New STEM Center at UA Supports Urban Education

The LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education is partnering with local organizations and schools in creating a new STEM Center.


(Image via The University of Akron)

Interim President Dr. John Green welcomes guests at an open house for the Urban STEM Education Center on Tuesday.

By Megan Parker, Copy Editor

In support of growth in STEM education, the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education is collaborating with organizations and schools in the region to establish the Urban STEM Education Center.

According to a press release from The University of Akron, the total workforce in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics will increase 13 percent between 2017 and 2027.

The new U-STEM Center will give educators research-based assistance to provide effective learning for all students, provide curricula supported by research and allow for the evaluation of STEM education programs.

School districts in Summit and Stark counties have already started to expand STEM education available to K-12 students in response to the increasing need for these programs and teachers ability to integrate them into education, the press release said.

(Image via The University of Akron)
A booth displays objects created by a 3D printer, including a dinosaur skull, the Eiffel Tower and kangaroos to inform visitors on the use of the technology to support teaching and learning in K-12 education settings at an open house for the Urban STEM Education Center on Tuesday.

Karen Plaster, co-director of the U-STEM Center and associate professor of practice, said while urban education is important to UA, this new center will help UA support schools in increasing available STEM education.

“The College of Education is taking this step as a result of demand from our partnering school districts in area counties, and to further support our faculty’s existing collaborations with urban school districts,” Plaster said.

Located in Zook Hall, the U-STEM Center will enable University faculty to evaluate partnering school district’s needs and initiatives in STEM education, as well as offer workshops on maintaining teaching licenses for educators.

Dr. Jarrod Tudor, Interim Dean of LJFFCOE, said that as UA develops new methods of STEM education for elementary and secondary students, the new center will give partnering educators “valuable” resources.

Students pursuing a degree in education will also benefit from this new U-STEM Center, the press release said.

“Additionally, our teacher education students who desire positions in these districts will be exposed to data-driven and tested instructional methodologies, which will make them the best candidates for education jobs as they graduate,” Dr. Tudor said.

Six existing faculty members from LJFFCOE, including Plaster and co-director Dr. Nidaa Makki, associate professor of curricular and instructional studies, will be the main engagers in the center.

In the future, an advisory board comprised of current STEM education faculty, STEM individuals representing other parts of campus and STEM organizations in the community will be created.

According to the press release, upcoming events and workshops through the U-STEM Center include:

  • Code Hopper, a mini-hackathon on May 4 at the Akron Art Museum for girls in grades six through 12.
  • Math Teachers’ Circle Immersion, running June 4 through June 6.
  • Think Tank to Shark Tank: Engineering to Entrepreneur Summer Camp, running July 8 to July 12.
  • Summer Teacher Institute: Entrepreneur and STEM Education, in partnership with UA’s Barker Center for Economics, running July 22 to July 26.
Image via The University of Akron)
Members of Aurora Robotics demonstrate their robots built out of Legos as part of First Lego League, an international competition for elementary and middle school students, at an open house for the Urban STEM Education Center on Tuesday.

Along with these events, a First Lego League Junior exposition will take place in Zook Hall on Feb. 23, where nine teams of elementary school students will work on projects to create models out of Legos.

More information on the U-STEM Center activities and events are available on the Urban STEM Education Center website.