Akron middle school students present creative ideas for disaster relief

By Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager, Summit, Portage and Medina Counties

January 24, 2020- Two years ago I partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in Akron. This year I was asked to partner with the STEM Middle School sixth grade on a project. They use problem-based learning in their school. The problem they were presented with was: How can we, as concerned citizens, work together to assist the emotional needs of survivors of natural disasters and consider:

STEM Ozobot game

  • The structure of the response needed
  • The geographical location
  • The emotional needs of the young people affected

The class of more than 100 learners identified the American Red Cross as an organization that helps with disaster relief but was not sure how we did that. In mid-December I visited the classroom and talked about what we do during disasters, including sheltering, feeding, how we use GIS and mapping to make decisions, how we work with partners as well as how we deal with the emotional part of disaster relief. Their questions were thoughtful, and they had a lot of them.

STEM augmented reality cube

A month later, I was invited back for the presentations. “Impressive” and “amazing” were the words that kept coming out of my mouth. The students were separated into small groups and had been assigned various disaster types — flood, tornado, hurricane, drought, chemical spills, blizzards, etc. The solutions were unique, well thought out and, in some cases, mind blowing. I couldn’t believe sixth graders came up with these things!

STEM Droughtgameboard

One team, assigned drought, developed a board game. This game was fun as well as educational. Through question and answer cards, it detailed how to conserve water or reasons drought happens.

STEMComicBook

A few teams created websites. One for chemical spills addressed how to avoid them, what to do if one affects your home and who can help. They handed out a card with a QR code linking you to their website, and plan on distributing them around Akron so residents can learn more. Another website created a pen pal site for those affected by a disaster so they could connect with someone willing to share their experiences with others. One team created an augmented reality with a 3D cube that when you put your phone or tablet in front of the cube it showed, from all angles, a beach, the fish swimming in the ocean and the sun shining above it. The student said, “Well this is pretty basic.” Far from basic to me!

STEM1

This list can go on and on. I wish I had a few more hours to have walked through every display to hear all their ideas and presentations.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer 

Disaster Relief Takes Flight

By: Debbie Chitester, Disaster Program Manager Summit, Portage, and Medina Counties

A few months ago an email came across my computer asking if I would be interested in partnering with the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School.  Curious, I asked for more information.  The computer science class conducts problem based learning. The problem they were trying to solve was delivering disaster relief to people in hard-to-reach areas, a real world issue that they had seen on TV due to the 2017 hurricanes. They were starting to work with drones in the class and the teaching staff wanted a real world scenario so learners could relate the problem/solution process to something in real life.

Jorge Cropped

At first I was unsure if this was something we could do, but I was inspired by a photo of our Regional COO, Jorge Martinez,  hiking up the side of a mud covered hill in Puerto Rico to get water to a family following Hurricane Maria.

A task just perfect for a drone!  I agreed, and was scheduled to talk to the class about Disaster Cycle Services, what we do, and how we deliver service.

On a cold January day, I presented the “problem” to the learners.  I showed photos of Emergency Response Vehicles, clients walking through knee deep water to get to supplies, and Red Cross volunteers on one side of a river while the clients were on the other with no easy way to get supplies to them.  The learners were interested in the services we provide and asked good questions.  The coach (their term for the teacher) and I expressed the need and how this can save lives.  The problem demonstrated that drones could be used for more than having fun with friends, and could actually make a difference.

Their task was to create a flight plan, write code for the drone and write an essay about the experience.

On January 31, the class presented their projects.  The learners were ready to fly their drones and demonstrate how they could deliver supplies to multiple locations.  The gymnasium was set with three “landing depots”, the closer to center the better and the more points received.  The points represented the numbers of lives saved at each landing depot.  (They also received “style points” if they performed a flip between depots.) Each team had the opportunity for 2 “flights”.

That morning I was excited as I witnessed amazing young adults using math, geometry and trigonometry to program their flights, and loving what they were doing!

As I sat on the sidelines watching and encouraging the learners, I overheard one say to his teammate, who was upset by their results, “well we did not get the center, but we still saved lives.”

I thought he was being sarcastic, so I looked over at him. But no, it showed on their faces that they truly understood why they were doing this.

While some teams were more successful than others with their flights, every single team tried their hardest and learned that technology can save lives.

This partnership is something that was a first for both of us, and I look forward to solving other “problems” with them in the future.

 

To view a short video of a flight, visit https://twitter.com/NIHFHS/status/958742381557420032.