The Vanderbilt Mobile Classroom, Discovering the Universe, was a featured attraction that drew many enthusiastic visitors from among the nearly 900 students, school administrators and community leaders who attended the Farmingdale State College 7th Annual STEM Diversity Summit held March 17 on the campus.
The theme of the day-long event was “Broadening the STEM/STEAM Education Pipeline and Workforce.” (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEAM adds Art to the list.)
“Our STEM Diversity Summit benefitted greatly this year from the addition of the Vanderbilt’s Mobile Classroom,” said Dr. John S. Nader, president of the college. “Bringing the planets and stars ‘down to earth’ brought excitement to the scores of students who toured the Classroom.
“It is both an eye-popping attraction and a great teaching moment. We look forward to having the Vanderbilt back for next year’s Summit.”
The Summit highlighted dynamic research by students from K-12 communities on Long Island and in Queens and New York City.
Students showcased competitive research projects including robotics, 3-D printing and designs, microgravity and nanotechnology, judged in the themes of Life Science, Physical Science and Technology.
Workshops included a flight simulator; water rockets; using liquid nitrogen to make a batch of ice cream; and coding a video game. Students also interacted live with students at a school in Nicaragua.
Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, said “With the Mobile Classroom, we bring state-of-the-art technology and an engaging, professionally developed science and astronomy curriculum directly to students in grades 3-12, including high-need districts.”
The Mobile Classroom has received ongoing support from the National Grid Foundation. In the past two years, since first hitting the road in early 2014, the Classroom has visited 39 schools and libraries, and 6,488 students, he said.
“The Mobile Classroom is the perfect way to help make astronomy cool and exciting to students,” said National Grid Foundation’s Bob Keller. “We are extremely pleased to be able to partner with the Vanderbilt. Helping children to become excited about science is one of the most critical educational priorities we have as a nation – and this stunning, traveling window into the universe has become a major resource for encouraging Long Island students to pursue careers in science.”
The Classroom is a 37-foot recreational vehicle transformed into a dynamic learning center and staffed by highly trained science educators. The Classroom offers hands-on interactive exhibits that engage students in a way that is engaging, stimulating and fun. The five self-contained modules are Light, Telescope, Digital Imaging, 3-D Universe, and Gravity.