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West Valley City Journal

Students from Entheos Academy win national service learning excellence award

Apr 04, 2018 04:00PM ● By Jennifer Gardiner

Hala Louvier (left) and Cassandra Ivie (right) stand next to their display on The Incredible Machine. (Photo/Melanie Louviere)

A youth group from the Entheos Academy in Kearns won The National Youth Leadership Council’s 2018 Youth Leadership for Service-Learning Excellence Award for developing an engineering curriculum called “The Incredible Machine.”

The award recognizes service-learning programs and projects that demonstrate outstanding youth leadership in identifying an authentic community need, planning the service, and putting that plan into action.

Two Entheos Academy students, Cassandra Ivie and Hala Louvier, led the team of about 20 students in developing a curriculum designed to train others to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math skills) to students in rural Utah.

“Winning this award is an amazing opportunity for The Incredible Machine. We have put in so much work to develop this. Seeing it get national attention is gratifying,” Hala said.

“My goal for my future is to work in 4-H outside of Utah, to take the opportunities I’ve had here and expand them to youth in other states. Making The Incredible Machine is the first way I’ve been able to meet this goal, to share the opportunities that I have had to participate in STEM activities with others.”

Ever since their early fascination with engineering, the duo has planned and taught STEM classes to other youths. Their awareness of rural needs grew as they became 4-H Ambassadors and traveled the state teaching leadership skills. The curriculum, which is designed for elementary and middle school students led by teens or teachers with limited engineering experience, features chemical, mechanical, civil, electrical, software engineering, and culminates in a project that uses these approaches to develop an “incredible” Rube Goldberg-like machine.

“I have always been interested in science, engineering and programming,” Cassandra said. “I’m excited to be able to use my skills and interests to reach out to others. In this technology age, STEM skills are critical for youth to learn for their future careers. I’m grateful that I can help serve in such an important aspect. We thought that if we were able to create something that was all inclusive, it would really improve the quality of classes and make STEM even more accessible.”

NYLC CEO Amy Meuers said in order for students to grow into civically informed and engaged citizens they must have the opportunity to work outside the classroom and that service learning connects communities and classrooms, inspiring students to make positive contributions to the world.

Hala and Cassandra started teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes at Entheos and in the community while they were middle school students at Entheos Academy. In order to apply for state 4-H ambassadors they needed to do a 30-hour service project and decided to create the Incredible Machine as that project. 

The Incredible Machine is a portable engineering club that can be checked out by community groups throughout Utah through 4-H to expand youths access to STEM, particularly in rural and low-income areas, and is made in a way that it can be led by people without engineering experience. The girls wrote curriculum for six lessons and put together a box that includes needed materials. It has been used by Entheos to teach discovery classes and after school clubs, for 4-H groups and outreach, and by a STEM club in Jordan School District. 

To expand the reach of the Incredible Machine, they recruited a team of other teens to help train leaders in teaching and expanding the use of the Incredible Machine. As the girls go to college next year, a new group of students will be taking over the lead of the training team, including Seth Ivie, a 7th grader at Entheos, who will also be presenting at the National Service Learning presentation.

“I’ve taught STEM activities in small groups before, but never for a big group of people, Seth said. “I am nervous about standing up there with Hala and Cassey, but am excited to go on my first plane ride.”

Hala and Cassandra also wrote a business model for The Incredible Machine that was used in an International DECA competition in Anaheim last year, where they placed in the top 10.  

As part of the award, the girls will be presenting at the National Service Learning Conference in March and will have their own workshop at the conference and be able to sit on an awards panel.