Students in the 13 school districts in Educational Service Unit 11’s region in south central Nebraska will soon have access to a mobile STEM lab designed to promote creativity and exploration in science, technology, engineering and mathematics thanks to a collaborative effort of manufacturers, public power districts and other supporters. The 10-station, Create, Solve Innovate (CSI) Labs will provide access to technologies that individual schools may not have access to such as a 3D printer, Carvey CNC machine, robotics, virtual reality, sensor stations, a vinyl cutter and more. Each school may reserve the CSI Labs for two weeks each school year.
“This is truly exciting to see happen,” said Mary Plettner, NPPD Economic Development Manager. “The more we can expose students to STEM careers the better we will be able to meet the needs of our manufacturers and other employers in the future.”
The mobile STEM lab is modeled after Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD) STEM Connections Lab that has traveled throughout the NPPD service territory since 2015. Another partnership involving BD and Custer Public Power District in Custer County developed a similar mobile lab that is now in its third year. Other regions of the state are taking note of the effort and looking at similar concepts.
“The STEM Connections Lab was created as an open source educational tool designed to be shared by public power utilities and local business partners,” according to Chad Johnson, NPPD Senior Energy Educator. “NPPD assists in training, program development, and implementation so that our partners can have a long-term positive impact on their local students. In the last six years over 70,000 students have been exposed to STEM skills and careers in fun and engaging programs like these traveling STEM labs.”
Entities involved in making this happen include Becton Dickinson (BD), Royal Engineered Composites, Dawson Public Power District, Southern Public Power District and Twin Valleys Public Power District and the list is growing. The goal is to make the new initiative entirely privately funded.