If you were under the impression that science, math, and engineering aren’t cool, you weren’t at the USA Science and Engineering Festival. Tens of thousands of K-12 students from around the nation showed up for the second annual celebration of American ingenuity, love of tinkering, and figuring out what makes things tick. The goal? To encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Our sister site EE Times and its Innovation Generation Website also sponsored an iStuff teardown at a jam-packed booth.
What’s holding these kids back? Only one thing, according to author and former NASA shuttle engineer Homer Hickham, whose life story was described in his book Rocket Boys and the film October Sky. “They’re just waiting for us to get out of the way!”
Click on the image below to view scenes from the first two days of the festival.
The folks at the Michigan Tech exhibit were the only ones "blowing smoke" during the tech fest. Here, the unusual properties of liquid hydrogen were on display in the form of quick-frozen crackers.
Homer Hickam told us that the initial portrayal of the good folks of Coalwood, W. Va., in October Sky was originally full of hillbilly stereotypes about coal miners. He urged director Joe Johnston to drop the stereotypes and show the dignity of work above and below ground. After all, it was the people of Coalwood who made it possible for Homer to pursue his dreams. (Incidentally, Hickam said Chris Cooper, who played Homer's father, received little or no direction during filming. He just ran with the character and, accurately, for my money, portrayed the tensions between father and his independent-minded son.)
This is such a great thing. Not only promoting STEM, but making it cool is a great thing. I wish I would have had this kind of motivation and outlet back when I was a kid. It is more important now more than ever for kids to get into it.
Beth, I agree. You can expose kids to STEM actitivies everyday just by bringing a bunch of techno-goodies to their classrooms and letting them explore the wonders of science and technology by teardown activities. I promote STEM by visiting my kids' classroom and discussing careers in electrical and computer engineering with hands-on demos using the Basic Stamp kits. I'm also getting involve with Innovation Generation by providing project excerpts from my new book titled "Learning Electronics with Arduino" coming out 5/23/12 for kids to do cool projects over the summer break as well!
I'm not surprised to see the throng, given the celebrities (Homer Hickam, Bill Nye and an astronaut) at the event. I still say that Hickam's book inspired the best science movie ever made. It may be the only Hollywood movie in which a bright young science student is portrayed as a normal child.
Sometimes you don't even have to bring your kids to these tech fests to get them exposure to the fun side of STEM. My kids did that hydrogen experiment on the dollar bill in school and brought it home to amaze their parents. It was pretty cool.
What a great way to expose kids to all the possibilities of technology and engineering in ways that seem creative and fun. More of this kind of hands-on experience and exposure to engineering's "rock stars," as you say, does volumes to whet our kids' appetites for STEM careers.
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