STEM and Maker

Career and Technical Education's (CTE) role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) describes how Career and Technical Education (CTE) helps meet the critical need of developing a skilled, professional STEM workforce to secure America's economic future. CTE courses and programs strengthen students' understanding of STEM content and attract students to STEM careers. Virginia Beach City Public Schools' STEM programs offered through the Technical and Career Education (TCE) programs, are becoming increasingly evident. Many TCE programs allow students to explore interests in STEM-related careers through a variety of avenues, including career advising, mentoring, job shadowing, internships and career and technical student organizations.

TCE programs often integrate high-level academics and technology into the curriculum. These programs offer students a deeper understanding of STEM career pathways, facilitate student transitions between secondary and postsecondary education and careers and help encourage more students from under-represented populations to enter STEM fields.

TCE programs can expand our students' horizons as it helps them learn about different STEM-related career options through hands-on training and the application of core content knowledge. The relevance of TCE and the use of applied-learning strategies help keep students engaged in STEM programs, thus increasing the number of students interested in this critical area. This is evident by the fact that seven of the 19 Virginia Beach City Public Schools students participating in a 2011 Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) program are TCE students. Examples of the many TCE related STEM projects were compiled for the Hampton Roads STEM Council and are available for review.

In November 2011, a white paper regarding the integration of STEM into the curriculum and co-curricular activities was authored by a committee of teachers, principals, and staff from the school division's Department of Teaching and Learning. The white paper provides the division definition of STEM, a description of the impetus for including these concepts as part of the educational program for all students, and highlights of the work currently taking place with regard to STEM education in the division. In addition, next steps in building a robust K-12 program are outlined.


The 2015 STEM Robotics and Maker Challenge will be the most exciting yet! On Friday, June 12 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, VBCPS is combining robotics with entrepreneurship for an ultimate day of student engagement. Using their team-programmed robots, over 1,000 students will compete in the “Baxter on the Boardwalk” challenge where teams will have to place miniature Baxters in either a manufacturing or a servicing space. They’ll even have a chance for some bonus points by placing Baxter on a magnetic sheet and on top of building blocks. On the same day, finalists from the 2015 Maker Expo will compete at the Maker Challenge where they will 3-D print products that they invented or innovated. All participants in the 2015 STEM and Maker Challenge will chronicle their process using an e-portfolio to showcase their learned skills and research.

2014 STEM Robotics Challenge

The 2014 STEM Robotics Challenge, entitled STEM the Erosion, challenged students to create a robot designed to plant sea grass and move rocks to build a seawall that prevents beach erosion. With the theme of sustainability, over 50 VBCPS student teams—featuring 900 students at the elementary, middle, and high school level—worked year-long on robot design and documentation. To chronicle their development, teams followed the Engineering Design Process and showcased their research via an electronic portfolio using Microsoft Power Point. With the use of 3-D printers, students were also able to create additional parts for their robot including grippers and scoopers.

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Embraces "The Hidden STEM Economy"

Dr. Jonathan Rothwell of the Brookings Institution and author of 'The Hidden STEM Economy,' visited Virginia Beach on October 18, 2013. Sponsored by Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS), Virginia Beach Economic Development, and Opportunity Inc., Rothwell presented at the Virginia Beach Westin Hotel in front of VBCPS administrators and counselors, City of Virginia Beach leaders, and community activists about his highly-talked about ‘Hidden STEM Economy’ report. Following his presentation, Rothwell was accompanied by VBCPS leaders and Economic Development leaders on a guided tour of the Advanced Technology Center where he was able to see the use of STEM curriculums in the classroom. You can learn more about ‘The Hidden STEM Economy’ here.

STEM Partnership with Opportunity Inc.

STEM Partnership

VBCPS partnered with Opportunity Inc. beginning in November 2011 to raise awareness of STEM to Workforce Investment Act (WIA) students. Targeting VBCPS WIA juniors and seniors in high school, this partnership enabled the division to create STEM related after-school and weekend programs that expose students to STEM careers, post-secondary education opportunities and entrepreneurial skills.

The purpose of the partnership with Opportunity Inc. is to expand the minds and increase the academic levels of those students whom have never thought about STEM careers, have never thought they could attend college or have never had the opportunity to explore other career fields.

Today, the division’s partnership with Opportunity Inc. consists of several after-school activities, a paid summer job, entrepreneurship program exposure, and various life and skill building sessions throughout the year. Our partnerships with Junior Achievement of Hampton Roads, Norfolk State University, and the Together We Can Foundation help make this program for students a success. You can apply for the STEM Program Here (Will send new application once it’s complete).

Submergible Remotely Operated Vehicle (SROV) "Five Minutes to Win it"

Students in the ATC Marine Engineering, Engineering Technology and Modeling and Simulation classes are learning how to design and build a functioning Submergible Remotely Operated Vehicles (SROV) using physics, engineering and design principles. This project based activity developed students problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork skills. Students are exploring concepts of air pressure, water pressure, buoyancy and more as they learn about the harsh environments in deep oceans. Students have received structured lessons from teachers and a National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Education Specialist outlining the science, engineering and design aspects of SROV's. Students are learning about the environmental usage of ROV's and careers related to their design, construction and usage using Internet resources. At the conclusion of the design/build phase of the project student teams competed in the "Five Minutes to Win It" competition to determine the which SROV design was the most successful at mastering the competition objectives.

ATC Students Rocket STEM to New Heights

For the past several years, Advanced Technology Center (ATC) students have actively participated in the Engineering Technology Rocket Team. After qualifying among the top 100 teams in April 2011, the ATC Engineering Technology Rocket Team competed on May 14, 2011, in the national finals of the world's largest rocket contest -- Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC).

The TARC provides middle and high school students across the country with the opportunity to design and build a rocket that will climb to 750 feet and stay aloft for between 40 and 45 seconds, using a 15-inch diameter parachute for a recovery device. Teams must also transport a payload of one egg in their rocket and return it unbroken. Students compete for $60,000 in prizes and scholarships, and a chance to attend the international Air Show in Paris, France. Virginia Beach City Public Schools is proud of the ATC team that placed 34th in the nation out of over 600 teams.

The ATC team credits their accomplishments due to their weekly after-school meetings since mid-October 2010 where team members had the opportunity to plan, research, design, and test series of rockets. The Virginia Beach Beacon, reported on this story is its May 9, 2011, publication.

Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME)

All students enrolled in the school division's Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs work in independent teams to develop a small ship design according to shipyard specifications. Students are given a list of guidelines which spell out, in detail, all requirements necessary to start their design process. These guidelines are used to produce a scaled ship design that incorporates actual propulsion equipment. Each team uses standard Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) software to produce their design.

Designs are critiqued by a panel of judges (seasoned members of the maritime industry) as to how well of a design they have developed. The judges examine everything from proper drafting/design practices to actual practicable and replicability concepts. Selected ship designs are actually built by Newport News Shipyard Apprentices and the top designs must demonstrate maneuverability specifications. A final winner is determined such as the Advanced Technology Center's CAD program winning entry "Sink OAR SWIM".

Cable Car Race

Advanced Technology Center (ATC) instructor Ron Garrison's engineering technology students placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in Tidewater Community College's Engineering Club Cable Car Race in April 2011. The award-winning cable car was designed using Autodesk Inventor and produced components using the rapid prototyping machine, constructed, and then tested their cable car. The cable car traveled along a cable suspended 100 feet along the second floor of the ATC's atrium, with a 13 foot drop and rise in the cable.

Cisco NetRiders Skills Competition

The Cisco Networking Academy is a global technology education program that provides students with networking and technical skills to prepare them for careers in the 21st century. During the 2011 Cisco® Networking Academy® NetRiders Skills Challenge, an interactive contest designed by the Cisco Networking Academy to give technical education students the opportunity to showcase their IT and networking skills, the Advanced Technology Center's entry won first place. More than 1500 students, representing nearly 150 academies from across the United States and Canada, competed in this challenge consisting of three rounds culminating with a final, virtual event on May 6, 2011.

NetRiders Skills Competition

  • NetRiders utilizes Cisco's Web 2.0 technologies to create an interactive experience, enhance classroom learning, and motivate young people to further pursue technology education and training.
  • Over 10,000 students across more than 80 countries have competed in regional NetRiders competitions over the last several months.
  • The U.S. and Canada NetRiders Finale competition involved 38 teams of two (2) Networking Academy students competing in a variety of activities, including a timed theoretical exam, a Cisco Packet Tracer network simulation activity and exam.

NASA Future of Flight "Contest"

In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright began what has become a ubiquitous form of transportation for developed nations all over the world. More than one hundred years later, their small open cabin wooden plane has been transformed into designs with capabilities no one could have predicted. And little could the Wright's imagine what space ships have developed over the past 60 years. What is next? Can you imagine what space ships, rockets, or aircraft will look like one hundred years from now? Where will they go and who or what will they carry? Jules Verne imagined men on the moon almost one hundred years before it became reality. What do you imagine for the future of flight, either in space or in Earth's atmosphere? The video on the left is the modeling simulation entry submitted by the Advanced Technology Center.