Students participating in Mobile STEM Unit activities
Activity

Setting Up a Mobile STEM Unit

Mobile STEM Units offer an opportunity for ALL students to participate in hands-on, inclusive STEM activities.

By Lydia Knopp, Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB)

Have you ever wanted to get MORE students excited about Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) activities in an inclusive environment? Are you looking for ways to promote an understanding of some of the challenges that students with visual impairments face in participating in STEM lessons? Are you trying to reach new populations of the community who may not know the basics about visual impairment? If so, a Mobile STEM Unit may be for you!

Background

The Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) Mobile STEM Unit offers an inclusive opportunity for all classrooms. These inclusive STEM experiences use access technology and simple adaptations to provide an opportunity that allows ALL students to explore, analyze, engage in trial and error investigations, and experience the joy of discovery.

Growing out of the Maker Space that was created was Bob Taylor, the KSSB Mobile STEM Van was founded in 2020 and has visited 34 different schools or organizations. Last year, the van traveled 2,900+ miles and worked with over 500+ students and community members.

Download the flyer. (PDF) (Word)

A group of elementary school children explore circuitry.
A group of elementary school children explore circuitry.

What is a Mobile STEM Unit?

The KSSB Mobile STEM Unit brings quality, hands-on, and interactive activities for classrooms which includes students who are blind or visually impaired. This service is provided free of charge to local schools and community organizations as part of the Outreach activities.

In addition to outreach to schools where students with visual impairments are enrolled, we have offered activities at other types of community events, including Girl Scouts, Career Fairs (in the hope of recruiting teachers of students with visual impairments – TSVIs), transition activities, the State Fair, and the Braille Challenge.

The goals for the KSSB Mobile STEM Unit are: 

Depending on the space, grade level, and identified goals, the STEM Activities may include activities such as Cubelets, Sphero, Rube-Goldberg, OzBots, drones, maker space equipment, and accessible technology.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Mobile STEM Unit.

Mobile STEM Van

The van is an essential part of the success of the Mobile STEM Unit. Ideally, the van is dedicated to the Mobile STEM project and is stocked with materials and equipment for a range of activities to be offered onsite. Grant funding may be available to purchase and outfit a van.

KSSB Mobile STEM van with a group of students and teachers exploring materials in front of it
A group of students and teachers explore materials in front of the KSSB Mobile STEM van.

Setting up the day

Outreach staff works closely with the school personnel to set up a schedule for the day.

A small group manipulates Cubelets
A small group manipulates Cubelets, which are a type of robot blocks

Stations: Differentiated Activities

KSSB offers a list of Available Items for Exploration with the Tech Van. This includes the following:

3-D Printing

Students utilize 3D Pens to create small additive designs in the third dimension like rings, cursive names, etc. Students also learn about the 3D printer live on-site and utilize modeling programs like Tinkercad and Thingiverse to design files.

Assistive Technology for People with Visual Impairments

Students learn about the braille alphabet, and interface with a Perkins brailler to write their name in Braille. Other devices include a Magnifier, Refreshable Braille Display, Tablet with Voice Over, and Smart Watches. Students also try Vision Simulators that help provide first-hand experience of what it’s like to have various types of visual impairments while learning the basics of cane usage and mobility technique

A group explores braille notetakers and refreshable braille displays
A group explores braille notetakers and refreshable braille displays.

Blind Engineering

Students wear vision simulators and are tasked to work together in teams to build a structure larger than the tallest person in the group using sticks and balls. Students must use communication and orientation skills to make it happen.

Circuitry

Students utilize SnapCircuit kits to build small machines that enact different functions. Snap Circuits projects come with tactile labeling and fully brailled instructions alongside print versions to reinforce different forms of learning.

Coding and Robotics

Using a combination of Cubelet & Sphero Codable Robots, alongside APH’s Codable Mouse, students work in groups to code different robotic functions for different goals. Sample goals include coding a “track” resembling an uppercase letter for the robot to follow, combining different functions to create a robot that spins, lights up and makes sounds, or “driving” a robot using coded directions down and back on a track.

Makerspace Equipment

A variety of projects combine maker-materials and tools to make things like straw rockets, rubber band cars, cane tags, upcycled sculptures, tactile graphics, and video production.

Rube Goldberg Chain Reaction Machine

Students use various upcycled materials to build a contraption that uses a chain reaction to carry out a simple task.

Explore the list of other items we have available!

How can you set up a Mobile STEM Unit?

A school for the blind or regional center may be the most suitable operator of a Mobile STEM unit. You may wish to consider the following:

Collage of setting up a mobile STEM unit

Return to Accessible Science main page.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Monarch multiline braille display
Article

Graphing with the Monarch and Desmos

12 oreo cookies placed in a clock-face positions representing the various positions of the moon and sun during an eclipse.
Activity

Cookie Eclipse Activity

Gas flame under pot
Activity

Heat Transfer Unit