pohlmann) and asked if he could help us get a bus, and he was like ‘yeah.’”
While they were waiting on a response from Pohlmann, they planned how they would outfit a bus for a STEM lab. Pohlmann got back to them an hour and 15 minutes later, Bayless recalled, “and he was saying ‘we are going to give you a bus.’”
Part of the program is giving a kit to the teachers so the kids can do something on their own in the classroom afterwards. The kits are basically mini labs with Kinects and Legos. They will get the pieces back so they can continue to reuse them.
“Right now we are hoping to get donors, sponsors and drawing money from multiple places,” Bayless said.
The school has some equipment the students can use on the bus. Until then, they are working on designing and creating the interior on their own.
“Once we got the bus and we took the seats out, it’s been a lot easier,” Bayless said.
As team leader, it is Bayless’ job to make sure everyone is moving forward. Of the seven-member team, everyone contributes their own strength.
Dylan Hollandsworth and Corvin Bertram are part of the research team. So far, their primary focus has been what they can legally have on the exterior of a converted school bus.
“We had to figure out what the legal parameters were, what we can and can’t do with a STEM bus instead of a school bus,” Hollandsworth said. “You have to change the color, you have to get rid of the school design, that kind of thing.”
Bertram said they have to take off the identifying markers on the outside of the bus. They are looking into changing the “STOP” sign’s lettering to read “STEM.”
“Once we take off the school aspect of it, then we are free to do what we want with it,” Hollandsworth said. “We’ve talked about doing a wrap for colors. And then have something on the side that says STEM Mobile and a place to add our sponsors.”
Austin Terry said his primary focus is as one of the two builders on the team.
“TC (Trey Fisher) and I like to bounce ideas off each other,” Terry said. “When we are out here, we like to bounce ideas off each other — whether we are getting down and dirty and taking the bolts off the seats or in the lab — building, cutting, constructing models for this part of the bus. Whenever we come out, we are looking for hands-on.”
Terry said occasionally he will discuss ideas with Bayless because Fisher likes to build, but he likes to be creative.
“I’m like the missing link between Julianna’s ideas and TC and I’s idea to build,”Terry said.
Terry agreed with the assessment that he is the architect working along with the homeowner and the construction team.
“I make sure that it is able to be built and TC has got the application part,” Terry said.
Terry looks at the space and sees double hinged tables that will fold in while the bus is in motion and pull out to set up STEM projects when in use.
“The current idea is actually to have the table fold flat, and underneath will have a truss that will take up the entire width of the table,” Terry said. “The truss will be against the wall of the bus, just under the windows so we can anchor it.”
Equipment that will be brought out during the mobile class will be stored while the bus is in motion. Behind the length of the tables that were being marked out with tape on the floor of the bus are two spaces for storage units which will cover the windows on one side.
“We will likely leave in the windows,” he said, opting to cover the equipment with heavy enough material that would prevent it from moving or sliding against the windows.
Since the STEM bus is a new idea, they haven’t found many designs online. Instead, Terry says they have focused on what is time attainable and space efficient.
“When we are out here, I look at the space we have and crunch numbers to see what dimensions things can be,” Terry said. “What equipment are we going to have in here and how much space is that going to take up? Then I start basing designs off of that.”
Jonah Hoffman said his primary role on the team building the STEM bus isn’t as much on the construction as the deconstruction.
“My part is going to be focusing on the internet part of it, advertising in a way,” he said. “As well as getting the stuff we actually do in here.”
Hoffman said he will be focusing on a website and contacting possible sponsors and donors.
“We have been trying to get a STEM Club started; we’ve already built up the basic parameters of the club. We just have to get someone to sponsor it since Coach Lay is going to be leaving us.”
The group has some interest from people who want to join. There are also different schools who have reached out to the group who would be interested in a visit from the STEM Mobile Lab.
“Definitely look for a STEM Facebook page and a website,” Hoffman said. “We already have a STEM Instagram page. Follow it at OHSSTEM on Instagram.
TC Fisher said his part in the project is simple.
“They give me what they drew up and I am the guy that puts it into form,” he said.
Fisher said he helps come up with the ideas, but he isn’t the guy to figure out if a drawing is going to work or not.
“Austin does most of the math work, I just make it,” Fisher said.
As far as the future of the project goes, Fisher said he will continue to work on the interior of the bus to create the STEM area.
Bayless said she hopes to motivate the team and have the project completed and ready for field trips in April.
Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner, OHS Principal Kris Altemeyer, and Pohlmann were there to present the keys to the bus to Lay and his STEM 4 class. Garner said he is excited to be able to give the students a bus to do a mobile lab.
“I was at a conference a few years ago and the Columbia Public Schools had a STEAM bus,” Garner said. “I thought ‘what a great idea for our students to be able to develop that! For them to grow academically and share it with our younger students, elementary and middle school students. Now it has become a STEAM lab on wheels.”
STEAM incorporates the arts into the educational mix along with the science, technology, engineering, and math aspects.
Garner said instead of trading in a bus they get very little value out of, they are able to get much more value out of allowing the students to work with it.
Altemeyer agreed with Garners evaluation of the project.
“Kevin and I did a presentation of all the different acronyms we can use, and we wanted to make sure we include everybody,” Altemeyer said about a presentation at the Powerful Learning Conference at Tan-Tar-A in late January.
Altemeyer said he and Lay presented their STEAM program at the conference as well as last year’s competitions with Samsung Solve For Tomorrow, how it affected the school district and things the schools were able to do because of the new equipment. He said they are absolutely thrilled about the STEAM bus.
“We appreciate Dr. Garner and Mr. Pohlmann giving us this opportunity,”Altemeyer said. “The kids have done a great job and Mr. Lay has done a great job motivating it. With a lot of our kids here, they take the initiative and decide the projects they want to attack. Then they do it.”
Altemeyer said he appreciates the district giving them the opportunity which — hopefully — will allow these students to see what they envision come to life.