Back to School with the IoT Institute

ClassIt’s that time of year again. Summer is winding to a close and students and teachers are preparing to go back to school. But this year as school supplies are being bought and students of all ages contemplate what they will study, the world of the Internet of Things is making its way into the classroom.

Smart, connected products are changing the way we live, work and play and as more and more manufacturers are building these products, the demand for IoT skills is growing.

With a current shortage of IoT talent in the marketplace, it is important to build interest in IoT with students early. This opens up new opportunities for teachers at all levels to learn the science behind how connected products work and expand this knowledge into their STEM curriculum in the classroom.

The IoT Institute

Many educators are looking for fun, interesting ways to connect IoT to the classroom to engage and prepare students for future careers in a smart, connected world. Recently, a group of K12 educators from the New England area got the opportunity to become IoT education pioneers by attending the IoT Institute hosted by PTC’s K12 Program earlier this month.

“My students have always lived in the digital age and the internet is at their fingertips. I wanted to learn how to introduce them to smart, connected products because they will be using and helping to design them in the future,” said Heather Kohn, a high school math teacher from Marlboro High School. “I want to use the IoT to inspire them now and help them understand that any product can be turned into a smart, connected one with a little brainstorming about how sensors and connectivity can enhance the user’s experience.”

With IoT not currently covered in today’s K12 curriculums, the teachers attending the IoT Institute became K12 experts—acquiring more content knowledge and a deeper understanding of how smart, connected devices work, including the hardware and software that work together to enable products to talk, the tools and resources to use to teach IoT concepts appropriate for different grade levels, and fun strategies for implementing IoT lessons.

IoT and smart, connected products curricula for the classroom

“Gaining a window into the world of how IoT works in business allows me to make connections to the real world of work for my students. Students are always more motivated to learn when they see how what they are learning applies outside of school,” said Tiffany Davis, Instructional Technology Specialist at John R. Briggs Elementary School.

“I was interested in attending the IoT Institute for two reasons. First, it was “capacity building” for both my students and me – using the “wow” factor to push myself and the kids past our comfort zone to a place where we are forced to practice 21st century skills like innovation and problem solving. Second, the content and skills relate directly to my technology curriculum which now encompasses programming and engineering,” said Davis.

Back to School with the IoT Institute 2The IoT Institute included a “Shark Tank” style team challenge where ideas were brainstormed and proposed for new smart, connected products. This included, a hands-on demonstrations of how to connect different sensors along with a view into a graphical interface that teachers can use in the classroom to collect and display sensor data, and learning about the Digital Twin concept.

The teachers got first-hand experience simulating the Digital Twin Bike curriculum, a step-by-step curriculum designed by the PTC K12 group to take students through the full process of creating a digital twin and smart connected bike, using PTC Creo and ThingWorx to fully connect a bike and stream live data.

Before the week ended, the teachers spent a day of curriculum research and planning in grade-level groups where they brainstormed the best implementation methods for bringing IoT and smart, connected products into their classrooms. Over the next few months, they will continue to work with PTC to develop curriculum projects.

“I am excited to implement the IoT concepts I learned into my classroom and am going to start with a “Talking Window Garden” unit that my fifth-grade students will complete with their kindergarten buddies,” said Tiffany Davis. “The older students will design and then 3D print “smart pots” that the younger students will use to grow bean plants. The “smart pots” will include sensors connected to LEDs; the LEDs will help the kindergarten students monitor the light and moisture their plants need to thrive.”

Class BikeThe IoT Institute helped these educators head back to school this fall with more knowledge to inspire the next generation of IoT innovation.

Davis said, “A world filled with smart, connected devices demands tech savvy workers, consumers and citizens yet research shows that by fourth grade a third of our students start to “tune out” of STEM.”

“I like to think that the IoT curricula I am developing, with the help of PTC, will help me keep those kids in the STEM pipeline,” she concluded.

The PTC K12 Academic program is dedicated to delivering an educational advantage with academic packages on IoT that include software, curriculum and projects that help educators develop smart, connected products right in the classroom.

Photos courtesy of Matt Butler.