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Draper Journal

Summit Academy introduces maker class, named finalist in Samsung STEM contest

Jan 28, 2019 03:43PM ● By Julie Slama

The maker class preparing for their next challenge. (Photo courtesy Kelly Jeppson)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Her students were excited and her principal was proud, but Kelly Jeppson was surprised.

“Here I am this English teacher and I’m a finalist in a STEM contest,” she said about the competition designed to increase student interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

Jeppson, however, led the push to introduce a maker class at Summit Academy’s junior high, which began this term. Eighteen students are enrolled, many of whom helped brainstorm ideas and gave input in the $2 million Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest application.

“We needed to identify a problem in our community or our school community that we could use technology to solve,” she said about the proposal, which was due in October. “STEM is about team working and using the engineering design process to solve real problems. We came up with a lot of ideas, but ultimately decided to reduce waste in our lunchroom.”

Outlining the main problems in their lunchroom, from using Styrofoam trays to excess food waste and how the students wanted to compost, re-use materials or develop new technology for the trays, were the concepts Jeppson used when submitting the idea.

In November, she learned Summit Academy was one of 250 state finalists in the contest. Four other schools across the state were selected based on their creative and strategic proposals to solve issues affecting communities by using STEM learning. Each school received a Samsung tablet. 

Jeppson then submitted examples of class curriculum and lesson plans for the judges. 

“It’s given us a good jump-off point for our class. We can talk to other schools, research what’s been done, and see ways we can take a problem and come up with a solution. I am a believer in a maker space or environment, where students are learning, solving problems with their own hands,” she said.

In late December, Jeppson learned Summit Academy’s project was not the state winner and wouldn’t advance to the next round. 

But, she said, she was urged to identify materials they would need for their project and apply for a Donors Choose grant. Through a link on Donors Choose, Jeppson learned about the Samsung national contest after Chevron matched her grant request.

“I already have gotten some class supplies that total about $800 on Donors Choose,” she said about safety goggles, a cordless drill, Raspberry Pi single-board computers for computer science and other materials.

In the classroom, Jeppson is ensuring students understand the engineering design process as they explore through project-based learning. Students started with understanding concepts. They held a paper airplane launch, and next will make a tower from spaghetti and marshmallows and an earthquake-proof building with popsicle sticks and other materials.

In late January, they planned to create seedling pots out of recycled materials and distribute those with seeds at the school’s STEM fair.

By the end of the term, they’ll be identifying their own projects to solve using technology, Jeppson said.

“We’ll definitely apply for the Samsung STEM contest next year,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”