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Carnegie Mellon Partnership with SUU Brings Unique STEM Education

North Elementary studentsThe Utah STEM Action Center (STEM AC), in coordination with Carnegie Mellon University, is establishing a local CREATE Lab satellite at Southern Utah University. The CREATE, or Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment, Lab is a program that empowers students with technology at young ages and will offer opportunities for young learners and SUU student volunteers.

With support from a $250,000 grant from the Infosys Foundation USA, the CREATE Lab is spanning the country for the first time with two Utah-based satellites, one at Southern Utah University and the other at Utah Valley University.

“One of the reasons we are involved in STEM outreach is to increase the number of kids pursuing STEM careers, which will hopefully result in them enrolling at Southern Utah University,” said Dr. William Heyborne, associate professor of biology and director of the SUU Center for STEM Teaching and Learning. “There is a sense of prestige and notoriety for SUU in terms of being able to form this collaborative relationship with a university as well-established and well-known, in the area of technology and robotics, as Carnegie Mellon.”

In a press release from Carnegie Mellon, Vandana Sikka, chairperson of the Infosys Foundation USA stated, “The Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab is a wonderful combination of innovative, hands-on technology programs and local community action. By combining these powerful forces we can empower the next generation of students with the creative confidence to be successful.”

Dr. Bill Heyborne at North ElementaryThe Utah STEM Action Center drives research and implementation of STEM education and best practices across the state. Using this resource, local schools and teachers will be trained in the CREATE education model and will be given tools to incorporate CREATE technology into their practice, empowering learners to employ technology for the social good.

Three specific projects have been chosen for implementation in SUU’s network of K-12 schools as another tool to engage kids in STEM learning:

  • Finch Robots”, which allow children as young as kindergarten to program and operate a fun and simple robot;
  • "Arts & Bots", which enable students to use robotics to study or make presentations on a wide range of academic subjects; 
  • Giga Pan”, according to the website, “. . . helps bring distant communities and peoples together through images that have so much detail that they are, themselves, the objects of exploration, discovery, and wonder.

“We chose these three projects because they all have a STEAM component (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). We have great art educators in our network, so it’s the perfect fit to bring science and art together this way,” said Heyborne.

The SUU Center for STEM Teaching and Learning plans on training students to run these programs in partner schools, helping to increase teaching opportunities for current SUU students and to provide hands-on learning experiences for the children being taught.