South Fayette Township School District STEAM Studio Model for Innovation 

2013-2014 The Grable Foundation Grant Outcomes and Continuing Progress

South Fayette School District is leading an initiative to embed and assess computational thinking into K-12 education by systematically integrating innovation and the design thinking process within the curriculum and in after-school, or connected learning experiences. Through the generous support from The Grable Foundation, South Fayette School District built a STEAM Studio model for innovation, and set out to build capacity toward within underserved partner schools. We are very encouraged by the results.

Computer Programming


In December 2013, students in kindergarten participated in their first programming activities. Students moved fellow classmates through a life-sized maze on the classroom floor by using handwritten blocks of code. Students then used Kodable, an app that introduces participants to the concepts of computer programming, by manipulating characters through a maze using block-based code. Impact: 206 students.


In 2014-2015, the program has expanded exponentially. Kindergarten students move from the virtual world, learning to program through the app Koadable, to programming robotic BeeBots as they improve their skills in directional language, programming BeeBots through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns. Students then learn about electrical circuitry through squishy circuits. (Scroll through the photo gallery to learn more.)

Computer Programming

First and Second Grade

Students in 1st and 2nd grade, in 2013-2014, were introduced to the concepts of computer programming through Scratch block-based language by building a math game. Students wrote math facts and then programmed blocks of code using conditional statements, to create a quiz with questions, answers, and a scoring system. The STEAM teacher compiled the code into a classroom game that students can play at home or school to practice math facts. Impact: 245 students in 1st grade and 251 students in 2nd grade.


In 2014-2015 students use Scratch Jr. to create video games to learn computer programming concepts and practices. Students build with WeDo Legos Robotics and learn to program extensions such as motors and sensors. Our young programmers compare and contrast different programming languages, such as Scratch and WeDo Legos, as they begin to demonstrate computational thinking as the new literacy. (Scroll through the photo gallery to learn more.)

Computer Programming and Electrical Circuitry 

First and Second Grade

To expand upon the concepts of computational thinking, students create interactive games by using block-based code with Scratch Jr. Our young programmers are then introduced to electrical circuitry as they design tools, create circuits and explore electronics using squishy circuits made of conductible play dough. In addition, our young engineers built a 3D model of their community as they learned about maps, then automated their buildings by making doors open and shut and lights turn on and off by building circuits with LittleBits. They created a map of their city using block-based code. Then students combine what they learned in programming with electrical circuitry using MaKey MaKey circuit boards to create their first rock-band preformance by programming cardboard keyboards to play notes programmed with Scratch block-based code. (Scroll through the photo gallery to learn more.)

Programming and Prototype Design

Third - Fifth Grade

In 2013-2014 students were introduced to the concepts and practices of computational thinking through Scratch. In this six-week project, which started in October 2013, students designed an interactive animated cartoon about their favorite things entitled “All About Me.” Students learned important habits of mind such as being persistent and gaining tolerance for ambiguity. Impact: 229 students in 2nd grade. 


During the 2013-2014 school term, students created robotic creatures, such as alligators, using Lego WeDo Robotics. Students built their characters with Lego blocks and then used motion sensors programmed through Scratch to open and shut the creature’s mouths based on the distance the participant’s hand moved from the robot. Impact: 249 students in 4th grade. 233 students in 5th grade. In addition, 88 students from visiting partner schools Fort Cherry and Manchester Academic Charter School arrived at South Fayette for the first ever GameJam. Students participated in a Rube Goldberg design challenge designing a maching that would move a marble from the physical to virtual world and back.


Students in 2014-2015 have expanded their block-based programming skills as they introduce extensions and explore the Lego WeDo Robotics curriculum, while learning how to develop their own unique design challenges. Young innovators experience design challenges created to encourage students’ innovative thinking through computer programming. They learn to make a spin-art machine to teach circumference and create a prototype for an environmentally responsible sprinkler system, while learning to program tilt sensors and distance sensors and much more. (Scroll through the photo gallery to learn more.)




Programming and Electrical Circuitry

Fourth Grade

During the 2013-2014 school term, all fourth grade students combined electrical circuitry and computer programming in an eTextile design project. Students programmed LED lights to blink in pattterns using arduino boards and ModKit block-based code and then sewed the electrical circuitry into the t-shirts by using conductible thread. Impact: 250 fourth grade students.


Connected Learning

Third, Fourth, & Fifth Grade

3rd – 5th Grade:  Students participate in after-school Scratch Clubs designed to help students continue their passion for learning computer programming. Students choose from three different options: Storytelling, Video Game Challenge and Scratch and Stuff. 150 students 3rd - 5th Grade 2014-2015 and 200 students  in 2015-2016. (See adjacent photo gallery.)

The Innovators of Tomorrow: BusBudE

Grades 7th - 12th

Since 2014 students have been beta testing a product they designed called BusBudE Secure Travel Notification System.  Parents register their young children for this service. Children receive a tag and small device attached to their backpack. As children enter the bus they scan their BusBudE tag to the mobile device on the bus. Immediately a text message is sent to the child’s parents alerting them as to the time and location that their child enters and leaves the bus. Parents know exactly where their children are during the process of being transported to and from school. This startup company is also in process of designing workshops and training services to help student teams learn to code this app for their own districts in order to support and encourage a pathway for non-dominant youth interested in engineering, design, and computer science. (Scroll through the photo gallery to learn more.)

The Innovators of Tomorrow: MyEduDecks

Grades 8th - 11th

Since 2013 student teams have been beta testing and running research studies on a pen-based mobile application they designed called MyEduDecks. Their research, which has been published in a book entitled The Impact of Pen and Touch Technology on Education,

reveals insights into how the MyEduDecks application can be used to foster and encourage a personalized learning environment and allow students to create a peer network of flashcard decks that can be shared, to promote and support peer learning networks. In March of 2013 students presented their first research project at Pepperdine University at the WIPTTE Conference. In April 2015 students presented their findings at WIPTTE at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington and at the E2 Global Connect Conference. Students are on their third iteration preparing for a large scale beta test for middle school students in December 2015. (See the photo gallery to learn more.)

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