Start your #STEMbuildsOhio challenge with a $1 trillion hook

As America looks to redesign and rebuild with the passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, you can inspire a new team of infrastructure-savvy students.

This year’s #STEMbuildsOhio Design & Entrepreneurship Challenge asks students to consider how they can improve their school, community, or world by reimagining an existing physical space, system, product, or service so that it is more equitable, accessible, or efficient.

Educators can sign up now to begin the challenge. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be updating with dozens of new resources and details on new opportunities for you and your students.

But you don’t need to wait! The bipartisan infrastructure bill provides a great “hook” to introduce your students to this year’s topic. Below, we’ve broken down all the major categories of the bill. Each category description includes a brief recommendation on a classroom activity you could incorporate to start your students toward learning about design thinking.

Breakdown of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, recently passed by the U.S. Senate with classroom activities.

Roads and bridges: $110 billion

  • The largest portion of the funding will be going to refurbishing roads and bridges across the country. Since these are resources we all use daily, each student should be able to highlight a challenge they have experienced using this built infrastructure. But after they recognize the issues with the built infrastructure, students might lack the tools and knowledge to tackle the challenges. To help your students learn the science behind road and bridge construction, you can perform the STEM Challenge: Build a Bridge with them. This challenge introduces physics concepts used by engineers who design different structures to support traveling vehicles and give students a start to solving their transportation problems.

Railroads: $66 billion

  • Although fewer people use railroads for personal transportation these days, but they are still an integral part of our nation’s infrastructure, as they are used to transport goods efficiently across the country. To help your students think about the importance of railways and how they affect daily life, have your students review: What Can You Ship by Rail? This resource will provide a collection of examples of products still dependent on railroads for shipment. After some research, have your students think about alternative ways to ship the same resources and discuss the inefficiencies of those methods of transportation. For assistance with that discussion, you can review: Why are railroads still important in the current era?

Power grid: $65 billion

  • Power and electricity are such crucial pieces of the infrastructural system that we spent last year developing solutions to improve it in the #STEMpowersOhio Design &Entrepreneurship Challenge. During this challenge, students dove deep into what it takes to enhance the electrical system to improve their community. Our partners at Ohio Energy Project provided  several  lessons and activities to  for teachers to introduce the basics of energy education with their students.

Broadband: $65 billion

  • The global pandemic has underscored the importance of reliable broadband access for all. . With the investment through the infrastructure bill, the government hopes to give all people access to this crucial service. As a learning experiment for your students review the Office of Educational Technology’s report on broadband and propose a challenge to your students about how they would create an internet system for all Americans.

Water systems (especially pipes): $55 billion

  • Students learn the water cycle as part of their science coursework, but this model often excludes the human element that is a crucial part of the modern water cycle. With so many build surfaces it is important to understand how water is diverted and used for the benefit of people. The funding from this bill will help improve water pipes that communities rely on for a consistent and safe water supply. To help students understand these systems, the Water Education Foundations has put together a list of facts to help kids learn the intricacy of water systems.

Public transit / Electric vehicle charging stations / Electric school buses / Road safety: $65 billion

Resilience / Remediation: $68 billion

  • Resilience and remediation are terms that describe two categories, cybersecurity and climate change mitigation/cleanup. As we develop newly built infrastructure, we want to protect it from cyber-attacks and mitigate climate impacts. The funding in this category allows agencies to develop plans to protect natural resources and infrastructure. To explain climate resilience to your students, you could start with the perspectives of these Stanford researchers. This will help your students locate issues and strategize solutions to the infrastructure they use.

Airports and aviation infrastructure: $25 billion

  • Aviation provides a new platform for Ohio residents and the goods we need to be mobilized more quickly.  Drone technology has advanced rapidly in the last few years, but the widespread usage of these low-altitude aircraft is limited by the lack of a widespread air traffic management system to ensure safe flights. To understand this new ecosystem, our partners at FlyOhio have started to educate communities on the upcoming infrastructure change and how it affects students, their families, and a new workforce.

There are so many ways to learn about infrastructure. Pick your category and explore all the resources with your students. Make sure you sign up for the #STEMbuildsOhio Design & Entrepreneurship Challenge. Additional information and this year’s challenge website will be updated soon so don’t miss out.

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