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Teaching STEM Initiatives Through Building Skateboards [sxswedu]

Opensource Boards Offers STEM Education Through Making Skateboards


STEM and STEAM are the focal points of lots of education initiatives these days. The thought is that by teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) along with STEAM (which adds the A for Art), we will mold more engineers, teach learning and critical thinking. But when you think of STEM we typically think of 3D printing, robotics, inventions, startups, entrepreneurship and art.

Educators that are flipping the classroom and thinking outside the box are trying to find ways to incorporate STEM and STEAM curriculum into things that students would find appealing. It’s almost like sneaking the education part into fun learning. We saw companies at SXSWEdu that were teaching STEM initiatives through exploring with amazingly cool projects. We also saw companies that were teaching STEM through djing and audio production.

OpenSourceBoards-11 Teaching STEM Initiatives Through Building Skateboards [sxswedu]

We also met Beau Triffiro.

Beau’s been skating since middle school. It was both a passion and a method of transportation, even as he was studying to become a mechanical engineer at Villanova. After getting his degree and spending two years in the workforce as a trained engineer, he packed his bags and headed west. He set out to start his own skateboard company.

“Through all of this, I realized how this process – the design and construction of skateboards – is a perfect platform for learning practical creative and engineering skills.  Now, through hands-on design/build workshops, I hope to inspire and empower others to pursue creative and technical projects, while still creating my own (and your own) “open source” skateboards.”  he says on his website. 

After the success of his workshops Beau’s wheels started turning again, and he felt that designing and building skateboards, basically from scratch, would be a great way to teach some of the STEM skills. The program he’s created has taken off and has already been implemented in the San Diego Unified School District, The High Bluff Academy, The LaJolla Country Day School and more. Beau’s booth at SXSWedu was packed with educators who really understood the power in connecting students with something as appealing as making their own skateboards.

Opensourceboards-2 Teaching STEM Initiatives Through Building Skateboards [sxswedu]

Beau tells us that everything can be done in the classroom. The students create their own foam molds and from there they use a method of making skateboards in vacuum sealed bags called the Roarockit method. They put the molds around 7 pieces of maple veneer, using some water based wood glue the boards are sealed in the bags and after sitting overnight the boards are ready to be traced, cut and ready to ride.

The curriculum requires at least 16 hours but it can be customized based on how much of the “engineering” the teacher wants to get into. For older students they can deep dive into some of the principals in aerodynamics and how skateboards move.

Check out our interview video with Beau above and for more visit 

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