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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU STEM Education Students Deliver Handmade Toys to Kids at CHKD for the Holidays

By Mindy Ayala-Diaz

Continuing a tradition that began six years ago, Old Dominion University industrial technology students in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies put their classroom experience to work to make the holidays a little brighter for children.

The MerMADE STEM Toys4KIDS project challenges students to create STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys for kids at the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk.

This year, students designed three types of toys and puzzles for youths ages 6 to 18. This week, they are delivering more than 50 wrapped gifts made of wood and 3-D printed plastic. These toys were made using tools and materials found at the STEM Education Production Lab in the education building at ODU.

Petros Katsioloudis, interim associate dean of the college and professor of STEM education, has co-led this annual project alongside Basim Matrood, lecturer in the STEM Education and Professional Studies Department, since its inception in 2015. The project has also partnered with Slover Library in Norfolk to create boxes for the toys since 2019.

"I believe that true education consists of knowledge and character, and projects such as this one embody these values and promote the value of philanthropy and diversity to our students," Katsioloudis said.

This project aims to encourage Darden College students to continue giving back to the community and promote inclusivity while sharing their love of STEM education.

"For my students, this project has a double meaning. It's more than a grade to them; they put so much care into making these toys perfect, to bring these children some joy," Matrood said. "Some even donated toys of their own, just to be a part of this."

Interim Dean Tammi Dice said the college is proud of its program and the longstanding partnership with CHKD.

"The best part of the MerMADE Toys4KIDS project is the reciprocal benefit to all involved," she said. "Hospitalized children receive handcrafted toys and ODU students learn practical skills while also experiencing the gifts of giving."

Samples of the toy designs will be on display in the Darden College.

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