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The white rocket blasted off with the power of compressed air behind it and soared across the blue sky before landing nose first into the grass on the other side of the Blair High School practice field.
“Whoa!” one student shouted.
BHS students in Carson Norine's STEM class were launching rockets to collect data to determine the best design. The students designed the rockets using CAD software and printed the nose and fins with a 3D printer, which was donated by the City of Blair and the Blair Public Library and Technology Center.
“Eventually, we're going to have a good old-fashioned contest,” Norine said. “Just a shooting match to see whose goes the farthest and the straightest.”
The STEM class, which began this fall, is a first of its kind at BHS.
“As our world is ever-changing, the science department felt that we could better meet the needs/interests of BHS students and possible future careers by implementing this course,” department head Erin Field said.
The class is designed to allow students to better understand the world around them through science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“This is more real-life like in many areas of science today,” Field said.
While they were launching rockets this week, students have also built automatons, or self-operating machines, and worked with micro bits, which involve coding.
“It's a very different style of class. It is not a sit down and read out of book. There is not a text book to go off of this,” Norine said. “Lots of project-based learning. We're doing something, we're designing.
“I think the thing that's interesting for the kids to deal with is the multiple iterations,” he added. “'I'm doing this and it failed. Now what? Go back and we rebuild again.'”
BHS' STEM course differs from other districts, where courses have a focused area, such as an emphasis on construction or robotics, Field said.
“At BHS, our STEM class is focused on many areas, not just one,” she said. “It allows our teacher, Mr. Norine, to select topics that are relevant and in multiple disciplines to help students learn about and have an interest in many fields.”
Blair Community Schools is not alone in its decision to add a STEM class.
According to the federal report, Charting a Course for Success: America's Strategy for STEM Education, the U.S. Department of Education continues to push for an increase in STEM-related learning.
More schools are offering courses with a STEM focus to offer hands-on experience and promote interest in possible careers. Jobs in STEM industries are expected to grow to nearly 9 million by 2022.
“There are so many jobs in the STEM field,” Field said. “Even jobs with the label biologist, require more than just knowledge about biology but knowledge about many fields, like chemistry, that have to work together to solve problems.”