This proposal describes the efforts of the FLEx (Forward Learning Experience) program, a mobile classroom in a 16-foot trailer designed to deliver advanced technology outreach to schools around the state.
A joint effort of the university’s College of Design, College of Engineering, and Extension and Outreach, the FLEx has engaged 35,000 K-12 students, educators, and families over 99 events since the fall of 2014.
The trailer provides hands-on experiences with virtual reality, immersive visualization, prototyping, augmented reality through an Oculus Rift, interactive circuit building, a Makerbot for 3D printing, and a CNC (computer numerical control) router for complex precision material cutting.
The FLEx utilizes learning theories such as constructivist, experiential and situational learning, universal design and game theory, and supports tinkering, play, and self-directed exploration. An early informal program review showed that Design and STEM interest among grades 3-8 increased 72% due to exposure to the FLEx.
The FLEx is a groundbreaking program which improves a land-grant university’s potential to reach its state constituents in a novel and focused manner. The program has received national awards, recognition, and interest in its early and initial configuration.
Future work will partner with University Extension and 4-H to build capacity to provide this exposure and experience to all students across the state, with a particular focus on supporting rural students and underserved communities.
Research is ongoing and being formally proposed to show the educational benefits of the program through workshops and long-term positive outcomes in partnership with state-level educational task forces.
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