Celebrate National STEM Day with SAE International

A World In Motion® brings science, technology, engineering and math to life for pre-K–8 students

In honor of National STEM/STEAM Day Nov. 8, SAE International is highlighting one educator who has led the charge for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Now-retired Detroit Public Schools science teacher Kunjan Vyas has been bringing the A World In Motion® (AWIM) program into her classrooms for nearly 15 years.

“Before AWIM, most of our classes had just book work,” Vyas explains. “I always wanted to do hands-on group activities with my students.” She often searched for science projects and bought supplies for them out of her personal budget.

But when she attended an AWIM workshop in 2005, she knew immediately that this was the experience she had been searching for. AWIM provides STEM lesson plans, professional development, curriculum materials and supplies at little to no cost to educators, as well as connects teachers with industry professionals as in-classroom volunteers.

“Students enjoy this program,” Vyas says. “They learn with hands-on engineering processes with fun.” She added that students adjusted to group work and looked forward to AWIM engineering day when the volunteers came in.

The AWIM challenges are designed for specific grade levels of pre-K–8 students. Over the years, and now as a part-time science coach, Vyas has brought almost all of the challenges to classrooms in grade school and middle school, as well as students with special needs:

  • First graders built, tested and modified a non-electronic pinball machine in the Pinball Designers Challenge.
  • Third graders and eighth graders on the autism spectrum disorder constructed paper sailboats to learn friction, forces, surface area and design in the Skimmer Challenge.
  • Fourth graders designed and constructed a vehicle powered by gravity in the Gravity Cruiser Challenge, and fifth graders took part in the JetToy Challenge.
  • Sixth graders explored the relationship between force and motion and the effects of weight and lift in the Glider Challenge.
  • Seventh graders explored how information moves safely through the internet in Cybersecurity: Keeping Our Networks Secure.
  • Eighth graders designed, built and tested prototype vehicles using a PEM Fuel Cell in the Fuel Cell Challenge.
  • The Rolling Things Challenge, where students will explore how changing the ramp height and vehicle weight affects the momentum of toy cars.

You can learn more about all the challenges here, including the few not listed: Making Music, Straw Rockets, Engineering Inspired by Nature and the recently launched Programming Each Other.

Vyas says her favorite project was the JetToy Challenge, when students learn about force and motion with the engineering process. In this challenge, a fictitious toy company asks students to provide designs for balloon-powered vehicles made of common materials. Students work in teams to build and test model JetToys, collect and analyze data for adjustments, and then give a formal presentation of their final designs.

A memory that stands out for Vyas is when a group of her students won an international JetToy competition. A student thanked her for bringing the program to him and supporting the students both in and outside of school.

“You can see the joy on their faces and the pride in their achievement,” she remembers. Vyas thanks the SAE Foundation for making such amazing programs possible.

“It’s very teacher-friendly, all lesson plans are done with next-generation science standards,” Vyas says. “This AWIM program is win-win for everyone: the creators, students, teachers and volunteers.”

SAE brings STEM learning to life not just on Nov. 8, but every day of the year across the globe, with the help of donors and volunteers who believe in building a STEM-fluent workforce. If you want to help make a positive impact on the next generation of innovators this National STEM/STEAM Day, volunteer or donate today.

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