STEM: K-8 Engineering

LinkedIn
STEM-for-kids

As more K-8 programs focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, teachers are finding that chaos creates learning opportunities.

The project was not exactly going as planned—Carrie Allen had a classroom overrun with fruit flies. Her first graders were studying composting, and they were getting more of an ecology lesson than they’d expected. But at Richfield STEM School, an inquiry-based K–5 school in Richfield, Minnesota, both teachers and students take fruit-fly invasions in stride.

“The kids came up with the idea that we should make traps for the fruit flies,” explains Allen. Students then tested to see which traps worked the best—giving them a chance to incorporate the classic engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve).

“I can’t imagine not teaching like this anymore,” says Allen. “It just opens up so many other possibilities for the kids.”

STEM has been a hot topic lately, as politicians and business leaders worry over the lack of qualified workers in the sciences and engineering. Though much public discussion focuses on higher education and high school curriculum, educators and others are realizing that for students to really get hooked on the sciences, STEM instruction has to start early. That’s where Richfield STEM and other newly minted K–8 programs come into play. Elementary educators need not fear the shift in emphasis. In fact, as generalists, they are uniquely qualified to lead inquiry-based STEM lessons.

Blur the Lines

As the head of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Yvonne Ng is used to taking the intimidation factor out of STEM. She has found that one of the main challenges for teachers new to the curriculum is overcoming their discomfort with math, science, and, especially, engineering. The best STEM instruction is open-ended and inquiry-based, but this format, she says, can seem chaotic to elementary teachers.

Monica Foss advises that teachers embrace the chaos. “It’s always messy in here,” says Foss, an engineering specialist at Cedar Park Elementary STEM School in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Teachers need to let go of the idea that they always have to have the answer, says Foss. “They have to be willing to live with mess and muddiness.”

Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas. As a consequence, STEM projects can be integrated into lessons in language arts, culture, and history.

In the Richfield district, all students are required to go through a unit on Duke Ellington; the STEM school adds another level, explains Principal Joey Page. After listening to Ellington’s music, students answer questions such as “How does sound work?” or “How did they make that instrument?” Page says the school is hoping to have students take apart one of its decommissioned pianos as part of the unit.

Hilburn Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in its second year of making the transition from a traditional curriculum to a STEAM school (the A is for arts). Elements of the traditional classroom remain, says Principal Gregory Ford, but the engineering-design process is used for all subjects. For example, guided reading groups may be tasked with coming up with solutions for a problem posed in their informational texts.

The biggest challenge for Ford’s teachers is finding time for open-ended learning. So they, like their students, work in groups to find solutions.

“It requires lots and lots of planning and collaboration with your teammates,” Ford says. “There’s really no existing inventory of these highly integrated STEAM lessons.”

And how does Hilburn Academy define STEAM?

“STEAM is a philosophy of education, not a program,” Ford says. “It is not the ‘what’ of curriculum; it is actually the ‘how.’”

Look Outside the iPad

It takes work to develop a STEM program. But districts don’t have to be flush with cash and expensive digital technology to implement it.

“Pretty much anything around us is technology,” says Richfield’s Allen. “That’s one thing we’re teaching the kids, too: Everything around us was created or engineered to solve a problem.”

Sophisticated STEM projects can be built around a simple tool such as a temperature probe, says David Carter, coauthor of a number of lab manuals, including Elementary Science With Vernier. For example, third graders could set out to create a vessel that keeps water as warm as possible. The science part comes into play as students learn the concept of heat transfer; the engineering side involves designing the best thermos. The temperature sensor itself allows students to record data, track their experiments, and improve their designs.

The motion-sensor project is another favorite of Carter’s. “They get the concept that this graph is telling a story,” he says. “They’re seeing this mathematical concept.” That, he explains, gets to the real advantage of STEM: “It’s easy because kids love it.”

At Dr. Albert Einstein Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey, technology can be as simple as a doorstop. Teachers often struggled to prop open heavy classroom doors, so they tasked students to design a better way to do it. (One early version was a sand-filled water bottle flattened in the middle. Another version made use of a cork-and-magnet device.) Tracy Espiritu, a science coach at the K–8 STEAM school, says a lot of teachers start with the question: “What is technology?”
The school has three criteria for teaching STEAM (here, the A is for architecture): Projects should be about solving a problem; students must apply the engineering-­design process; and technology should be considered a resource, not a subject.

Perhaps the most important lesson they learn along the way: Failure is part of the process.

Rethink Failure

The key to STEM (or STEAM) education is reinforcing the engineering-design process, says Espiritu, who worked in aerospace engineering before teaching middle school science. “Engineers, they don’t get it right the first time,” she says.

The learning process is a cycle. With each iteration, the design improves, says Espiritu. “Students get frustrated because they want the answer right away. You need that frustration. That’s how you learn.”

It took Allen a while to grasp the necessity of letting her kids fail. You want students to feel good about the experience, she says, but it’s okay for them to feel the discomfort that comes when something is not working.

Students at Minnesota’s Cedar Park Elementary face their first design challenge in kindergarten by building a boat out of clay, says Foss, the engineering specialist. Introducing kids to the engineering process—having them start again and fix the mistakes—at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

“We definitely need more scientists and engineers,” says Foss, but more than that, “we need a population that understands science and the engineering process.”

“This Is What We Need to Do Today”

STEM is continuing to gain steam, but will it sustain momentum?

Ng has seen increasing demand for her organization’s elementary STEM teacher certification program, which is offered through St. Catherine University, but still, she says, “whether it’s here to stay is a really good question.”

As with any new approach, challenges remain.

Public education needs STEM to remain relevant, says Ford, of Hilburn Academy. And students immediately grasp that relevance. He recalls one second-grade teacher remarking that students used to come into class and ask, “What are we doing today?” Now they say, “This is what we need to do today.”

STEM Resources

Start with the basics. You don’t need a cartload of iPads to teach STEM. Begin by looking out your front door. Does your school have a courtyard? Start a garden. Try a “tech take-apart” lesson by disassembling old TVs or VCRs. Students can build bridges out of manila folders or boats out of clay (see above); they can incorporate the engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) into a variety of art projects.

Reach out to local institutions. Whether there’s a nature center or a tech company next door to your school, your neighbors are the best folks to start with when you’re seeking resources for STEM initiatives. And be sure to cultivate partnerships with local businesses and colleges, too.

See what the state offers. Many state education departments have set up websites with STEM resources. Visit stemconnector.org and click on “State by State” to find links to organizations in your area. The site serves as a clearinghouse of resources offered by corporations, nonprofits, and professional organizations.

From the Math Magazine, Scholastic.

Why Parents Should Help Kids Focus On Turning Their Dreams Into Reality

LinkedIn
Toymakerz

REIDSVILLE, NC –  Each year there are kids who hang up what they love and walk away. They leave the sports behind, stop playing their favorite games, quit drawing, building, and more. They are led to believe that unless what they are doing is seen as constructive and fits into the boxes that have been set for them that they are simply wasting their time. Many of those kids are walking away from what they are passionate about, rather than being taught to follow their dreams. One celebrity, David Ankin, who followed his passion and dreams has set out on a mission to inspire kids to do the same.

“There is a reason why we all have things we are passionate about. Those are your calling and you should do anything but turn your back on them,” says David Ankin, inventor and star of the hit show ToyMakerz. “I’ve met with many kids around the nation and I try to inspire them to follow those passions. I want them to turn their dreams into a reality. The rest of the world is waiting for what it is that they have to offer. Only when they embrace it will they be able to bring it to the forefront for everyone else to enjoy.”

Ankin doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a living example of turning a dream into a reality and the importance of following one’s passion. Having a passion for creating one-of-a-kind custom hot rods and cars, considered to be adult toys that are built for fun or speed, he took his love for these machines and built an empire. That dream turned into a reality when he started a company called ToyMakerz, where the adult toys are made, and has also been turned into a hit television show, where people can tune in and see him work his magic.

Committed to giving back, Ankin routinely gives talks to kids and their parents, with the theme focused on inspiring them to follow their dreams. Whether giving these talks at city events or at schools, his mission remains the same. He wants to let kids and their parents know that it’s OK to have a passion and that they don’t have to give it up simply because they become adults. Rather, they should embrace it and see where it will take them.

Here are 6 reasons why Ankin believes that parents should help kids focus on turning their dreams into reality:

  • Happiness. We are happiest when we are following our passion and doing things that excite us. By getting kids to follow their passion, they will have more joy in their life.
  • Creativity. Those who follow their passion will find their own way in the world. They can’t be told that what they want to do isn’t possible. They will use their creativity to navigate the way, even if it means clearing a new path.
  • Support. The world has a way of trying to hold people back from reaching their dreams. Parents who support their kids in pursuing theirs will help to create confident kids who won’t be held back by limitations.
  • Work ethic. No matter what a child’s passion may be, it will take hard work to turn it into a career. Teaching kids to work hard for what they want is a great way to build a strong work ethic.
  • Adventure. Many adults find themselves at a standstill and wish there was something more. Kids who are taught to follow their dreams will feel as though they have been given a ticket to adventure. They are more likely to grow up to be adults who have passion for what they do.
  • Exploration. By letting kids follow their dreams they will dive into exploring a topic they are interested in. Giving them the ability to learn more about whatever field it is they are interested in can go a long way toward sparking their creativity and expanding their education. Places like WonderWorks (a science focused indoor amusement park) is a great place for exploring STEM education and letting the imagination run wild.

“If I hadn’t followed my passion and turned my dream into a reality, I’d not be where I am today,” added Ankin. “I know the importance of following your dreams and it feels so good to do so. I’m committed to helping parents see the importance of supporting their child’s dreams and encouraging them to dream big. This is what I teach my son and hope that I’m able to inspire others.”

ToyMakerz was founded by David Ankin, who is a former stuntman WonderWorks_ToyMakerzwho used to do stunts with motorcycles, racecars, and also at Universal Studios for their Batman and Water World shows. Watching his father use metal to build things when he was growing up inspired him to go on to do the same. Today, he has earned praise for the eccentric one-of-kind street machines that he’s built. There is nothing idle about his work. Ankin has surrounded himself with a top-notch team, starting with David Young, who is his business partner. Young manages the business side of ToyMakerz and serves as its President and CFO.

ToyMakerz partnered with Source Digital to develop an app, which is helping fans connect with the show. Enhancing the viewer experience with new digital brand integrations, the ToyMakerz app lets fans connect with the cast, score exclusive deals on anything they see on the screen while they are watching the show live, and share pictures of their own rides!

The ToyMakerz TV show is currently re-airing episodes from season 2 On Demand on Velocity. ToyMakerz season one is also available on iTunes and Amazon. ToyMakerz is produced by Los Angeles based production company, Lucky13Cinematic. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

# # #

About ToyMakerz

ToyMakerz is a company that makes adult toys built for fun and speed. Some of their creations can be seen on the ToyMakerz hit television show focusing on the life and creations of Dave Ankin, a former stuntman who now makes toys for big boys. The show features the one-of-a-kind street machines that he builds. ToyMakerz is currently being aired weekly on Velocity. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

About Source Digital
Source Digital (www.sourcedigital.net) specializes in content monetization strategies letting viewers dive deeper into their favorite programs. Industry-leading experts developed the Source Digital platform, offering a data driven, cloud-based engagement platform connecting a new generation of content viewers. The platform allows content owners to design and fulfill personalization and monetization strategies against their broadcast or streamed programs directly connecting to viewers, allowing them to instantly access and discover related experiences from their favorite device – smart phone, tablet, computer and TV.

Disney Donates $1 Million to Youth STEM Program in Celebration of ‘Black Panther’

LinkedIn

In celebration of the record-breaking success of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, The Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA).   The donation will help expand Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, supporting the high-tech skills that were a major theme in the plot of Black Panther and are essential in helping youth succeed.

“Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a masterpiece of movie making and has become an instant cultural phenomenon, sparking discussion, inspiring people young and old, and breaking down age-old industry myths,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “It is thrilling to see how inspired young audiences were by the spectacular technology in the film, so it’s fitting that we show our appreciation by helping advance STEM programs for youth, especially in underserved areas of the country, to give them the knowledge and tools to build the future they want.”

Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use this one-time grant to further develop its existing national STEM curriculum, and establish new STEM Centers of Innovation in 12 communities across the country. The curriculum and new centers will serve and inspire kids and teens, with an emphasis in the following communities: Atlanta, GA; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Harlem, NY; Hartford, CT; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; Oakland, CA; Orlando, FL; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Watts, CA.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Centers of Innovation provide youth with hands-on, advanced technologies that stimulate creative approaches to STEM exploration, including 3-D printers, robotics, high-definition video production and conferencing equipment. In addition, a fully dedicated STEM expert will offer individual and group support, using real-world applications to help Club members develop their STEM skills and critical thinking.

“From hands-on interactive programs to critical thinking, Boys & Girls Clubs of America is committed to providing thousands of young people with the tools they need to prepare for a great future,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “Thanks to Disney’s support, we can expand our outreach and allow more youth to find their passions and discover STEM careers.”

Continue onto The Walt Disney Company to read the complete article.

Student Recycles to Save Money for College

LinkedIn

Ryan Hickman earning the funds through his business, Ryan’s Recycling

Eight-year-old Ryan Hickman is an entrepreneur with a strong personality and a passion for recycling. He’s got years of experience, too—he’s been in the business since he was just three years old! To date, Hickman has saved more than $33,000 for his college education. Through his business, Ryan’s Recycling, Hickman has recycled an estimated 265,000 bottles and cans.

Every week for years, he and his family have sorted through bags of recyclables. As of mid-December 2016, he had earned $10K by recycling cans and bottles from his customers—friends, family, and neighbors. Once he reached that milestone, the mainstream media began to take notice. After first being mentioned on a website called One Green Planet, the story behind Ryan’s Recycling went viral. Since then, Ryan’s story has been seen by over 140 million people on social media channels.

Hickman has since been featured on just about every major news station in the United States and several around the world. He appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where he was presented with a check for $10,000, as well as a battery-operated vehicle to use in his work. His story has run in various newspapers, including USA TODAY and the Orange County Register, as well as on ABC World News and other social and mainstream media sites.

His father Damion says Ryan got started recycling when he took him along to a local rePlanet, the largest recycling collection network in the country. At just 3-1/2 years old, Damion says Ryan “really enjoyed going, and I gave him the money from the plastic bottles.” He says it didn’t take long for Ryan to connect the dots: recycled bottles and cans = money. “He asked all our neighbors to start saving for him. He then enlisted people in his grandparents’ neighborhood, and it just grew from there.”

Hickman has regular customers that call every month for a local pickup, and friends and family drop off regularly. Every three weeks, his biggest customer, El Niguel Country Club, fills up the family truck with cans and bottles. Ryan and his dad take it all home and begin sorting the glass, plastic and aluminum cans. “Everything is bagged up, and then we head off to the recycle center,” says Damion. “A typical trip for us takes about an hour, and Ryan usually makes around $200+ each trip.”

Damion reports that Ryan is involved in every step of his business, from collecting the cans and bottles from his customers to picking up the bags and gloves to do the work. “He even handles depositing his money in the bank, where they all know him as Ryan, the president of Ryan’s Recycling.” Early last year, Hickman sold T-shirts to friends, family, and customers and donated the profits to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, where he serves as a junior ambassador. Ryan has donated over $5000 to their efforts.

Ryan continues to recycle and educate others through interview appearances. His father reports that he’s recently begun preparing his parents for the day that he’ll need to buy himself a real trash truck.

“I’m not sure where he plans to park it,” says Damion, “but I have a feeling I would lose my spot in the driveway!”

Ryan has received thousands of emails around the world with people that have been inspired to start recycling after seeing his story.

Recently Ryan started a new ten week recycling campaign to try to get everyone around the world involved with recycling 300,000 cans and bottles.  Follow Ryan below to catch weekly videos with updates and announcing new corporate involvement:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryans_recycling/status/949807967733452800

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEMYY5SlyV8&feature=share

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ryansrecycling/videos/773804682828029/

Ford Motor Company Builds STEAM Careers

LinkedIn
FIRST Robotics

Ford Motor Company recognizes that robotics programs are a great way for children to start experiencing STEAM fields in action. For that reason, the company has been supporting FIRST® Robotics for nearly 20 years.

FIRST® – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – provides the opportunity for students in grades K–12 to work in teams, bringing STEAM fields to life by building their own robots. For two students in particular, the program was very beneficial to them even after they graduated from college.

Matthew Carpenter and Robert Self – former members of FIRST® – are now full-time employees at Ford through the company’s Ford College Graduate program. The rotational program gives college grads the opportunity to work in several different departments throughout the company over a 32-month period, before committing to an area permanently.

Carpenter became a FIRST® member in high school, after some friends who were heavily involved in the program encouraged him to check it out. “I was one of those kids that always took stuff apart when they were little, so this was right up there with the kind of things I was interested in,” he said.

Carpenter’s team was mentored by Ford employees, which helped him network and, ultimately, get into the Ford College Graduate program. He credits his ability to pick up technical skills like computer aided design and programming to his FIRST® involvement. He said participating in the program made him realize that he liked hands-on problem-solving, which led him to pursue engineering as a career, not just a hobby.

“I learned a lot about communicating with people who have different backgrounds than I do,” Carpenter said. “That’s an essential skill for working in cross-functional teams.”

Self joined the program during his junior year in high school and credits FIRST® with helping guide him toward a definitive career path. He says through the program, he learned core engineering skills that he uses in his position at Ford today.

“At the time, I was really involved in physics and chemistry and the core science and math courses, but I didn’t necessarily know exactly what I wanted to do,” Self said. “Being able to go and work with other high school students and industry mentors, develop my technical skills, and realize how math and science are used outside the classroom really opened up the window for me to realize that I wanted to be an engineer.”

His involvement in FIRST® has come full circle, as he is now on the Ford FIRST® board, working to improve employee involvement with mentoring.

Both Self and Carpenter agree that based on their experience in the Ford College Graduate program so far, it meets its goal – to help millennials build a career with Ford Motor Company.

Source: campaign-social.ford.com

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Rewarding & Inspiring Teaching-Nominations are open!

LinkedIn
PAEMST

Awardee Feature Story: Kendra Renae Pullen

For 35 years, the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) have been rewarding and inspiring great teaching.

The award, which honors up to 108 teachers each year, recognizes those teachers who develop and implement a high-quality instructional program that is informed by content knowledge and enhances student learning. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,700 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

One of those teachers is Kendra “Renae” Pullen, an educator of 18 years. After returning home from the award recognition events in Washington, D.C., Renae says she found her voice through PAEMST.  Her previous “business as usual” attitude rapidly faded away. Renae became eager to expand her current leadership roles and identify new opportunities, such as becoming a Certified Endorsed Teacher Leader with the Louisiana State Department of Education.  She took on the additional role of Adjunct Professor for Louisiana Technical University in Teacher Leadership.

Since then, Renae has gone on to participate in national Kendra Renae Pullenteacher leadership opportunities, receiving several grants, publishing articles, winning additional awards, and more. Her enthusiasm for ensuring the quality education of all students is apparent in all that she undertakes. In 2011, she participated in the White House Champions of Change Event: Women & Girls in STEM. In 2014, she was a convocation participant in the Exploring Opportunities for STEM Teacher Leadership conference, and began working as a member of the Teacher Advisory Council for the National Academies of Science. Through all of these experiences, one question continues to guide Renae: “Our profession needs a voice, why not mine?”

Renae was not selected as an awardee the first time she applied for PAEMST. It was after her second application submission that she was named the Louisiana science awardee. “After I submitted the application the first time,” she says, “I realized that this was something I could do, something I could win!” Renae says “The second time around, I was prepared and excited to apply.” Her advice for teachers considering applying: “Be really clear in how you communicate. Be reflective. This is your story as a teacher – the wonderful teacher that you are – but be honest in your approach and assessment, and it will come through for you.”

About PAEMST: Established by Congress in 1983, the program is the nation’s highest honors for K-12 teachers of mathematics and science (including computer science) and has since honored more than 4,700 teachers who excel in their fields. The National Science Foundation (NSF) administers PAEMST on behalf of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

PAEMST is currently accepting nominations and applications for the 2017-2018 cycle. Anyone – principals, teachers, parents, students, and general public – may nominate an exceptional mathematics or science teacher. This year’s program is for K-6th grade teachers. The nomination deadline is April 1, 2018, and the application deadline is May 1, 2018. Awardees receive a certificate signed by the President, a trip to Washington, D.C., and a $10,000 award from NSF.

Today’s Google Doodle Celebrates A Landmark Moment In Computer Science

LinkedIn

Google Doodles have featured animated stories and interactive games in the past, but today’s doodle is the first of its kind to grace the search engine’s homepage. Head to Google now and you’ll see a bunny with cube-like blocks topped with carrots. Your mission: Collect the carrots by completing simple lines of code that will move the bunny forward.

Although the bunny might imply an association with spring time, this is no celebratory Easter Doodle. Instead, it’s a celebration of 50 years of kids coding: Five decades ago, the first programming languages for kids were created. It’s fitting, and not coincidental, that the commemoration also falls on the first day of Computer Science Education Week, which runs until 10th December.

Four people — Wally Feurzeig, Seymour Papert, Daniel Bobrow and Cynthia Solomon — are credited with creating Logo, the first programming language specifically intended for children in the late 1960s. At the time, the idea of teaching children how to program computers was a radical one. Papert, who was a cofounder of MIT’s artificial intelligence lab, pioneered this thinking, leading a revolutionary symposium at the university in 1970 called “Teaching Children Thinking.”

Continue onto Refinery29 to read the complete article.

Overcoming the STEM Opportunity Gap

LinkedIn

By Donald E. Bossi, President of FIRST

Our communities – and our classrooms – are more diverse than ever before. In fact, Generation Z and Millennials, who make up nearly half (48 percent) of the United States’ population, are more multicultural in their race and ethnic compositions than previous generations. As demographics continue to shift, so does the opportunity to build a uniquely diverse and innovative workforce – one that can truly address the challenges facing today’s world. However, for this to happen, the faces in the professional pipeline must change and mirror those of our schools and neighborhoods.

As educators, parents, and business leaders, we have a responsibility to offer all students – especially those who are underserved and underrepresented in STEM – equitable opportunities and pathways to success as contributing members of the workforce. It’s no secret that employers are looking for young talent with STEM skills and digital literacy. Moving forward, nearly every career – whether in product development, manufacturing, marketing, or the arts – will be more reliant on tech skills. By 2021, 69 percent of U.S. executives expect to choose job candidates with data science skills over those without. The students best prepared to fill these roles and find success after graduating high school will be those who experience meaningful STEM engagement opportunities throughout their K-12 years.

The foundation of any prosperous society lies in providing accessible advancement opportunities for its citizens. For today’s students, hurdles abound, whether financial, cultural, or geographic. Our responsibility is to ensure all kids have access to the tools they need to secure sustainable, living-wage jobs. Critical to accomplishing this is early exposure to high-quality, hands-on, STEM learning experiences that engage and inspire students. An example of where this type of early exposure is already being offered and is making an impact can be seen in the efforts of a nonprofit organization that I lead called FIRST. FIRST offers a progression of programs beginning at age 6 and continuing through high school that engages kids in a series of mentor-guided robotics competitions and innovation challenges, connecting STEM learning to exciting, real-world activities. In addition to STEM exposure, students in FIRST programs meet mentor role models and learn about innovation, entrepreneurship, and 21st-century skills like teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Research has shown FIRST programs are game-changers for kids, opening them up to a world of opportunity. Additionally, STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants help make these programs available and accessible to underserved communities and underrepresented students, while committed supporters also make more than $50 million in scholarships available annually to graduating FIRST seniors to pursue higher education.

Schools are also recognizing the value that curriculum and environmental changes can have in making a positive impact on student advancement. Across the country, school systems are working hard to ensure all kids feel welcome, have a voice, and receive an equal shot at finding success. In a model worth emulating, a Ypsilanti, Michigan-based school with a large population of underserved students created STEM-centric programs based on the concept and ethos of FIRST. Since making this format change, the school’s graduation rate has jumped from 69 percent to 97 percent. Daily attendance is up from 84 percent to 92 percent, and suspensions have plummeted from 35 percent to the low single digits. At Ypsilanti STEMM Middle College, the STEM-focused curriculum is making tangible differences in the lives of students. One young man overcame a troubled home life to become valedictorian of his class, while another student, dealing with the emotional ramifications of her mother being deported, found a place to explore her interest in science. Thanks to the school’s changes and new concentration on STEM, students can pursue their passions in an affirming environment and gain the skills they’ll need in the modern workforce.

The responsibility to empower students from diverse backgrounds to succeed doesn’t rest solely on nonprofits and schools; it also falls on companies. As a management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton understands this, having recently refreshed its values to include “Collective Ingenuity” or the ability to harness the power of diversity. Booz Allen Hamilton reflects Collective Ingenuity in its hiring practices, its community-support efforts – including supporting many FIRST teams – and how it approaches client challenges. They and other companies have a critical role to play in bolstering diversity in STEM, whether by providing scholarships to underserved and underrepresented students, offering relatable mentors for female and minority students, or awarding internships to students who otherwise wouldn’t have those prospects. They realize we shouldn’t be leaving talent on the table and are taking the necessary steps to ensure we don’t.

Together, businesspeople, educators, and nonprofit leaders can ensure we aren’t ignoring the potential of our diverse student population when it comes to STEM outcomes. That starts with investing in your community: Get to know the young faces in your local schools and neighborhoods. Find out what they need for success, and connect them with resources and youth-serving programs – like FIRST – that can help them get there. We need kids of all backgrounds, capabilities, and social circumstances to contribute and participate in addressing the world’s toughest challenges. With equitable access to opportunity, relevant mentorship, and engagement, any student can build a foundation for a bright future.

Green Bronx Machine—Shares The Story Of Their Impact

LinkedIn
Fresh Lessons

Green Bronx Machine has made the COVER story of TIME for KIDS Magazine and they’re delighted to share the story of their impact!

And speaking of impact, their after-school program held in the National Health Wellness & Learning Center is making epic happen daily. Serving the most at-risk children in the school from 2:30 – 5 PM daily, they have:
• helped solve 1,914 math problems
• analyzed 514 reading passages
• completed 272 outstanding assignments
• cooked 26 gourmet meals from scratch, including their signature dish: St. Paul’s Stir Fry!

They are incorporating recipes from all around the world and even FaceTimed with Spaniards about Paella. And they’re just getting started! Last week they ordered 25 sets of leveled texts so they can start their Reading and Book Club. They will be reading all winter long until 6 PM at the Center.

Input equals output! Last week they fed all 750+ students in the school a healthy, locally grown meal via their School Garden to School Cafeteria Program. Clean plates and healthy smiles are their signature, but most importantly eating healthy food across the rainbow. Attendance at the school is at an all time high, and their after-school program is booked to capacity every day!

With results like these and waitlists of children to serve, now more than ever they need your support. They remain a volunteer program and are seeking funds to hire two local dedicated after school tutors – academic specialists so they can bridge the performance gap for their students. Given increasing costs, providing children & families with healthy, fresh ingredients & meals is more challenging than ever.

Green Bronx Machine

Can Robots Help Get More Girls into Science and Tech?

LinkedIn

HERE’S A DEPRESSING number for you: 12. Just 12 percent of engineers in the United States are women. In computing it’s a bit better, where women make up 26 percent of the workforce—but that number has actually fallen from 35 percent in 1990.

The United States has a serious problem with getting women into STEM jobs and keeping them there. Silicon Valley and other employers bear the most responsibility for that: Discrimination, both overt and subtle, works to keep women out of the workforce. But this society of ours also perpetuates gender stereotypes, which parents pass on to their kids. Like the one that says boys enjoy building things more than girls.

There’s no single solution to such a daunting problem, but here’s an unlikely one: robots. Not robots enforcing diversity in the workplace, not robots doing all the work and obviating the concept of gender entirely, but robots getting more girls interested in STEM. Specifically, robot kits for kids—simple yet powerful toys for teaching youngsters how to engineer and code.

Plenty of toys are targeted at getting kids interested in science and engineering, and many these days are gender specific. Roominate, for instance, is a building kit tailored for girls, while the Boolean Box teaches girls to code. “Sometimes there’s this idea that girls need special Legos, or it needs to be pink and purple for girls to get into it, and sometimes that rubs me the wrong way,” says Amanda Sullivan, who works in human development at Tufts University. “If the pink and purple colored tools is what’s going to engage that girl, then that’s great. But I think in general it would be great if there were more tools and books and things that were out there for all children.”

So Sullivan decided to test the effects of a specifically non-gendered robotics kit called Kibo. Kids program the rolling robot by stringing together blocks that denote specific commands. It isn’t marketed specifically to boys or girls using stereotypical markings of maleness or femaleness. It’s a blank slate.

Before playing with Kibo, boys were significantly more likelyto say they’d enjoy being an engineer than the girls did. But after, boys had about the same opinion, while girls were now equally as likely to express an engineering interest as the boys. (In a control group that did not play with Kibo, girls’ opinions did not significantly change.) “I think that robots in general are novel to young children, both boys and girls,” Sullivan says. “So aside from engaging girls specifically, I think robotics kits like Kibo bring an air of excitement and something new to the classroom that gets kids psyched and excited about learning.”

Continue onto WIRED to read the complete article.

ROBOPAL: Build STEM Skills. Build Robots. Have Fun.

LinkedIn

A hands-on learning robot and maker system that expands your child’s interest in coding, programming and creating in a fun way.

‘ROBOPAL’ is a fun, interactive way to learn coding and programming. It features 3 types of magnetic coding blocks — action, logic, and function— to create commands for the robot. The company claims kids can learn if-then logic, sequential logic, and problem solving skills. ‘ROBOPAL’ comes with 10 USB ports to add additional sensors like lights and fans.

Continue onto Mashable to watch this robot in action.