By Leslie H. Dixon
OXFORD — Teacher Ruth Wilson plans to fill a school bus with students, some of whom, may be this country’s future engineers.
Oxford Elementary School was one of 16 schools selected to receive a bus grant to help defer transportation costs to get students to the Maine Engineering Expo at the University of Southern Maine at the Gorham campus on Saturday, March 4.
There, they will get to see first-hand what engineers do.
The school will receive up to $500 for transportation costs, the Maine Engineering Promotional Council (MEPC) announced on Friday, Feb. 11.
For Wilson, it is an opportunity to fill the bus not only with her own sixth grade class but with other sixth-graders and perhaps fifth-graders as seating allows.
“Students relish any chance to build, tinker or imagine,” said Wilson who is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher at Oxford Elementary School and formerly worked in the field of information technology.
Wilson told the Advertiser Democrat that as a STEM teacher she teaches engineering principles and the engineering design process through engineering challenges for her students.
“With limited time in the school day for lessons, I seek to find every way to include tying in engineering be it engineering fields tied to our science unit or reading about some engineers or engineering fields,” she said.
The Expo is part of the nationally recognized Engineers Week in Maine. It is celebrated with an annual E-Week Banquet and Expo, where some 1,700 engineers, educators, and students gathered for hands-on activities and workshops to learn about engineering and what engineers do, according to information from MEPC. The Expo, they said, is intended to publicly promote the work and contributions of engineers across the country.
This is where the Oxford Elementary students come in.
In addition to the Expo, Wilson said she and other teachers try to expand their students’ interest in engineering and STEM in general, through the district’s Aspire Higher program. The month-long event included a career fair and daily activities in the classroom last fall.
“In my room we explored a magazine I picked up at a workshop “#DoWhat YouLove STEM Jobs” published by bystemjobs.com., she said. She also signed her students up for a 20 lessons online program called “Accelerated Introduction to Computer Science,” which offers a competition the students will be involved in.
A Family STEM night was also held last year at Oxford Elementary School which, Wilson said, had an “overwhelmingly positive” response.
Wilson said she is convinced that any student can achieve in the engineering field and she is committed to successfully preparing her students to fill future engineering and computer jobs.
“All students can shine, even the students who struggle with traditional lessons. When students see that the things they love to do most and are good at actually can transfer into a myriad of future well paying jobs, they are more engaged in lessons.”