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VU and Purdue IN-MaC launch Design and Innovation Studios at six Knox County schools

A group of young children, teachers, and professors posing for a photo together while President Johnson tries to cut a long piece of tape.

December 06, 2023

December 6, 2023

VINCENNES, Ind. - Vincennes University is embarking on an inspiring initiative to propel STEM education into the future by implementing Design and Innovation Studios for students attending six public Knox County elementary and intermediate schools in partnership with Purdue Indiana Next Generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC).  

This groundbreaking endeavor aims to cultivate the next generations of high-tech thinkers and doers, providing young minds with hands-on experiences that ignite curiosity and foster a love for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. VU held ribbon-cuttings of studios at Tecumseh-Harrison Elementary School (pictured above) in Vincennes and South Knox Elementary School last week. In the coming weeks, VU and its partner schools will cut the ribbons for studios at North Knox Intermediate School and Franklin, Riley, and Vigo elementary schools in Vincennes.

VU President Dr. Chuck Johnson said, “This collaboration not only brings cutting-edge resources to local classrooms but fosters an exceptional learning environment where curiosity, innovation, and academic excellence converge through hands-on project learning. Every student should have the opportunity to explore their interest in STEM. Together, we are contributing to the economic growth of Indiana, shaping the future of education, and empowering young minds to blaze their trails in the exciting world of STEM.”

Strong partnerships are the cornerstone of success

By establishing these Design and Innovation Studios in partnership with Purdue IN-MAC and STEM Education Works, VU is helping to develop an outstanding learning environment where elementary and intermediate-level students can explore, create, and collaborate, laying the foundation for future leaders in STEM fields such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, computer sciences, physics, engineering, electronics, and design. The studios introduce young learners to coding, programming, 3D printing, robotics, and more through hands-on experiences. 

Two female South Knox Elementary School students participating in a hands-on learning project in the school's Design and Innovation Studio.
Students in the South Knox Design & Innovation Studio.

South Knox School Corporation Superintendent Jeff Cochren said, “In partnership with Vincennes University and Purdue IN-MaC, we are making a meaningful impact on how students in our school corporation experience STEM. Hands-on STEM education is paramount for elementary school learners as it cultivates a tangible understanding of complex concepts, fostering a love of learning that extends beyond textbooks.”

Eager to elevate educational experiences for Vincennes Community School Corporation students, Superintendent Greg Parsley was enthusiastic about forming a transformative partnership with VU and IN-MaC to establish Design and Innovation Studios at every public elementary school in Vincennes.

“Together with VU and Purdue IN-MaC, we are providing students unparalleled opportunities,” Parsley said. “We believe early access to STEM education prepares students for future careers and ignites a passion for exploration and problem-solving. Through these immersive experiences, we are equipping young learners with the skills to innovate and thrive, and we expect this to have an extraordinary impact on their future academic and professional endeavors.”

Hands-on learning at its best

Excitement buzzed among students in a classroom at Tecumseh-Harrison as they interacted Sphero BOLT Coding Robot and Sphero indi Robot that teach programming.

A male student holding a laptop interacts with a Sphero BOLT Coding Robot in a hallway at Tecumseh-Harrison School.
A Tecumseh-Harrison student interacts
with a Sphero BOLT Coding Robot.

Jessica Whipkey, a third-grade parent, sits at a nearby table, beaming with enthusiasm. She said, “(The studio) is a fantastic experience for the students. My son loves it. He loves building. He loves coding. He loves the little robot balls. It has just really opened up his view on all of those things. He is really looking forward to the 3D printers. They haven’t done them yet, but he knows they’re coming. He asks every week, ‘When will we do the 3D printers?’ He can’t wait.”

A flurry of excitement also surrounded the other studios VU implemented in Daviess, Dubois, and Perry counties in 2022. Design and Innovation Studios opened at Northeast Dubois Elementary School, Holland Elementary School, Perry Central Elementary School, and Washington Junior High School.

The deployment of all six Knox County studios will bring the total number of studios that VU has funded to 10. 

North Knox School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Darrel Bobe said, "We are excited about witnessing the transformative power of our partnership in nurturing a design and innovation studio for our students. Together, we are not merely shaping young minds. We are cultivating a future where creativity and STEM education converge, laying the foundation for generations poised to innovate, discover, and lead with boundless curiosity."

2 male and 1 female student interacting with a Sphero indi Robot in a South Knox School classroom.
Students interact with a Sphero indi Robot at South Knox.

This initiative reflects VU’s commitment to preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly technology-driven world, ensuring that Knox County and Southern Indiana remain at the forefront of educational innovation and excellence. The partnership will have deployed more than 62 studios by the end of 2023.

In addition, through the support of the Lilly Endowment, the Vincennes Campus will soon be home to a Design and Innovation Training Studio. The studio will provide professional development opportunities and workshops for teachers throughout the year in the Summers Center. Additionally, the studio on campus will be incorporated into VU’s Education program to ensure that VU graduates are prepared to teach STEM curriculum and are equipped with the knowledge to implement technology in the classroom.

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