Interview With David Makkers on STEM Programming in LS and MS

We heard there were exciting developments in STEM in the Lower and Middle Schools, and as soon as we came across the phrase "Underwater Robotics," we had to find out more. To get the scoop, we talked to new STEM teacher, David Makkers. Mr. Makkers came to Woodward this year after working at reputable companies like Norfolk Southern and even NASA. Before that, he earned his degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Southern University.

"Education has always been important to me in life," says Mr. Makkers. "As a new instructor here at Woodward, I hope to provide the necessary exposure and enrichment for all students to be better prepared for the ever-changing STEM world of tomorrow." See below for our full interview with Mr. Makkers.

BEYOND THE GATE: Could you describe a project or two that students have been working on in your classes?

DAVID MAKKERS: Yes! At the Lower School, our 4th, 5th, and 6th graders are working on their very first SeaPerch ROV. SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips students with the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle. Through this program, students have the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics while building an underwater ROV.


In my Middle School robotics class we are currently preparing and finishing up our final robotics build for this year's VEX In The Zone Competition, which will take place at Arabia Mountain High School on February 17, 2018. This will be our first year in about four years that the Middle School robotics team has competed in a VEX competition. This is a very exciting moment for all of us here at the Middle School!

BG: What's your vision for the STEM program at Woodward?

DM: My vision for the STEM program at Woodward would be to implement linear alignment. I feel that is important to create a systematic track that our students can follow and that will prepare them for STEM-specific fundamentals at each grade level. This track will ensure that our students have the proper skills and knowledge necessary to excel at every level of STEM education offered here at Woodward.

In the foreseeable future we are working hard to create a linear alignment for our robotics program. This alignment will include Lower, Middle, and Upper School students following a curriculum that will prepare them for each stage of robotics at every grade level. The goal of this alignment will be to increase student interest, skills, and involvement in robotics.

BG: Why is STEM programming important and how will your work help kids in the future?

DM: As an educator our role is to prepare our students to be responsible citizens in our rapidly changing world. Learning the fundamentals of programming will allow our students to gain a greater understanding of how technology works and will encourage them to go beyond the basic functionality of what already exists. Through STEM education, they will become the inventors we need who will create technology to solve our day-to-day and global problems. Here at Woodward, I plan to keep our students on the cutting edge of technology and promise to provide them with positive learning opportunities and experiences.

BG: Is there any other project that's interesting or exciting that you'd like to share with us?

DM: This school year Shelley Carter (Upper School Robotics Teacher) and I organized the Middle School's first ever STEM Disney Trip, open to both 7th and 8th grade students. During this trip, students participated in Disney's STEM education series, exploring the many facets of STEM found right on Disney grounds. After each session, students also received fast passes to ride the corresponding attraction that fits with that STEM session. All in all, this was an amazing trip and experience!

BG: What's your favorite part about Lower and Middle schoolers?

DM: The one thing I truly enjoy about our students here at Woodward is simply seeing how eager they are to learn new concepts and take on challenges within class.

BG: What's your favorite part of your classes?

DM: My favorite part of class is being able to observe my students grow and learn new content that they have never seen before. It is also amazing to see them take ownership of everything they've learned and then teach that to others.

BG: Since you arrived at Woodward, has anything else stuck out to you?

DM: The first thing that struck me was how supportive and inviting our staff members are. It means a lot to come to work every day knowing that everyone here supports you and wants to see you succeed as a teacher. The climate of this school is simply amazing and makes for a great working and teaching experience.
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