Oklahoma Electric Cooperative and Engage Learning Spark Passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education
OEC and OEC Fiber sponsored a STEM Maker Night organized by Engage Learning, featuring twenty staff members and a variety of hands-on making and STEM activities focused on electricity.
The free event was designed for families with students in grades first through eighth. It featured various engaging and interactive activities, including circuits and soldering, electricity projects, laser cutting, 3D printing, playground physics, Tesla coils and more. In addition, attendees could participate in the OEC Live Line, our state-of-the-art, high-voltage demo that promotes electricity education and safety.
The free event attracted more than 100 attendees, all eager to explore the world of STEM education through an electrical lens.
“As a parent, I am always looking for ways to bond with my children in a way that entertains all of us,” said OEC Vice President of Member Engagement, Autumn McMahon. “I was blown away by the activities and the learning that Engage Family Night promoted. Perhaps the highest praise I can offer is that as we left, my daughter smiled at me and said, ‘Wait a minute, you just tricked me into learning outside of school!’”
With the support of OEC and other partners, Engage Learning has provided cutting edge STEM education programs to students throughout the state, inspiring a new generation of innovators and problem-solvers. In 2015, when Bart Keeton and his family moved to Norman, he saw an opportunity to make a difference in education.
“It was a chance to reinvent in a new place,” Keeton said, “I have spent a lot of my life teaching, and I saw a need and an opportunity here in this state for hands-on, STEM based education.”
Oklahoma is home to two nationally ranked engineering colleges, the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, making it an ideal location for students interested in pursuing STEM education, Keeton said. However, many K-12 schools and teachers need more resources and funding to provide students with hands on learning experiences that can spark an interest in STEM fields. This is where Engage Learning comes in.
“We thought there might be a way to do all of that work for teachers, families and schools and help them give kids the best education has to offer, without that extra cost,” Keeton said.
At Engage Learning, the emphasis is on project-based learning. This approach allows students to engage with real world problems and challenges and develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in today’s rapidly changing world, Keeton said.
“Projects are super motivating, especially when the student has ownership,” Keeton said.
By working on relevant and meaningful projects, students can practically apply their knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of the subjects they are studying, Keeton said.
“We started with some engineering design-based projects,” Keeton said. “One of our first projects was at Norman High School, and our first sponsor to help us complete this project was OEC.”
In 2017, OEC partnered with Engage Learning for the first time, funding a project at Norman High School to create a solar charging station for cell phones. The gazebo was designed and primarily built by local seventh graders, Keeton said.
As a cooperative, OEC is committed to investing in our communities; partnering with Engage Learning was an ideal way to do this. Through our partnership with Engage Learning, OEC has supported various programs and initiatives that provide STEM education in our service territory. This included providing funding for projects in Little Axe and Noble, as well as the Engage Learning Family Fun Night last month.
“One of the unique things about OEC and OEC Fiber is that our employees live in the communities we serve,” said McMahon. “We understand that the best way to make a stronger future for all of us is to invest in activities that promote not just learning in kids but bonding in families as well.”
As Engage Learning continues to expand and evolve, we are excited to be a valuable partner in promoting hands-on, STEM-based education for all. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in Oklahoma’s students’ lives and contribute to our communities’ growth and prosperity.
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