Monday, October 29, 2018

All Aboard: Where Hovering Dreams Become a Reality

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” 
-Colin Powell

          I think back to when I was a kid, thinking about how there would definitely be flying cars in the future.  Shows and movies like “The Jetsons” and “Back to the Future” made these dreams a quasi-reality for us.  Unlike three of Prairie View Elementary’s finest leaders, I was waiting for someone else to make this idea come to fruition, it never happened.

          It all started when Christopher and Ethan dreamed up the idea to transform the transportation world with a hover train that would exceed all current travel expectations.  Beginning the design process by sketching out what they imagined, their idea began to take shape.  After coming up with rough sketches of what their hover train would look like, they needed help to take their project to the next level.  Inviting Ian into the group seemed like the best addition, as he had experience designing futuristic models as well.  Additionally, Ms. Natalie Spann, Librarian at Prairie View Elementary, was asked to oversee this passion project, as the students eventually hoped to use the brand-new 3D-printer the school had won through having the most involvement at NISD’s Summer Techno Camps!

          Under the direction and guidance of Ms. Spann, the three 5th-grade engineers began to set-off on developing their idea in Tinker Cad, a design program that can then connect to a 3D-printer to print out their designs.  In discussing their design process, Christopher stated that “We know that it has to be aerodynamic, which is why the front of the train will be rounded, to allow the air to push around it on all sides.”  Through the process of designing the train itself, they have had to problem solve how they intend to make it hover.  Ethan suggested that “electromagnets within the train and surrounding the tunnel will allow the train to stay off the ground,” as he pulls up his Youtube video research.

          The beauty of learning in a district such as NISD, educators know where there is a will, there is a way.  It just so happened that the NISD STEM Academy at Northwest High School had recently posted about their culminating project after experiencing first hand what the engineering process looks like.  Ms. Elizabeth Mitias, the teacher of the Aerospace and STEM Principles classes, gladly accepted the challenge of having some of her seniors mentor our three emerging scientists.  Coordinating schedules, Ms. Spann and Ms. Mitias set out to schedule a Zoom Conference between the two groups of students.  The Prairie View students were excited at the opportunity to hear from “experts” in the field that they were working in.  They began preparing talking points and questions that they would ask the seniors.

          Finally, the day of the meeting arrived.  Ethan, Connor, and Marla, senior students from Ms. Mitias’’ class, were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the young engineers.  The meeting commenced with an introduction to the engineering process where the seniors discussed their experiences in creating their spacecraft.  Connor reiterated the idea that “It is necessary to get feedback from multiple perspectives when creating a project because a fresh pair of eyes can help you see things that you may have missed before.”

          Throughout the course of the meeting, Christopher, Ian, and Ethan held their own when challenged with scientific questions.  The level of discourse between these two groups of students was like none that this writer has ever experienced before.  Following a protocol where the Seniors gave reflective feedback and encouraging words of praise to the 5th-graders, who were silently listening and absorbing, the 5th-graders who once thought they were ready to print a prototype of their project and submit it for testing, knew that they had to comb through their plans and make adjustments to account for all of the new learning they had acquired.

          When asked about their experiences throughout this whole passion-project, the boys were ecstatic to share how they were feeling.   Ian stated, “I feel smart. I feel like a brainiac. I feel like I’ve done something nobody’s ever done before.”  Ethan expressed, “It feels like what we are doing is experimental. We are figuring out problems that we’ve never done before.”  Excited by the opportunity, Christopher shared, “I am just so eager to learn more about aerodynamics and electromagnets, and it feels like this is something that we can really make happen.”  Ms. Spann, who supported this project from its conception, expressed, “I love that this whole project was intrinsically motivated.  The students had the idea and set out to find a way to make it happen, all on their own.  They never had a question of if, just who would be willing to give them the space to make their dreams come true.”

          By empowering our students to find what they are passionate about, these Prairie View Leaders exemplify the necessity to fulfill the mantra, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  This truly embodies Leader In Me Habit #4 as this is a WIN-WIN for all involved.

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