Four students and and an adult around a table covered with papers


Colonial Elementary School (CES) students worked together in teams to build paper airplanes in order to get a better idea of the engineering process.

The fifth graders held different roles in the group: developers, testers, and the "scrum master" who oversaw the project. They performed several rounds of testing and building, with different fixed and optional requirements. For the first round, all of the planes needed to be able to fly five feet and not have any stickers on them. The teams could then choose two out of eight optional requirements that included making part of the plane blue, including the plane's name on its wings or having a paperclip as part of the design.

"The hardest part was planning. Sometimes, we couldn't agree on what to choose for the requirements," said Bruno Kim, a CES fifth grader. "I liked making the paper airplanes. It was fun to test and to fly them."

Making real-world connections

The paper airplane activity is a project led by employees who are part of the STEM Outreach program from the local cloud integration company Dell Boomi. Nancy Chacko, a Quality Assurance Engineer with the company, developed the activity to mirror how the teams work at Dell Boomi to create new software products.

eight adults in Dell Boomi tshirts


"In 45 minutes it's hard to teach coding," said Ms. Chacko. "So we went with an idea that they already know, while trying to show them how working with different roles together helps us build a better product in the end."

"We learned how testers and developers can work together and use feedback to make things better," said Haley Braun, a fifth grader who wants to be an engineer when she gets older. "I bet all engineers even if they're not doing this kind of stuff goes through a process somewhat like this, and it kind of told me an idea of what I'd be doing and if I wanted to do it or not — and I definitely do."

Part of Colonial's K-12 plan to prepare students to be "future ready"

The visit from the Dell Boomi STEM Outreach team is part of Colonial's efforts to introduce students to potential careers as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Future Ready Index.

five children planning around a table


Earlier in the year, the fifth grade students completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator survey that helps the children better understand how they experience the world based on four scales: Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judging/Perceiving. They also surveyed their interests and learned about what potential careers match those interests.

"At the beginning of fifth grade, the students want to be the common jobs like a doctor, or a lawyer, or a teacher — the things that they know," said Donelle Brotz, fifth grade teacher at CES. "I think, with this new requirement, they're going to be exposed to different kinds of careers, not just the common careers, so they can really find something that goes with what they like and their passion."