Do kids with Legos turn into engineers?

It’s not vocabulary kindergarten students would normally know.

“A gear train!” they yell, asked what it’s called when one gear is hooked to another, and another, and so on.

If two gears are connected, and one is turned, which direction will the other move?

“Opposite!” they yell.

If a wheel is running along carpet as opposed to smooth tile, what force slows it down?

“Frisking!”

Well, it’s not perfect; they are kindergarten students, after all. And, with a little coaching, they land on the correct word: Friction.

SPACE, a nonprofit STEM education group, is piloting a new program at Roselawn Condon and Hartwell elementary schools. It’s called the IGNITE Grant LEGO program, and once a week, for about an hour, iSPACE staff or volunteers come in and use Legos to teach the students about physics and engineering.

Next year, iSPACE will follow the same batch of roughly 130 students to first grade, then to second grade, third and so on.

Then, when the students hit seventh grade, iSPACE will finally have an answer to its hypothesis question: If students are introduced earlier to STEM programs – science, technology, engineering, math – will they be more likely to pursue those avenues in high school and beyond?

In Cincinnati Public Schools, seventh grade is when students choose a high school and get more freedom in their class choices.

“Are they going to take the easy peasy general science class? Or are they going to opt for the more challenging ones?” asked iSPACE founder Linda Neenan. “We will be tracking them to see how many of them from our initial group actually show an affinity for STEM careers.

“We won’t know for a while, but we’re willing to give it a try.”

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