Polytechnic’s Engineering-Technology Teacher Education program brings friendly STEM competition to Indiana schools


Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute, Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University are teaming with Michigan-based Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT) to create enthusiasm for STEM careers among middle and high school students with an online challenge called MakerMinded.

Teens, pre-teens and young adults from everywhere in the world already compete with each other through online gaming. MakerMinded uses a similar “friendly competition” concept on a web-based portal. Any student and school with an Internet connection can earn points by completing MakerMinded’s teen-centric tech challenges and career learning experiences, and then posting photos to track their adventures to the MakerMinded website and in social media. Participants choose activities from six categories that include “Connect with a Local Manufacturer,” “In-Class Activity” and “Experience STEM in the Community.” Activities are worth three to seven points, depending on the degree of difficulty and involvement. For instance, watching the film “Hidden Figures,” which is the real-life story of the unsung African-American women coders who helped launch NASA astronauts into space, is worth three points to students. Attending a science or engineering fair will garner students seven points to post online. A statewide event will honor the schools with the most points at the end of the year.

“This platform harnesses the power of competition by connecting students to cutting-edge skills and experiences, and to the companies that need their talents,” said Lisa Deck, education workforce development program manager for the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC). “The Polytechnic’s goal is to raise awareness by engaging K-12 students in hands-on activities that will encourage a career pathway in manufacturing and STEM credentials that can be acquired at Purdue.”

Nearly 5,000 students and teachers from more than 400 middle and high schools in Michigan, Idaho, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia already participate in the MakerMinded program. State-wide events honor the schools with the most points at the end of the year. The goal for Indiana is to register 50 schools and 1,000 users across the state.

MakerMinded’s expansion into Indiana is courtesy of a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense's National Defense Education Program.

Purdue Polytechnic’s Engineering-Technology Teacher Education program (ETTE), Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University previously joined forces in 2013 to create IN-MaC. The goal of the academic partnership is to promote high-tech manufacturing industries – and the education needed to staff and propel those industries – in the Hoosier state.