Last month, more than 50 of WISD’s third and fifth grade students completed an engineering design workshop series held at Waxahachie Global High.

April Moon, the WISD STEM Coordinator; Wyatt Hawkins, a Global High senior; and I planned and facilitated the three-day workshop.

Students from Waxahachie Global High’s Engineering NOW club assisted and even provided one-on-one guidance to the participants as they completed their design activities and projects.

At the first workshop session, the students learned about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the engineering design process, force, Newton’s third law, and angles. Then, they immediately put their newly found knowledge to the test by building, testing, and refining straw rockets.

As the students were building and testing the rockets, one of them told me he felt bad for his sibling who wasn’t able to attend the workshop. He said he was having a lot of fun and wished his sibling could be there, too. This simple statement put a smile on my face, one that lasted through the rest of the workshop series.

The last two days of the workshop series, the students learned about pneumatics and friction, and then they constructed balloon-powered cars. They tested their cars on two tracks: one with friction (simulated by a bedsheet) and one without friction (polished concrete floors) to see for themselves the effect friction has on the motion of the car. Measuring the circumference of the balloon, the students also had the opportunity to observe the effects that varying balloon sizes had on the distance that their car travelled.

On the last day of the workshop, the students were given the chance to refine their cars’ designs before racing them one final time with a balloon circumference of 28 inches. With community members and the students’ parents in attendance, everyone anxiously watched to see which car would go the furthest. The third grade winner was William Henley from Dunaway Elementary, whose car went about 45 feet, and the fourth through fifth grade winner was Elijah West from Northside Elementary, whose car went about 50 feet!

Also, on the last day, the students had the opportunity to share what they learned with everyone in attendance, photos taken throughout the sessions were shared in a slideshow, and we presented all the participants with a certificate of completion.

The workshop was not only fun for the participants, but they also learned important engineering concepts. We tested the kids’ increase in knowledge between the first and last day with a pre and post test. The average scores across all grades more than doubled, and the third grader’s average scores almost tripled!

This month, we are holding an all-girls robotics workshop for first through eighth grade students. The first- and second-graders will be working with Finch Robots, the third through fifth grade students will be working with Lego Mindstorms, and the sixth through eighth grade students will be working with VEX Robotics.

It is the policy of the Waxahachie ISD not to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender or handicap in its Career & Technical Education programs, services or activities as required by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation act of 1973, as amended.


Kayla Johansen is a senior at Waxahachie Global High. Johansen (and Hawkins) chose to take on these STEM workshops as part of their engineering capstone project. Currently ranked No. 1 in her graduating class, on track to complete her associates in science degree before her high school degree, serving as President of Global High’s Interact club, and actively volunteering in the community, Kayla is a true leader in WISD! She plans on attending Southern Methodist University and eventually teaching high school math or history.