If you use microcontrollers, you might know SparkFun Electronics as a supplier of small development and add-on boards for Arduino modules as well as boards that use AVR, ARM, MSP430, and other MCUs. The company, which now has 140 employees, has stressed electronics for education from its founding in a dorm room several years ago.
I recently learned SparkFun has started a "crowd-funding" project to sponsor a tour that will promote electronics education throughout the US and perhaps in Canada, too. You can find the National Tour 2013 project on the Kickstarter Website. So far, the project has received 256 pledges for a total of just over $20,000. The goal is $150,000, and the fundraising phase ends on December 19 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
For every $3,000 raised, a team of highly trained instructors from SparkFun will travel to your state, or possibly your city, and donate a SparkFun Inventor's Kit Lab Pack of tools and equipment worth $1,250.
During their stay, instructors will host an all-day class to train teachers and educators about electronics. Attendees will learn how hands-on electronics integrated into a curriculum can fulfill some state and federal teaching standards (including STEM and STEAM initiatives). According to SparkFun, the tour could include as many as 300 stops if the Kickstarter community pitches in with pledges. (Pledges don't require payment until the project reaches it's goal, and pledgers receive several types of gifts for each pledge level.)
Here's an opportunity for a quick fundraising project parents and students could jump into. A pledge to the SparkFun Kickstart project instead of holiday shopping might give your school or community the opportunity to inject some electronics into classroom activities. And teachers would learn how to integrate electronics into science and math classes. I'll make a pledge as soon as I finish writing this blog.
Amen to that, mrdon – bootstrapping is good word, and engineers love to do things themselves. I recently saw a list published (wish I could recall it for posting, but can't remember ... ) a listing of people considered "Most Trusted". At the top of the list were Nurses, Doctors, and Engineers; and while Car Salesmen were dead last, Congressmen were 2nd to last. Yet somehow, Gov't & congressional mandates still rule so many of our daily activities – as if they know best.
I've been on three sides of this issue for most of my career. Industry, Teaching (Technical), and Volunteering in the public school system. From my point of view, the problem of getting industry people into schools with their valuable experience is a fault that lies in misunderstanding on each of the three sides. But a key way to improve this problem lies in having a school leader who can take (or assign) the role of a volunteer coordinator. Teachers and to some extent administrators already have a lot on their plate, and often don't fully understand themselves how a system can work. Industry often doesn't understand the environment well enough know how and where their resources can be used, and volunteers and teachers need to develop a working trust relationship before students are "turned over". Again, long story short, a person serving the role of volunteer coordinator can build the methodology to mesh these three entities together. I guess the hurdle becomes, how to get the importance of this kind of position into the minds of all parties involved. Hmm... seems like I just wrote myself a job description!
I agree completely, Scott. Simply putting a new emphasis on technology in schools is a step in the right direction. I remember in the 80s when Apple started pushing computers into school. They won a good portion of a whole generation by going into schools.
JimT, Yes, sometimes the best solutions to problems is from people bootstrapping their own resources. Today's society is based on people solving problems using skills and knowledge they have instead of dependency from government agencies. The red tape can really slow down progress.
It IS a great idea. I hope the US Gov't takes note of this. A strong example of private industry working in a free market, to strengthen the economy and provide education for the future. As it should be; growth and strength by the people, for the people -- without bureaucratic intervention and need to control.
Hi, T.J. Yes, some time off from a job to teach or volunteer at a school would help students and teachers, but I don't know of any companies that make provisions for such a thing. At one time Apple gave employees a sabbatical, and it still might. A "sabbatical" of an afternoon a week to teach or assist kids makes a lot of sense. Companies and schools would need some sort of curriculum so volunteers wouldn't just show up and "hang out" with students. Some teachers and administrators get prickly, though, when approached about getting assistance from non-teachers. They think their teachers know everything and often shun outside assistance. Sad but true; and I have run into this situation here.
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