President Obama took a tour of more than 30 science, technology and engineering projects on Monday, April 22nd in his third White House Science Fair. Exhibits included a bicycle-pedal powered water filtration system created by Payton Karr and Kiona Elliot, classmates at Northeast High School of Oakland Park, Florida, that was tested by the commander-in-chief himself. Senior Administration officials and leading STEM communicators, advocates, and educators attended the White House Science Fair as well and met the students, encouraging further participation in both science fairs across the nation and STEM fields.
One projected was created by Boston, Massachusetts native Cassidy Wright through her school’s TechnoSWAG learning-apprenticeship program. Cassidy created an LED banner programmed to automatically flash the message “BE YOURSELF.” She built the banner in order to make a statement against bullying in middle schools and encourage diversity in the student body.
With that same spirit of individuality in mind, Cassidy declares a lesson learned from her mother. “I’m specially gifted in my own way and I don’t try to be like everybody else.”
Many feel that when people refer to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) they are really just talking about science and math. Technology and engineering often get put aside in K-12 classrooms to focus on the fundamentals of science and mathematics. However, things are starting to change. As the need for students with engineering and technology skills increases the need to teach students these skills before they reach college has become apparent.
EdWeek mentions a number of initiatives to bring the T and E in STEM that are gaining momentum in classrooms across the country. Tens of thousands of classrooms are now using the Engineering is Elementary curriculum materials developed by Boston’s own Museum of Science. The new common standards also have a greater focus on engineering skills and an engineering based Advanced Placement (AP) course may be in the works.
On March 9th and 10th, MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor David Wallace and the MIT Office of Digital Learning hosted the Education Design-a-thon, an education hacking event for MIT students and anyone interested in education. Organizations posed challenges and attendees chose one project to work on throughout the 32-hour event.
Projects ranged from the purely virtual — video games teaching computer program cell phone apps to help dropouts resume their education — to the extremely tactile: robotic drawing arms and hands-on tools to help teachers design curriculum.
The MIT Museum and Boston’s Museum of Science have a week of hands-on activities planned to mark the week long celebration of engineering occurring to school vacation week (February 18th – February 22nd) .
The Museum of Science will have activities lining the floors of the Exhibit Hall during open hours. They also have a full schedule of special events and challenges throughout the week.
The MIT Museum has drop-in, hands-on activities from 10 am – 1 pm followed by special presentations by local companies and MIT departments from 1 pm – 3 pm every day this week. On Saturday, February 23rd MIT’s Society of Women Engineers will host a panel discussion about engineering careers, all genders and ages are welcome, but the talk is especially applicable to high school students.
~ Shannon Morey
It’s the “E” in STEM, but what is engineering education, really, at the K-12 level? A series of discussions on The Opportunity Equation blog tackles that subject thoughtfully through conversations with engineering experts and educators.
Recently, Christine M. Cunningham, the Founder and Director of Engineering is Elementary (EiE) — a program of Boston’s Museum of Science — weighed in on the work that her organization does to engage students of diverse backgrounds and interests in the wonderful world of engineering. After seven years of research and testing, EiE has evolved into a 20-unit engineering curriculum for elementary schools.
The program also focuses on professional development through a “train the trainer” model. Now used in all 50 states by more than 20,000 teachers, the program has reached upwards of 1.7 million students, Cunningham estimates. “The design and inquiry-based approach enables teachers to engage in truly open-ended instruction and learning where there is no single correct answer,” she said. “Our results suggest that integrating engineering concepts and challenges at the elementary level can help to educate the next generation of innovators, designers, and problems solvers.”
See on opportunityequation.org
Cornell University and Technion (Israel Institue of Technology) will be building a new graduate engineering school on Roosevelt Island, New York City. The new facility will be known as the NYC Tech Campus will focus on applied sciences and based on hubs including Connecting Media, Healthier Life, and Built Environment. All of the hubs will be based on computer science, electrical engineering, info sciences, economics, and business.
Tufts University has an innovative program in place to help ensure that incoming freshmen intent on engineering majors have every shot at success. The school’s Bridge to Engineering Success at Tufts (BEST) program equips selected students with a summer of courses and workshops to help ease the transition from high school into the rigors of Tufts’ first-year engineering program. With students nationwide switching from STEM majors into the humanities at an alarming rate, Tufts’ solution is both timely and effective.
In a single year, enrollment of first-year women in Perdue University’s College of Engineering reportedly increased 31 percent. To what does the school attribute such a dramatic gain? Although it’s difficult to pinpoint with complete accuracy, Beth Holloway, director of the College’s Women in Engineering Program, points to a likely factor: The college’s use of the 2008 report, “Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering.”
Charles Thornton, co-founder of structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, worked on such lofty building projects as Yankee Stadium during his professional heyday. Post-retirement, Thornton turned his considerable energy and attention to another building project of sorts: building a new generation of engineers through mentoring.
Contrary to popular belief, the reason that fewer women than men stick with engineering majors and enter engineering careers is not necessarily related to their ambitions to start a family. More likely, women’s shaky “professional role confidence” is to blame, according to a study in this month’s issue of the American Sociological Review. According to the study’s lead author, Erin Cech, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research, despite the fact that women perform comparably to men in engineering classes, subtle biases get in the way and undermine women’s confidence. “What we found is that the women in our study developed less confidence in their engineering expertise than men did and they also developed less confidence that engineering is the career that fits them best, even though they went through the same preparation process as men,” Cech says. The study is part of “Future Paths: Developing Diverse Leadership for Engineering,” a project funded by the National Science Foundation.