New Iowa State mobile classroom brings advanced technology learning to K-12 schools

Sure they flock to 3-D movies and send Instagrams with a frenzy, but can they model a tractor part with a MakerBot? Or test ergonomic design with Oculus Rift?

Although Iowa’s K-12 population is tech savvy, they still have more to learn before maneuvering through advanced technology to solve problems in design and manufacturing, says an Iowa State University industrial design professor.

David Ringholz, professor and chair of ISU’s Department of Industrial Design, challenged an industrial design graduate studio last summer to create a mobile classroom for technology outreach to Iowa schools. This fall, FLEx (Forward Learning Experience) has been on the road, providing K-12 students and teachers with hands-on experiences with virtual reality, Oculus Rift immersive visualization, interactive circuit building with Little Bits and 3-D printers.

FLEx is a collaboration between the colleges of Design and Engineering, in association with ISU Extension and Outreach.

ISU design faculty and students introduced the trailer full of high-tech workstations during the Science Center of Iowa’s Mini Maker Faire in September. In October, they made two stops: for a five-day stint in October with the Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Middle School; and as part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) educator training and a separate STEM faire, both at Des Moines Area Community College. And this week, the mobile classroom is up and running at the Stratford Elementary School as part of the school’s Maker Space Project kick-off.

“FLEx can be a lot of things,” Ringholz said. “We can customize the modules to accommodate different age groups or various advanced technologies.”

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