Michigan program illustrates educational trend towards youth-powered community revitalization and climate resilience

In Michigan, the MiSTEM Network team in Region 4—which covers Macomb County—is seeking community partners and businesses to join the third annual Little Inventors challenge to address climate change to help bring to life the original ideas and sketches from over 1200 fourth-graders from 47 classes across nine school districts.

In keeping with the current trend towards youth-powered revitalization and resilience efforts—which has the goal of preparing students to improve the future in which they will live—the MiSTEM Network hopes to harness youth creativity in restoring nature and our global climate, while cleaning and economically revitalizing local communities.

Thanks to funding from the MiSTEM Network, MISD is the first in the nation to bring the innovative Little Inventors program to students. Support from educators and community partners helped the program grow from 300 students the first year it was launched to over 1,200 students in its third and current year.

Together, with help from education and business partners around the state, the MiSTEM Network is providing resources to ensure students are exposed to hands-on STEM learning that will lead to the pursuit of in-demand, rewarding careers – ultimately, building a talent pipeline that is key to long-term economic prosperity in Michigan,” said Megan Schrauben, MiSTEM Network Executive Director.

By participating in STEM programs like Little Inventors, our schools and our community partners are not only empowering students in the region, they are inspiring thousands of students to explore STEM careers and grow the talent for our future workforce,” she added.

The 2023 program invites students to answer the call to Go Green with innovations that can help build a healthier world by addressing the everyday activities that contribute to climate change. For the “Go Green: For a better planet” challenge, students submitted ideas for greener ways to eat, travel and live.

We are building a community around early exposure to innovation by leaning into an unlimited resource that all children have, their imagination,” said Mark Muzzin, MiSTEM Macomb Lead.

Whether it is the ‘Giggle Time Bouncy Shoes’ or the ‘Pi Pedaler’ we take their ideas seriously and trust them to be agents of change. Our partners take the students’ ideas to the next level by leveraging existing equipment and expertise to change the life of one student while inspiring thousands,” he continued.

Macomb ISD organized the first Little Inventors program in the country in 2021, made possible through MiSTEM grant funds, targeting English Language Arts (ELA), STEM and career integration while prioritizing student agency and equity.

The program equips classrooms with teacher friendly materials, including PowerPoint presentations and guidance on how to deliver the challenge to students. An Inventor’s Log with activities and drawing sheets is available for the student inventors.

Working with the MiSTEM team at MISD over the past few years to inspire innovative thinking and creativity in the minds of the wonderful young people in Macomb County has been truly inspiring,” said Craig Bright, General Manager for Little Inventors.

Participation in each new challenge has grown significantly which clearly demonstrates an effective strategy from the good people at MISD as well as an increasing appetite among schools in the county to more actively engage in exciting STEM education programs. We are extremely humbled and excited to have the opportunity to continue learning from the brilliant minds of the little inventors in Macomb County, and possibly beyond, for many years to come,” h4e explained.

PTI Engineered Plastics will join the program as a maker for a third year. PTI previously developed The Ocean Snake of Doom for the 2021 challenge which revolved around cleaning up waste in the environment and The Flamingo Mobile for the 2022 Mission Moon challenge.

PTI is excited to continue our long-standing commitment to Macomb ISD with this year’s Little Inventors challenge,Kelley Riley, Sales Coordinator for PTI Engineered Plastics.

The program is a great way for young students to collaborate with local leaders in manufacturing and innovation while experiencing the joy of bringing a creative idea from art to part,” she added.

Additional makers for the 2023 challenge include: Fori Automation, College of Creative Studies, The Department of Defense’s STARBASE One, Jay Enn Corporation, Ascent Aerospace, Macomb Community College and Romeo Community Schools’ tenth grade career and technical education class.

Student submissions closed March 31 and selected ideas will be produced by makers ahead of a May 31 celebration and exhibition. Students from the following school districts submitted inventions: Anchor Bay School District, Eastpointe Community Schools, Lake Shore Public Schools, Lakeview Public Schools, New Haven Community Schools, Richmond Community Schools, Romeo Community Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools and Warren Woods Public Schools.

Get Involved

Being a maker for Little Inventors allows partners to get as involved as their time and resources permit. From producing a rendering of a student’s idea to creating a physical prototype, makers work directly with one student to engage in problem-solving, creative thinking and collaboration.

Partners can take the first step to show students and their classmates that their ideas matter by signing up at littleinventors.org/makers/join or emailing Mark Muzzin at mmuzzin@misd.net.

Featured image shows the “Ocean Snake of Doom” which was part of the MiSTEM Network’s 2021 challenge, which revolved around cleaning up waste in the environment.

See Go Green: For a better planet challenge website.

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