Some of the most sought-after skills that companies such as Google and Apple are looking for include how well applicants think and work with others to collaborate in nontraditional process-oriented problem-solving. One of the newest and fastest growing pedagogical approaches in education is STEM, a relatively new field integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The new STEM class at Mesivta Yam Hatorah develops these important skills by combining rigorous instruction in math and science with the approach of design-thinking to help the students develop and engineer real-world solutions to various problems. Students are taught to value the input of all the members of their group as they decide together on the best solutions before beginning to prototype their ideas.
Each week, the students are presented with a problem for which they must create a unique solution. Each challenge has its own set of constraints; design and build a bridge using only certain materials that can hold a specific amount of cars; design and build a roller-coaster that must take its metal marble down several stories, with curves and loops, and stop the marble in a way that would be practical and safe if it contained people.
Along with their weekly lessons, research, and challenges (some can actually last several weeks), this year’s major project is to design and build a full-size working peddle car with PVC piping! The car must carry two people and 20 pounds of groceries, be able to start, stop, and turn and be light yet sturdy enough to be lifted and carried. The students are currently working their way through the research and information-gathering stage before they begin designing and prototyping.