Building Automation and IoT as a Platform for Introducing STEM Education in K-12
There is growing concern in the United States about the lack of interest and aptitude in science, math and, in particular, technology and engineering disciplines. Certainly one reason for this could be the lack of true engineering experiences available to students when they are in junior high and high school. This is in part due to the fact that while most teachers are well versed in math and science through their formal education, very few have experience and/or educational backgrounds in engineering and technology. To promote STEM careers, a partnership among university engineering faculty, practicing engineers, and secondary schools is necessary; it is important to demonstrate to young potential STEM professionals the relevance of STEM activities. In addition to interacting with practicing professionals, authentic experiential learning activities for students in secondary education can promote STEM careers. Recently, the authors were awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant as part of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to develop such partnerships and activities.
As part of this ITEST project, the field of building automation was chosen as the focus area for all planned activities. This decision was made for a couple of reasons. First, with the exposure of the engineering grand challenges and the issues associated with global warming in the national and global media, today’s youth are acutely aware of the need for renewable energy, green resources, and energy efficiency in their daily lives. Second, building automation is an area with numerous engineering opportunities exist that tie these concepts together, touches most people’s lives, and makes an easy-to-understand environment for exploring STEM concepts. This work-in-progress paper will present the ongoing work for this project, including the concept of using building automation to introduce teachers and students to STEM concepts, a novel summer workshop for secondary education teachers, the development of a simple building automation platform that can be deployed in secondary education classrooms, and the development of educational partnerships with the building automation industry to introduce and excite secondary education students about the STEM opportunities available in the field of building automation.