AWS Public Sector Blog

We Build it Better empowers middle school students with engaging STEAM education

young boy on laptop assembling robot with classmates in background

Children become aware of traditional careers at a young age. But the careers in modern science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) that are likely to be among the most in-demand when the children enter the workforce aren’t traditionally introduced to younger students. Many cloud occupations are absent in the aspirational pathways commonly discussed in STEAM education. Aspiring tech students are not aware of the full breadth of cloud jobs that exist, and are often pushed a narrow view limited to coding, video game production, and software development. These are not the right fit for all students. Absent are pathways related to hands-on physical infrastructure careers. Exposing students to more comprehensive STEAM concepts and views of what it means to work in STEAM jobs in middle school can help expand their ideas for future career choices.

Additionally, educators often cite the lack of fun and engaging content for their students when it comes to STEAM education. To address these gaps, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Flight Works Alabama (an Airbus Americas 501c3) created the program We Build It Better. We Build it Better (WBIB) is an 18-week industry-designed educator-developed, innovative curricular experience that engages middle school students in a work-life advanced manufacturing (technology, data centers, aerospace, etc.) STEAM environments. The program is operational as a pilot in 38 schools across 4 states in the US, affecting almost 2,000 students. Significant scaling is expected to follow with the full program launch.

“AWS is excited about our collaboration with the We Build it Better program and the opportunity to bring hands-on interdisciplinary STEAM programing to middle schoolers and educators,” said Michael Punke, vice president of global public policy at AWS. “Our hope is the We Build it Better program will enrich students with STEAM skills fostering new ways to think about and solve problems in their everyday lives while familiarizing them to our evolving tech driven economy and expanding their boundaries of what’s possible in tech careers.”

Providing engaging STEAM education

Creative processes and logic play a crucial role in the development of innovations and inventions. Middle school students often do not have exposure or experience with developing effective, creative processes. The overall objective of WBIB is to weave twenty-first century work skills with higher-level thinking skills such as measurement, product design, tools, electrical wiring, fiber optics, ­­and coding to encourage students to design inventions on their own.

WBIB provides a set of classroom kits and interactive techniques designed to help educators expand students’ creative capacity and encourage the development of innovations and inventions. The program, delivered through seven WBIB innovation kits, introduces new and inventive technologies, exposes students to techniques that help build new skillsets, provides hours of curriculum and activities, and promotes STEAM career awareness. AWS worked with WBIB to infuse the Amazon Leadership Principles, existing AWS educational materials and technology, cloud, and business concepts into each of the seven kits. The result is a cross-industry curriculum with a focus on aerospace and technology (cloud).

Participating classrooms set up their own Center of Invention and Innovation Workplace at the beginning of each class for a Toolbox Meeting. They learn to take safety seriously and see how to collaborate effectively. Educators treat students as mature innovators, where they simulate a nine-to-five style workday during their class period for testing and clock-out with their assessments at the end of class. WBIB creates a true hands-on environment where students are constantly measuring, creating, and working as a team.

The full seven-module program launches for the 2021-2022 school year and will be available to all schools. WBIB educators will continuously incorporate feedback and findings from teacher and student assessments on an ongoing basis.

What’s next for WBIB

Learn more about We Build It Better on their website or their Facebook page. And, check out more about AWS and STEM education.

Allyson Eastman

Allyson Eastman

Allyson Eastman is an economic and workforce development manager with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) global public policy team. She crafts win-win workforce development partnerships with community stakeholders and creates innovative workforce development approaches and programs globally.