Pam Sparks, robotics and biology instructor at Hazel Park High, checks out underwater remote-operated vehicles worked on by sophomores Conner Johnson, Zander Byrd and Jackson Meeks during class Dec. 13. The robotics course was new for the 2016-17 school year, part of the ongoing focus on STEM learning in Hazel Park Public Schools.

Pam Sparks, robotics and biology instructor at Hazel Park High, checks out underwater remote-operated vehicles worked on by sophomores Conner Johnson, Zander Byrd and Jackson Meeks during class Dec. 13. The robotics course was new for the 2016-17 school year, part of the ongoing focus on STEM learning in Hazel Park Public Schools.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Hazel Park schools embrace STEM learning

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 26, 2018

 Jazmine Sunklad, a sophomore, and Quinton Stone, a senior, work on an autonomous cars control panel.

Jazmine Sunklad, a sophomore, and Quinton Stone, a senior, work on an autonomous cars control panel.

File photo by Deb Jacques

HAZEL PARK — STEM learning has taken off in a big way at Hazel Park Public Schools.

There are many lucrative careers in the STEM fields — short for science, technology, engineering and math. But first, students need to be interested in them. 

To this end, a variety of programs have been added at all grade levels.  

“STEM learning experiences … will help students grow as readers, writers, mathematical thinkers, artists, innovators and scientists,” said Stephanie Dulmage, director of 21st-century learning at HPPS.  

Since 2017, elementary school students in the district have had weekly STEM-based classes. They’ve been learning programming and coding, computer-aided design software, 3-D printing, miniature programmable robots called Ozobot Bits, video game design with Bloxels — a platform for building game layouts, pixel art and animations — and more. They even have a Lego League for projects using the popular toy. 

At Hazel Park Junior High, students in sixth through eighth grades have Project Lead the Way courses focused on computer science, engineering and biomedical science. Each has hands-on activities and projects. Those wanting to explore these ideas further can join the after-school STEM Club and participate in the robotics program. 

And at Hazel Park High, there’s a robotics course focused on VEX IQ Robots — a snap-together robotics system — and participation in RobotFest at Lawrence Technological University. HPHS also has a robotics club with a focus on SeaPerch — an underwater robotics program. 

There’s a PLTW course on engineering as well, and a collaboration with the United Auto Workers and Chrysler on a school-to-work program showing opportunities in the auto industry.

“I love to see the creative-based thinking that occurs both inside and outside our classrooms,” said Amy Kruppe, HPPS superintendent. “The team-based projects that occur with our students are amazing. Even the parents love to join in.”

Robotics has been particularly popular. The robotics course at the high school is open to grades nine through 12, and it includes programming and coding, as well as the application of electricity, physics, simple machinery and engineering. The program aims to teach problem-solving skills, as well as the merits of perseverance and innovative thinking — qualities that are helpful in any field.  

Going forward, the district plans to develop a comprehensive STEM curriculum for kindergarten through fifth grade, build staff capacity to better implement STEM programming, turn the district’s media centers into “design and innovation hubs,” expand PLTW offerings at the junior high from four courses to six, expand the engineering courses at the high school, launch robotics teams at the elementary school, and expand the robotics teams at the junior high and high schools. 

“(STEM programs) engage our students in what can be their future,” Kruppe said. “It’s a must in every school. We can only hope to continue to build on this learning in the future.”