Keep moving forward

I am thinking about why I do this work to connect people with STEM/STEAM. I mean really, what is the point?

I have a sense that people really need opportunities to connect with possibilities, with potential, with ways to change their lives and the lives of their children. Helping people find those opportunities is important. There is often a sense of isolation within the STEM outreach community.

Even to put it that way, to call it a community, is to give a mistaken impression of people working together, known to each other and to the outside world. Too often, these are people laboring alone, or within small groups.

For this STEM outreach work to be effective, there has to be wider awareness of the efforts that are presently being put forth. To continually bring out new initiatives, new programs, is to leave the people who are already doing this work to feel at best unappreciated, and at worst, like they are wasting their time.

And that is what is most wrong with almost every new initiative that I have encountered. Instead of working to build on what already exists, there is an idea that the next shiny thing will be the answer.

What is needed are better connections between the people doing the outreach and the general community, and better ways for people to disseminate knowledge to teachers, to parents, to students.

So maybe I have both answered my question and given myself a direction for Agents of STEAM.

Night Wings Returns This Summer to Pima Air & Space Museum 7/23 & 8/27

Night_Wings_2016_FINAL (1)Explore the museum during the cool summer evenings from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.! Hand-on kids educational activities in all hangars. Flight Grill open for dinner. The entire grounds open until sundown. Cost: Discounted admission $10 for adults and children 12 and under FREE! For more information about Night Wings, please visit http://www.pimaair.org/edu/family-events or email: education@pimaair.org

Sign up for Jr Shark Tank Today!

systemSharkTank

Is your student a born Entrepreneur or Inventor? Do they have interest in Business, Engineering, Technology or Science? Are they thrilled by a challenge? Then S.Y.STEM Coalition’s Junior Shark Tank Competition is the summer program for them!!

From June 6-July 30th*, S.Y.STEM Coalition is conducting a scholarship competition for high school students in Tucson hosted at Sonoran Science Academy. For this competition, teams of up to 5 students will work together to develop a product, guided by one of our skilled mentors, and taught all of the skills they need to design, build, and market their entrepreneurial idea!

At the end of the 8 week program students, top Local Industry and Government Leaders will judge the teams’ projects, and the winning team can earn up to $5000 in scholarships!!!

Space is limited; register individually or as a team today at the Junior Shark Tank website. Application closes on May 20th. For more information, please visit systemcoalition.org or email info@systemcoalition.org.

*8am-12pm, M-Th – students must attend at least 75% of classes to be eligible to win scholarship

UA students work on cool projects, show them to high school students at STEAMworks.

Inspirational and aspirational.

Helping high school students say, “That was really exciting! How would I go about doing some of that myself? How can I get there? What do I need to do?”

Lisa Stage and Kelly South talking about the University of Arizona’s new event, STEAMworks

STEAMworks is an ambitious new event that directly connects high school students to the work that UA undergraduates are doing in STEAM fields—science technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. The STEAMworks planning team, led by University of Arizona’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, Communications and Marketing staff members Lisa Stage and Kelly South, includes representatives from the UA STEM Learning Center, UA University Libraries, UA’s Eller College of Management, Tech Launch Arizona, UA Student Affairs & Enrollment Management/Academic Initiatives & Student Success, Early Academic Outreach, UA’s IEEE Student Branch, Cisco, and cStor. STEAMworks launches on Thursday, April 14, in the University of Arizona’s Student Union Grand Ballroom.

Stage described STEAMworks: “We will have forty to forty-five UA student groups, departments, and labs showing off what they do, and it will have interactive components for the attendees to really get some hands-on experience. It will be full of high school students, and it is also open to UA undergrads, PCC students, technical college students, anybody who’s interested in STEAM studies or STEAM careers or who asks ‘What can you do in science, technology, engineering, arts, math?’”

“It’s in the research that people learn through a combination of so many things—seeing, touching, hearing, smelling—so being able to have exhibits that hit on some or all of those components just helps to bring science to life,” elaborated South.

An important goal of the event is to have high school students work directly with college students. Stage stated, “That is why we had wanted to get the [UA] students, because they are so much closer in age, and a [high school] student really could say, ‘That could be me in three years.’”  She added that when UA students tell a high school student that they just started here [at the UA] two years ago, and now they’re doing this, the younger students will think, “Okay, that’s foreseeable!”

Another goal was to make sure that a broad mix of high schools participated, from schools that send 100% of their kids to college, to majority Title 1 schools that don’t send many students to college. “We really wanted to make these workshop opportunities available to students that might not have resources in their schools to try something out. They can hands-on try something out on this day and say, ‘Okay, I just spent 20 minutes with a Raspberry Pi and I get coding—it is a totally doable thing. If I could learn it in 20 minutes, it’s doable,’” explained Stage.

Here is a sampling of what STEAMworks will showcase:

  • X-Terminator Drone, utilizes UV light to sterilize virus-contaminated areas remotely and safely. The UA students who developed this award-winning drone will demonstrate the technology behind it.
  • Walking Free, sensors placed on the foot soles of people having problems with balance or foot sensation. In combination with apps, the system helps people learn to recognize when they are off-balance, helping them to walk better and avoid falls
  • Ferrock, an eco-friendly substitute for Portland cement. This material was invented by David Stone, a UA graduate student, and is now being tested by a UA undergraduate class.
  • Coding with Raspberry Pi, twenty-minute workshops for learning programming.

UA student clubs also jumped at the chance to be part of the event.  “We’ve got a whole bunch of engineering students, engineering clubs, the UA game developers, IEEE students club, the  Hardware and Computer Knowledge Society, , the autonomous flight and the autonomous underwater clubs,” said Stage.

In addition to working with high schoolers at the event, IEEE is STEAMwork’s student sponsoring group. “IEEE is our student-club partner on this because they went gangbusters. They went around to a whole bunch of different clubs, recruited, nudging people, ” noted Stage.

handBut exhibitors won’t all be UA students. The STEAMworks planning team heard about a boy scout who is 3D-printing prosthetic hands. “This boy scout and couple of the troop members send the hands to people across the world who need them. We found him, invited him, and he is going to be part of STEAMworks. It is mainly UA students, but if there were great opportunities to showcase STEAM in action like that, we wanted to do that,” explained Stage.

A wide range of event sponsors and supporters will be in the ballroom to talk about both the work their companies do and what students can do to move themselves into those careers. For instance, Adobe will present hands-on workshops, and University Libraries will show off 3D scanning and printing and virtual reality technology.

“The university sponsors … are very much a part of it. I think what they tuned into the most was the interactive component, that this wasn’t a traditional career fair or science fair, what we’re doing is an interactive exhibition of STEAM in action,” said South.

That fresh approach to science and career fairs will continue after the high school students leave for the day. “That evening,” Stage explained, “there’s going to be a reception with the sponsors and with the university leadership, where they [the UA student exhibitors] can actually make connections. They are not going to just be stuck in booths all day, because there is somebody from Adobe they can talk with then, somebody from Lenovo they can make connections with.”

The entire STEAMworks planning team is excited about the event and thrilled with the enthusiastic response from UA students. “We’re enormously grateful to all these students for taking the time to do this, and we are really excited about all the work they are doing, and I think the high school kids are going to be…  I mean, I’m 52 and my mind is blown!

“’Two years from now, I could be doing that?! I could be doing that?’

“ Yes, you could” said Stage.

She added, “These technologies can change the world.”


 

Check out the exhibitors coming to STEAMworks!

Wrap-up from 21st Century STEM: Integrate 2 Innovate

Hadi Partovi answering questions from panel of high school studentsI spent two full days in downtown Phoenix at last month’s 21st Century STEM: Integrate 2 Innovate conference. This ambitious event was presented by the Arizona STEM Collaborative (AzTEA-Arizona Technology in Education Association, ASTA-Arizona Science Teachers Association, AATM-Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics) and Science Foundation Arizona.

Keynote addresses from Hadi Partovi and Elizabeth Holmes were followed by Q&A sessions from panels of high school students. The questions weren’t just polite softball questions, which led to interesting exchanges.

One example was a question to Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford at age 19 to develop her company, Theranos.Elizabeth Holmes high school students Q&A panel A student asked her about the importance of going to college, given Holmes’ own education path. The answer wasn’t very enlightening, something along the lines of decisions like that are very personal and depend on individual circumstances/what was right for me would not necessarily be right for someone else, but it was a great question to ask.

The heart of the conference was its breakout sessions. Sessions presented innovative ways for teachers to engage students with STEM subjects. There were also great panel discussions focused on the bigger picture, how STEM fits into the community in terms of workplace development and public support.

One of the biggest messages I got from the conference is that Arizona needs to expand the scope and reach of its STEM education, and that the state’s citizens need to demand adequate financial support from every level of government in the state, from individual schools and districts to the Arizona Board of Regents, governor, and legislators.

Here’s a quick slideshow with highlights from the two-day event.

 

Arizona’s teachers embrace the challenge of teaching STEM in the 21st Century

Logo for 21st Century STEM: Integrate 2 Innovate ConferenceWhat does it take to create a conference for STEM teachers?

If you’re in Arizona in 2016, it takes vision, determination, and a dash of moxie.

The 21st Century STEM: Integrate 2 Innovate Conference on January 22-23 brings teachers from all corners of Arizona and the United States to the Phoenix Convention Center for two days. They will examine the interesting ways that STEM is currently being taught in Arizona’s K-12 classrooms, and will look ahead at the future of STEM learning in the state.

Spearheaded by representatives from organizations like Science Foundation Arizona, the Arizona Science Teachers Association, the Arizona Technology in Education Association, and the Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics, the Arizona STEM Collaborative decided it was time to showcase both what our state is doing right in STEM education and the ways that Arizona is becoming a powerhouse of innovative STEM teaching and learning.

The two-day conference features sessions , panel discussions, and speakers focusing on the wide world of STEM, from coding, 3D printing, robotics, and traditional STEM subjects, to STEM in the larger context of schools and communities. Many of the sessions focus on applications of STEM here in Arizona. In the session, How Did the Elk Cross the Road? (Eco-STEM in Action), teams of teachers will work with real data to  problem-solve ways to get elk across roadways without impacting humans. [What’s that you say? Elk in Arizona? You bet. Arizona encompasses an incredibly diverse range of terrain, fauna, and flora!]

While I am at the conference, I will be tweeting live, so be sure to follow me @agentsofsteam. That way, even if you aren’t at the conference in person, you can pick up some interesting tidbits of information and facts that I run across during talks and sessions.

And please be sure to check back here after the conference, where I will include a post-conference wrap-up, plus photos.

Agents of STEAM Goes to Baltimore

Gordon Moore quote
Gordon Moore quote

I stayed overnight in Baltimore earlier this month and discovered an unexpected museum across from my airport-area hotel. Next time you are near BWI, consider making a stop at the National Electronics Museum. It is packed with fascinating gadgetry, and every exhibit functions perfectly!

Many of the docents worked at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems , headquartered nearby in Linthicum, Maryland. Everyone was ready to answer questions and to point me to interesting aspects of the exhibits.

Located within the museum is a working shortwave radio station, and it was broadcasting that weekend in recognition of the upcoming anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The museum gave me a terrific overview of electronics in relation to radio, space, and defense. I am looking forward to a return visit next spring!

Below are a couple of videos from my visit, plus a collection of photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry, dendrology, and astronomy unite for Moon Tree Celebration

Moon tree roots dig branches reach towards home, haiku by Maria SchuchardtFour University of Arizona organizations will come together on Friday, October 30, to commemorate the planting of the UA’s moon tree. Truly a STEAM event, the Poetry Center, the Lunar and Planetary Lab, the Tree Ring Research Laboratory, and the Campus Arboretum will celebrate the sycamore that graces the UA campus between Flandrau Science Center and the Kuiper Space Sciences Building, grown from a seed that traveled to our moon.

Please click here for an event schedule.

Transcending Barriers One Line of Code at a Time

Snippet of computer codeCoding is moving mainstream.

Rafts of articles are showing up on business and education sites, touting the benefits of teaching kids to code.

One of the biggest things that gets lost in the noise is the idea that learning to code is simply learning another way to communicate, just another language. These languages differ from what most people understand as language though, because they are not generally used to communicate person to person but rather, person to computer.

And that is where people’s understanding of the importance of coding languages took a wrong turn, because they didn’t generally grasp that these languages are akin to Esperanto in their ability to transcend barriers. Learning a coding language gives children the power to communicate in a new way, with people across the world. It sharpens their thinking skills. And it gives them some real control over both their learning and their application of that learning.

Here are a just a couple recent articles about kids and coding:

Happy reading!