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Case Study: UTICA Community Schools

Christopher Brown, a Media Center Teacher at UTICA Community Schools in Michigan, USA, saw the potential of Strawbees to provide a hands-on learning experience for everybody, from low-tech to high-tech. After trying it in his own classroom, he became a great advocate for getting Strawbees STEAM Classroom Kits with micro:bit technology into his school, and with the help of Cory Widener, UTICA Community Schools' Instructional Technology Coach the implementation took place over the entire district of 25 elementary schools.


Strawbees has been a great addition to our school and the entire district this year as we added the STEAM Classroom Kits w/ Micro:bit to all 25 of our elementary schools. The kids have really enjoyed it, as have we," says Mr. Brown.  


Mr. Brown who works closely with his classroom teachers at the elementary level and also holds a position as an Elementary Trustee on the UEA Board of Directors, is dedicated to exploring and experimenting with new and engaging STEAM solutions for his students and elementary schools. He has obtained numerous certificates, including those from Microsoft, Lego, and Common Sense Education, in order to help advance his mission!


Having very little pre-existing knowledge of Strawbees, Mr. Brown was unsure what to expect when deciding to try this STEAM Solution.

I'll be honest, I thought it would turn out to be a quality engineering tool that kids would enjoy, but potentially grow tired of as we know how quickly kids' attention can shift from one thing to another," says Mr. Brown.  

However, he quickly discovered the many possibilities these reusable straws and connectors (orkeys”), as Mr. Brown likes to call them in the classroom) offer. His two beta testers liked it so much that one of them asked "I like that you can build anything you want?!" This could completely transform a classroom into a dynamic space of creativity

Strawbees-case-studies_01_Chris-Brown_02These reusable straws and connectors (or “keys” as Mr. Brown refers to them when he is teaching) can be used to design, build, test, improve, and re-test, in order to create anything you can imagine.


I like that you can build whatever you want!?!?" says an 8-Year-old tester.



Considering Mr. Brown already had in his possession a micro:bit extension acquired through, he felt Strawbees was the ideal STEAM solution to fit the theme of engineering and to explore with his 4th-6th grade students. After his successful trial of Strawbees STEAM Classroom Solution, he connected the people behind Strawbees with Cory Widener, the Instructional Technology Coach of UTICA's Community Schools. 

I could not believe how quickly 4th - 6th graders went from just learning about Strawbees and struggling a bit at first to try and find their groove, to building this huge pyramid out of 64 smaller pyramids," says Mr. Brown.




Mr. Brown noted the two major difficulties his students, both 6 and 8-year-olds, encountered when trying to build: connecting the right connectors to each other and the elbow connector. Nonetheless, with practice, the children got the hang of it pretty quickly and could build huge pyramids out of 64 smaller ones!  So, in the end, Mr Brown felt extremely positive about recommending Strawbees to his community schools. He knew Strawbees was a great addition that could provide the most memorable learning experience for his students, as they truly enjoyed it and were engaged for hours.

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' I highly recommend Strawbees for anyone looking to get their hands into some physical engineering fun and creative exploration. Thank you Strawbees for this great experience and resource for teachers and students," Mr. Brown concluded.









The instructional technology coach Mr. Widener remembered up to this point they had not had much interaction with the actual Strawbees team - pre-covid they got Strawbees from a book fair and started using it for their classes here and there before the pandemic hit and there were not many in-person classes anymore. Already then they saw the potential of creativity that could inspire their students. Post-covid, students came back in person for longer periods of time and at that moment, they were looking for STEAM Solutions for their older students who already used micro:bit. The marriage was obvious - micro:bit and Strawbees, two things his teachers and students know well!

The team met the Strawbees team at the ISTE Conference and had the chance to check the samples they provided, which were then evaluated against UTICA's curriculum for 4th-6th grade students.

The samples were integral to show their administrations what it can do, touch them, connect them!" says Mr. Widener. He further iterates: "The biggest interaction was working with Senior School Partnership Manager Rasmus Carlsson."


As the curriculum and technology matched, Strawbees was eventually purchased with the goal of introducing 25 media center teachers across all 25 schools in UTICA's Community Schools with their sustainable hands-on engineering and robotics solution

Communication has always been positive, true, and accurate, normally vendors do not like to send products to individual schools, Strawbees sent the product to every individual school. They cared about the community, put people first, and provide students with the best learning experience!" concludes Mr. Widener.


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UTICA Community Schools Media Center teachers bring a new layer of coding to life with Strawbees and micro:bit during their professional development session.


Would you like a Strawbees representative to reach out to you with more information regarding school district purchases? We can help you find the most suited engineering and robotics solution to make more ‘aha’ STEM or STEAM moments for your teachers and students possible!

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