The T3 Alliance is a process for bringing students from an underserved background to the level at which they have the self-efficacy, communication skills, and the tech skills needed to engage in and be successful with community engagement opportunities. It is through these opportunities that students develop an identity that closely allings with that of a STEM professional.
Materials the T3 Alliance uses and supports have been carefully curated to provide an adequate amount of challenge with minimal instructions. Students begin building brush bots and move quickly to building a computer, assembling a 3D printer, and even building an autonomous vehicle. The vehicle may be easy to assemble, but itâ€™s true potential comes when students have dug into the underlying code that gives it the ability to perform and be programmed at an optimal level.
T3 Alliance infused curriculum starts with a relatively linear set of tasks and soon moves into the realm of nonlinear community projects. These community projects require participants to have teamwork skills and have a way to be held accountable. The T3 Alliance program recommends that students work under the structure of a grant and deliverables model.
T3 Alliance is a crucial part of workforce development in the age of sensors and IoT devices. Students who move through a T3 Alliance inspired program has the ability to integrate new technologies into their skillset and to expand their ability to help members of their community.
Setting up the learning environment
Setting up the learning environment means setting up the physical classroom space for learning and setting up the culture within the classroom for positive interactions amongst students.
At a minimum, a classroom should have a projector and a document camera with ample table space for students to work with access to power. If a classroom is shared, a storage cabinet or carts are needed for transporting materials. If a classroom can be dedicated to the T3 alliance program, then the classroom may evolve into a maker space type of environment with 3d printers, computers, and other materials. Access to an open wireless network is important and often requires speaking to the network administrator.
Emphasizing the growth mindset and the importance of a safe learning environment are the first steps to setting up a positive culture. It is equally important to curate your speech patterns so that you praise the effort and not the ability of students.
Building a calendar / structure
Building a calendar and structure for your program starts with what you have available to work with and what you need to document.
T3 has been done as an intensive two week STEM Camp, as an after school program, and as a daily class during an Upward Bound summer program. There are models that can be shared for each of the various types of programs.
The structure of the program depends in part on the way that students will be asked to demonstrate progress. In general, T3 alliance projects do not have a “grading scale” associated with them, however, it is possible and sometimes necessary to check and give feedback on the quality of the work that they produce.
Familiar with student curricular pathway
It’s more important for an instructor to have a growth mindset and model problem-solving techniques than it is to be a proficient technologist. An instructor should be familiar with the T3 Alliance curriculum and have an understanding of how students learn.
Engineering community engagement opportunities
A T3 Alliance instructor is on the lookout for possible opportunities for their students to serve the community with their STEM and communication skills. The community can be as small as the classroom, or the upward bound office, or as large as a global network.
The community member who represents the face of the engagement opportunity should enjoy working with students, be gracious, and be vetted by the instructor. Usually, two to three interactions will be necessary for a successful community project. Students need to be prepared for the interaction and will review empathetic listening and the design thinking process before the meeting.
Finding / managing funding opportunities
There are two aspects of funding opportunities to consider with your T3 Alliance Program. First, it is how to bring money in to support the costs of this type of program and the second is how to account for the money needed to support individual community projects.
T3 Alliance recommends a grants and deliverables method for the student community engagement projects. As community engagement projects are documented, its easier to reach out to local funding sources for additional funding.
Large scale funding opportunities to support the program can come from outreach budgets associated with federally funded grants. The T3 Alliance model can be adapted to be the outreach model for these types of grants.
Leveraging the various forms of the alliance
The most powerful aspect of the T3 Alliance is the community that exists to support and celebrate the achievements of the students we teach. Students and teachers are able to collaborate on projects.