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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
It's worth mentioning that "October Sky" has inspired thousands of high school physics students to partake in projects outside of class. I've heard of physics classes watching the movie together. The movie (and/or book) has also inspired an annual Coalwood Festival and, incredibly, an October Sky trivia website.
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.
What an amazing event! It would really be cool if they could do multiple locations across the country - not just D.C.
One thing I really miss that was along those lines was the NASA open house that used to be held at the Johnson Space Center. It was very family oriented and was a wonderful experience. My son was only two at the time we went - he got to shake the hand of Rick Husband that day. We are going back around twelve years or so - and I was hoping to make it a family event that would really get him excited about science as he grew up. It was packed when we went, but for some reason NASA discontinued them. What a shame because it would have really been a great way to continue to inspire kids to get involved in science and space.
Seen a lot of what they call STEM and a lot of it looks more like entertainment to me. The problem with real technology is that there is a chance of injury, but there is also much more opportunity to learn.
What is really learned by the dollar bill dipped in Hydrogen?
Too many of the STEM related projects I have seen are way too contrained and yield very similar results and many of the programs don't really allow the time for the postmortem to figure out why it failed. Success is great, but we tend to learn more from our mistakes, and we have a culture where we don't want our kids to ever have to learn from failure.
How about some STEM where they learn to use basic tools, maybe even some basic machine tols, some welding and then let them create something subtantial. More like the college level car building projects.
At the K-12 level, it has to be fun to keep their interest and foster more curiousity. And, that leads to the more substantive work you're discussing. Making it too serious, or like school, at this stage could be a turn-off for many kids.
The show was definately fun. It was a huge venue (I went with my daughter and her friend) and was absolutely packed with people. We were only able to see a small portion of what was there. Gave me some hope for the future seeing the attendance so high ...
Although I didn't attend the show, I like the idea of this show and others like it. Too often, smart kids have to suffer through the nerd image -- as if they are in some way abnormal for being interested in science and engineering. Shows like this one give me hope that someone understands how important it is for bright kids to have a venue for their interests outside the classroom.
Kf2qd, some of the science techniques can harm kids also, like burning oxygen using H2SO4 for burning cloths, lens to concentrate heat etc. In my college days, I had a similar bad experience with Sulfuric acid and burned my skin.
George, kids are the next generation scientists and engineers. Science exhibitions and expos can fuel their ideas and innovations. More over such activities can ignite or spark them to think in different ways.
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