Park City High School students design mobile classroom in a bus
Project earns them facetime with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert
February 7, 2017
Park City High School students Natalie Haerter, Ishan Chho and Cole Stanton heard from many naysayers.
The students had been tasked with designing a mobile STEM classroom out of a bus for their semester-long project in the PCCAPS (Park City Center for Advanced Professional Studies) program. The goal was to create a model the STEM Action Center — a Utah organization dedicated to teaching students science, technology, engineering and math — could build and take to schools throughout Utah.
The students, inspired by the challenge, dreamed of something innovative. They imagined a bus with large "modules" that pull out from each side — like many RV campers — expanding the amount of space available for learning. But when they presented their idea to various teachers and other adults, many said it wasn't practical, or that it would cost too much money.
PCCAPS engineering teacher Chris Humbert, however, advised them to push on. And that's what they did. The students completed the project, and once the STEM Action Center can secure the necessary funding, it plans to use the students' design to retrofit a bus and turn it into the ultimate mobile learning lab, Humbert said.
Stanton, for one, said overcoming the doubters made the end result even more rewarding.
"It was a little discouraging to hear that this was going to be too expensive and stuff like that after we'd put our time into it and tried to figure out this design," he said. "But our mentors convinced us to keep working on it, and I think all of us were pleased with our final project."
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In addition to dreaming up the slide-out modules, the students designed the bus to be as versatile as possible. Initially, they devoted hours to analyzing what kinds of curriculums the STEM Action Center would be likely to teach out of the bus, in an attempt to mold the design to suit specific needs. But then, they realized it would be more beneficial to make it adaptable to many different uses.
That discovery was a turning point for the project, Chho said.
"During the brainstorming phase, we had this idea of, 'Why don't we make it do everything, so we don't have to tackle this (curriculum) issue at all?'" he said. "We had this idea in our mind that we wanted it to be easily interchangeable."
Humbert said he initially assigned the project because it provided a stiff real-world challenge. Beyond how pleased he is with the final design, he was delighted to see the students flourish under pressures that are similar to what they would face in an actual job.
"These are the things that CAPS is all about, these lessons that usually you don't learn until you get into the workplace," he said. "You have to learn how to work with other people and get through people that say no and meet deadlines. It was really gratifying for them to get there."
Haerter said that was the best part of the project.
"It was cool because I thought that teamwork was just like a thing that happened and you just kind of get a good team," she said. "But when you take a step back, you realize you're not always going to be working with such awesome people and such intelligent people. So the fact we got such a good team, and we've developed this teamwork and dependability and accountability is going to serve us for a long time."
The completed design has earned the students wide-reaching recognition. Last week, they showed it off to legislators and Gov. Gary Herbert during an event at the state capitol building. More rewarding than that, though, was receiving some early feedback from those who may one day use the bus when students on an elementary school field trip wandered by their display.
"That was awesome because those are the people who are going to be using it," she said. "Those are the kids who are going to be interested, and it was really fun for them to come over and be, 'Oh, what's this?' Then, when they heard that it could come to their school, their minds were blown. They were like, 'This is awesome!'"