Florida Meets Betabox for the First Time!

In Field Trip Stories by Sean Newman Maroni

Betabox collaborates with Volusia County, FL to highlight the future of STEM

Last month, Betabox had the pleasure of exploring uncharted territory in Volusia County, Florida. That’s right, Betabox Learning has traveled all over the country, but Volusia County set a milestone by being the first Florida school system to host our experiences! The Box was initially met with cold temperatures and gusty winds and the running joke was that we brought the weather in our carry-ons from North Carolina 🙂 However, the sun was soon shining bright for STEM and the educational spirit of the students. 
Middle Schoolers throughout the county were immersed in our Self-Driving Cars (SDC) and Game Design Experiences. During each Self-Driving Cars Experience, students learned about the electrical, manufacturing, and networking aspects of engineering a car that drives itself!  Participants at Taylor Middle School used tools to manufacture parts needed to build a SDC, communicated with their cars through the Raspberry Pi network, and constructed a Daytona 500 course of their own to test out completed robotic cars.

A student takes his robotic car for a spin before joining his classmates at the starting line for a friendly race during the Self-Driving Cars Experience at T. Dewitt Taylor Middle School.

In Orange City, the Algebra Honors students at River Springs Middle School (RSMS) experienced a behind-the-scenes look at Game Design. Teachers joined in on the fun, encouraging students to make the connection between programming concepts of IF/THEN scenarios and variables with standards covered in class. The students’ light bulbs went off! What followed were engaging and enlightening discussions about the future of STEM and potential careers in game design. One RSMS eighth grader believed,

“STEM can change the world! It’s not just about money, but saving lives. I can grow up and create a robot that helps doctors during complex surgeries!”

Volusia County is geographically diverse including both inland agricultural and coastal regions; we loved visiting these schools that represented the different regions. Vince Roeshink, CTE Specialist, partnered four of Volusia’s schools with Betabox to bring interactive STEM activities directly to their community. He even stopped by during our events to swap his administrative hat for an engineering one!
We saw firsthand in working with these students that when learning opportunities are structured in a hands-on manner, that engagement in the content is much deeper.
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