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Design Thinking at Union City Summer STEM Camp

Design Thinking, 3D Printing, and Union City STEM Summer Camp

Marcos Navas

Union City School District, NJ

As we approach the Spring months in NJ, students and teachers are already dreaming of summer months at the Jersey shore and beyond full of smiles, drinks and barbecues. In Union City NJ, a small densely populated urban town in northern NJ right across the river from NYC, is no different. A majority of students and teachers in Union City are already dreaming of open fire hydrants cooling of its people on the hot steamy nights in the city.

However, as of late there is a small group of kids and educators in Union City that share the same dreams of a summer quickly approaching. However, they are not envisioning the normal summer fun in the sun but rather dreams of returning back to school for the summer months. This small group of teachers and educators are not thinking of beaches and boardwalks, but rather the start of the Union City Summer STEM Camps.

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Union City STEM Camps have been running for the past 3 summers in the Union City School District. One of the creators, innovators and organizers of the Union CIty STEM Camp is Ultimaker Pioneer, Marcos Navas. As a technology facilitator for the Union City School District, Marcos has been a very busy educator in NJ. He is a TED Innovative Educator, educational leader of the Maker Depot, ambassador with over 15 edtech companies, part of the Future Ready Schools of NJ committee, consultant, speaker, 3D printing enthusiast, maker, and STEAM specialist. Marcos identifies and implements new ideas and possibilities for students to practice design thinking approach.

“The design thinking approach is actually the heartbeat of our Union City STEM Camps”, says Marcos. “It is amazing to see what student creativity can lead to!”

Marcos has designed a STEM camp that exposes inner city kids to some of the latest and greatest in Making and STEM. The camps are completely “green” in the sense that there is no paper or pencils. Every camper receives an Ipad and Mac Laptop. All materials and curriculum was created in IBooks for the teachers/facilitators and workbook versions for the students to fill up with content. Right now there are currently 2 STEM courses created and a third version for the upcoming summer. The two courses are broken up to 3 sub-classes. The 3 classes are Making/Coding, Sustainability/Urban Farming, and Sharing/Document Learning via Media. STEM 2 courses are a deeper dive into these topics with a PBL twist. STEM 1 introduces them and teaches them how to use the tools, equipment, and kits in the courses. The new STEM 3 course will give experienced campers an option of what track they would like to explore: Maker, Builder, Creator or Developer. Each track then incorporates 5 strands into that track which are Design, Programming, Physical Computing, Manufacturing, and Community/Sharing. Being a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and part of the first class of American Picademy attendees, Marcos is using the Raspberry Pi Digital Making Curriculum as a foundation for the new STEM 3 courses which provide campers an opportunity to really take a deep dive into STEM ( ).

Design Thinking and 3D printing play a huge part in the Union CIty STEM Camps. In STEM 1 courses, design thinking concepts and process is introduced to the campers and its direct connection to 3D printing. In STEM 2, campers take their knowledge of design thinking and 3d printing to transform ideas into projects. STEM 2 has student 3D print a hydroponic urban farm system to promote sustainability and fresh food in inner cities. STEM 3 will give campers opportunity to design their own system based on their living conditions. Design thinking slowly becomes a tool students that students rely on, not just in camp, but in their lives.

The summer of 2017 will be one full of fun memories of time spent on NJ beaches, boardwalks, amusement parks and barbecues

. However, in Union CIty, kids will be yelling and cheering with excitement because the program they created worked, the design they made is a good fit for a problem, the 3d printer provided them with a prototype, their maker skills were put to the test and much much more. At the end of STEM camp, Union City runs its own Makerfaire to celebrate the accomplishments of STEM camp. For some, its a sign of learning accomplishments, but for others, its a time to say bye to having fun and exploring in their school. Either way, Union City STEM campers have lots of “hard fun” to get done this summer!

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