STEM-on-the-Go Teacher Visit FAQ

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STEM-on-the-Go Teacher Visit FAQ

STEM ON THE GO VAN Illustration

What is the STEM-on-the-Go Van? 

In partnership with RTI and the Defense STEM Education Consortium (DSEC), TIES operates the STEM-on-the-GO Mobile Digital Fabrication/Machining Van. The van is available for the 2022-2023 school year to provide hands-on STEM experiences to students. During the van’s visit to a school, the students will be engaged in solving real-world STEM challenges using the Engineering Design Process while learning how to use design software and the digital fabrication and machining equipment in the van. Pre-designed STEM experiences are grade-level appropriate, customized for students in grades K-12, and facilitated by the STEM-on-the-Go Mobile Fabrication Lab Manager who is a Marine Corps veteran with a B.A. in Middle School Education from the University of North Carolina.

Watch the STEM-on-the-Go Van video

What technologies are on the van? 

The Van is a Ford E450 box van equipped with Digital Fabrication and Machining equipment.  Including a laser cutter, 3D printer, CNC router, band saw, MIG welder, lathe, grinder and other hand tools.  See the full Van Fact list here. 

Can the STEM-on-the-Go Van visit my school?

The van is available to schools, districts, and communities to provide hands-on STEM experiences. Customized visits, from one-day to two weeks are aimed at opening students’ and educators’ eyes to digital fabrication technology, the Engineering Design Process, and STEM careers.  Fill out this form and we will contact you!


What kind of activities will students be doing in the STEM-on-the-Go Van?

Each visit is customized to the school, but activities range from using a laser cutter to create wooden gliders to 3D printing custom symbols or designing a logo for your school.   Students will be able to see how the machines work and be able to engage with at least one technology while completing a project. Explore the range of possible projects here.

What are the costs associated with bringing the STEM-on-the-Go Van to my school?

Costs are dependent on the length of the visit, school details, and travel expenses incurred.

What aged students can visit the van?

The STEM-on-the-Go Van is ready to work with students K-12 in a formal education setting and can adapt to work with students and adults for a community visit.   

Students in grades 4 and up will be able to engage in all aspects of the STEM-on-the-Go Van’s activities.  Students in grades 2-3 will complete a light version of the activities and students in grades K-1 will do an exposure activity.  

How many students can visit the van at a time? 

One class of students should visit the van at once. No more than 30 students can visit the Van at any time.  The smaller the number of students, the more involved the visit will be.  It may be beneficial for some larger classes to split into two groups, if possible.  

Only 4 students will be allowed into the van at once to see how the machines and technologies work.  The other students will be working at tables and stations set up outside the van. 

Is the van accessible? 

The van has a front door with two steps and a back door with a wheelchair lift that is accessible for those with disabilities.  The STEM-on-the-Go team will do its best to ensure all students can access the van and see the technologies inside. 

Who should go out with the students to the van?

The classroom teacher MUST come out to the van with their class.   A substitute teacher is not sufficient.   Other adults may join the class if they would like such as paraprofessional, aids or parent volunteers 

*please note that the adults are there to help supervise and assist with small tasks and should not expect to complete any projects

Who runs the activities in the van? 

All STEM programming is led by Mike Harris, the Mobile Fabrication Lab Manager.  Mike is a Marine Corps veteran with a B.A. in Middle School Education from the University of North Carolina.  There may be additional partners or helpers. 

How long are the students out at the van? 

Each class will be scheduled for one to three periods of time depending on the activity they are working on, their grade level, the length of the schools’ class periods and what type of visit the school has scheduled. 

Where should I bring my students? 

Please look over the schedule you were sent for your school’s visit.  Please be ready with your class at the nearest door to the van as close to your scheduled time as possible.   We want to make sure every student has a full experience, so we need to stick to the time schedule as closely as we can.

What should my students bring with them? 

For most visits, students do not need to bring anything with them to the STEM-on-the-Go Van, but each activity is different and customized so this may change.  For example, some activities may require students to complete a short worksheet before the Van visit and bring it out with them. 

Do students need a permission slip? 

The STEM-on-the-Go Van is considered by most schools as an ‘on-site field trip’  and therefore students will need a permission slip signed to participate and have their photos taken by the STEM-on-the-Go team.   If a student does not have permission to have their photo taken it is the teacher’s responsibility to indicate that by putting a paper bracelet on the student. 

What happens if it rains? 

If the weather is not cooperative – rain, cold or excessive heat – students may need to stay indoors for the bulk of the activity.  This means they may be constructing objects in a classroom and just going out to the van for a few minutes to see how the machines work-  they should be prepared with a jacket if necessary. 

If the weather is very bad –  heavy rain or snow or excessive cold – the visit may need to be rescheduled. 

Do you have a question not addressed here?  Please reach out to the STEM-on-the-Go Van Manager, Mike Harris at [email protected]

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