How Edgewood Middle School Students Changed the Lives of Warsaw Toddlers
Go Baby Go Program Connects Students with Skills
I’ve had the opportunity to visit several really interesting programs in some of our regional schools over the past few months. We’re looking into how we might expose students to the experiences, skills and opportunities that help them discover what they’re good at and how they can get paid for it.
Enter Abbi Richcreek. Abbi is the engineering and robotics instructor at Edgewood Middle School in Warsaw. She is passionate about getting students interested in STEM and in addition to her middle school classwork, she leads clubs and special projects such as “Forget princess, I want to be an engineer,” Vex Robotics Club, Manufacturing Club and Go Baby Go (GBG).
I was very fortunate to be able to observe the Go Baby Go program this spring. GBG is an international grassroots movement focused on real-time, real-world solutions for mobility using low-tech solutions to increase independent movement experiences that allow expression, play, socialization and exploration for learning.
The heart of this STEM project is the powered ride-on vehicles designed for toddlers. Many children with movement delays cannot safely use these vehicles out of the box due to their balance limitations or their difficulty using the car’s controls.
Fourteen seventh and eighth graders at Edgewood Middle School participated in the GBG program and designed user-centered electrical and mechanical adaptations, including changes to wiring and the addition of postural supports, to make these toys accessible to three toddlers with mobility needs living in Kosciusko County.
These students were chosen based on evidence of their motivation and their desire to build. They were divided into project groups, paired with engineering and physical therapist volunteers and assigned to a toddler. The students worked closely with their community volunteers and the toddlers and their families to ensure they created the perfect vehicle for their toddler’s needs.
While the students had incredible mentors in their volunteer partners, the students themselves were responsible for designing and implementing the modifications to the vehicles. The groups worked on their GBG project after school for five weeks and presented the finished vehicles to the toddlers at Warsaw’s First Friday Showcase.
Given the success of the GBG program, Abbi is currently securing local businesses to continue to fund the program. Community members, including the Warsaw VFW, who has already made a donation for the 2020 program, saw the impact that the students made in these children’s lives.
Abbi and the Go Baby Go program made a significant impact on the students who were chosen to participate. They learned so much more than the aspects of robotics. They had an opportunity to learn work ethic modeled by their industry partners. Not everything worked the first time and they had to use problem-solving skills to fix issues that arose. If they didn’t know how to do something, they had to research it and lean on their volunteer partners. They were able to explore what they liked to do and what they were good at. Perhaps some of them discovered they wanted to work with people with special needs or that they really liked working on mechanical projects. They experienced how it felt to help others with what they learned.
It’s great to build robots, but it’s even better to learn how to make something useful for people with physical challenges. They were exposed to many career options through this experience including electrical and mechanical engineering, marketing, business, graphic design and special services.
I applaud Abbi’s desire to think outside of the box on how to engage her students in work that will have an impact on them (and their community) as they move into high school and beyond.
While Abbi is certainly an awesome example of creativity and intentionality around skill development in students, we know she isn’t the only one in our region. If you know of other examples of great regional experiences that empower students to explore and build their skills around what they love, please reach out to us and let us know. We’d love to talk to and learn from them as well.
To learn more about how Northeast Indiana is connecting with regional leaders in education, please reach out to Director of Regional Initiatives Amy Hesting.