Bing Wong Elementary, San Bernardino, California
The San Bernardino City Unified School District knew that local manufacturing companies were going to need a new quality workforce in future years because many of their current employees were planning to retire.
Bing Wong Elementary decided to help by creating the iSTEAM Lab, a makerspace where students can learn the basics of mechanical engineering, product innovation and design, rapid prototyping, and digital fabrication.
In 2016, the school received $110,000 from the district and the local control and accountability plan, plus $34,000 in grants from Verizon, the Community Foundation, the Art Institute and San Manuel Indian tribe.
The school also formed business partnerships with the Paton Group, an education technology reseller that provides supplies and training on makerspace equipment, and Technical Employment Training, a school that sets up meetings with manufacturing teachers and industry professionals.
Projects at the lab include building animatronic figures, such as those that represent San Bernardino heroes.
“Each animatronic figure must have at least two movements,” says iSTEAM Lab program facilitator Sarah Emerson. “The character of Will Rogers lassos his rope and the character of Bing Wong hands out scholarships.”
Lab students also receive software training from Garner Holt Productions, an animatronics manufacturer, which also hosts field trips at their warehouse. “Garner Holt has adopted our school,” says Emerson. “They’re working on getting us a refurbished animatronic without the finishing touches, so students can more easily study the guts of it.”
Students also run Bing Wong Industries, a business in a lab where they design, manufacture and market products as well as ship and collect orders via their e-commerce website.
“Any money they make goes to a foundation of their choosing,” says Emerson. “They run the business, so they decide where the money is donated.”
The student business’ flagship product, a laser-cut memorial candle holder, has raised $1,100, which will be donated to San Bernardino United Way to help the families of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack victims.
All site teachers receive a weeklong professional development session, which Emerson calls “basic STEM bootcamp training.” The district also pays a special trainer to visit a few times per year.
Going forward, Bing Wong plans on putting a makerspace in every classroom, providing professional development in maker pedagogy and digital fabrication, and increasing community involvement.