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TAME Trailblazer visits Sul Ross Elementary

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Sul Ross Elementary third and fourth graders had a Friday to remember with a visit from the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering Trailblazer, or a 40-foot “STEM museum on wheels.”

Created for third through eighth graders, the trailer holds up to 30 students for a hands-on learning experience as they explore five STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] categories: space, energy, biotechnology, aerodynamics and weather, Trailblazer facilitator Clifton Wendel said.

Third grader Dayton Jensen said the mechanical robot was his favorite part of the Trailblazer because he has been learning how to build them in his gifted and talented class.

“I’d say the robot in there was pretty much a lot of fun,” Jensen said. “I moved it and discovered that the arm moves.”

Jensen said he enjoys being in Hailey Murphy’s class and loves animals so much that he wants to become a zoologist in the future.

Elizabeth Desern teaches third grade as well as the Explore Academy at Sul Ross. She said it was an exciting opportunity for her students to see more of what STEM has to offer than what is taught in the classroom.

“We teach some of this, but there are some things that we’ve never even thought of before like inside they have robotic surgery for the medical field, and they have greenscreen technologies and all of the really cool things like tracking of sharks and things that are related to weather,” Desern said, “but we might not think about that on an everyday basis.”

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When asked why it is important for students to experience things such as the TAME Trailblazer, Desern said it opens their eyes and minds to what their futures could hold.

“For them to say, ‘Hey, these are the opportunities that are available for me and that these are things that I can do, these are things that are not out of my future and out of my world,’” Desern continued. “‘They’re things that if I’m interested in, then I can pursue it, and this is something that could impact my future.’”

Wendel has been working for TAME for six years and said he and the Trailblazer are oftentimes in a different city every day. While he manages the trailer, he employs volunteers from around the community to help students make their way through the activities.

Friday, Wendel had the assistance of Bryan Collegiate High School students.

“They don’t get to see a lot of this, you know, the hands-on activity, and it helps them connect to what they’re learning in the classroom,” Wendel said. “I think it sticks with them a little longer, too, and maybe motivates them to move into these STEM fields.”

TAME was established in 1976 with the goal of inspiring and equipping students from underrepresented groups to become future engineers, its website said. As a retired middle school teacher, Wendel said he stumbled on TAME and was excited to continue inspiring students across the state of Texas.

“TAME envisions a Texas where students realize their full potential, build community in engineering, and create inclusive solutions that reflect and celebrate our diverse world,” the website said.

For more information on the TAME Trailblazer, visit tame.org/programs/trailblazer/.

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