Q: Tell us about yourself, where are you from, and your time here at Tech.
My name is Alexandra Marlette, and I am a fourth year Computational Media Major.
I am from Gwinnet County, so I am local! On campus, I am in the VIP team GT Mobile Stem Lab led by Jack Wood. This is my fourth semester with the team my main role involves mentoring new students that join the team.
Q: Can you tell us what the VIP program is and more about the team you’re on?
The mission of the GT Mobile Stem Lab team is to produce demonstrations and curriculum to help educate teachers and students in Georgia about STEM. We create educational technology and demonstrations that have helped me explore and create low-tech and high-tech demonstrations that all teachers in STEM across the state can demo with. We try to not only make demonstrations that we merely show people, but also have demonstrations and curriculum available on the internet that teachers can use to demo in their own classroom. We have a separate website with our content, and part of my project last semester was getting a website for our team up to have this platform to show our demonstrations.
For me personally, my angle within the project is to promote the teaching of Computer Science in high school. When I took my Computer Science class in high school, my teacher did not have a Computer Science degree. When Jack asked us to look at Georgia standards of education to help us get ideas on demonstrations we could create, I looked at the very simple building blocks of Computer Science. I made activities that helped kids get hands-on experience with these concepts. These activities that I created also have very extensive descriptions that explains to the teacher what the activity is, what it does, and how it further helps students understand Computer Science. These descriptions and activities help teachers that are Computer Science teachers, but maybe didn’t get their degree in it.
Q: What do you like about this project?
I really like how Jack lets us explore any topic we want when we are creating demonstrations. If we want to do something that pertains to our major, we can, but if we want to explore a different topic that we’re interested and can help kids learn about STEM, we can do that as well.
For example, we have a student on the team that is not a Physics major, but he is very interested in Physics, so he is creating a demonstration that involves Physics and is learning a lot from it!
Additionally, we have other students that are using their majors in ways that they probably would not be able to in a regular classroom! For example, we have a Music Technology major who is creating a demonstration to show how the same sound waves cancel out. Her project showcases how you can hear a tone at one point and also at another point, but if you stand in the middle you can’t hear the tones because they cancel out. By creating this, she is exploring concepts that relate to her major in a unique, creative, and useful way -- and I feel like there is not another class that she could do that.
Q: What is the relationship like between you and your advisor?
With Dr. Wood, my relationship with him is different than my relationship with my other professors. First, I do not think I have ever called another professor by their first name, yet Jack introduces himself by his first name which helps foster an equal environment.
Additionally, I am still getting a productive mentorship-type relationship, even though he is informal and acts a like a colleague. I feel like as much as we learn from him, he learns from us. The back and forth discussions between Jack and the students on our team resembles a colleague relationship, we never get talked down to. He is great at fostering an environment where all members of the team are equals, and our ideas are equal. I have learned a lot from him, and I feel like he has also learned a lot from the students working on this VIP team.
Q: What made you decide to participate in the VIP program?
For me personally, I joined this team because I have always been interested in education and technology. In high school, I started working with the Georgia Tech College of Computing as a summer camp counselor in their technology summer camps. This sparked my interest in exploring the ways that we teach students about Computer Science. After this experience, I took a Computer Science class at my own high school and had a really bad experience, which made me wonder “How can we make this better?”.
This question remained in my mind as I continued into college. Then, I was looking at my options for what I could take for Junior Design, I saw that being a part of a VIP team was an option, so I checked it out. As I was looking through all the listing for the VIP programs, I see the GT Mobile Stem Lab and I thought it was right up my alley. This team would give me a chance to help students learn at their own personal level what STEM is all about and give them a better experience than I had in my own high school STEM classes.
Q: Senior/Junior Design Process Story?
As I was going into my second year, I was trying to plan out what my schedule would be like and I saw VIP as an option in my DegreeWorks. I went to talk to my advisor, and she recommended that I go to the VIP poster session and learn more about the program.
While there, I actually did not talk to the GT Mobile Stem Lab team, but, afterwards, when I went online to go look at another team I had talked to, I saw the GT Mobile Stem Lab. After exploring what the team was all about, I realized that I wanted to be a part of it, so I signed up for the class. Because I wanted my involvement with VIP to count as my junior design credit, I treated it as a three-semester long project, and that is how I planned out my required roadmap for my junior design proposal. My roadmap involved creating video demos and building a website for the VIP group to allow our demonstrations to be utilized by even more students and teachers across the state.
Overall, my junior design experience with VIP was smooth and incredibly valuable. I think it should be available to every student in every major. I believe, there is something remarkable in being able to join a team and working on the project knowing nothing semester one, but walking out by semester three on the team with the ability to mentor students while having impacted a project that is going to continue to evolve and have impact on the community.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to say about the VIP program?
I highly suggest that students join any VIP. If students have an extra elective and they need to fill it, even for one semester, I think that all students can gain some great skills from being a part of a VIP team. It is one of the more valuable free electives, especially with the amount of team’s students have to choose from. VIP allows students to be creative and experience multidisciplinary collaboration which really does help them further on in their careers.