There is increasing outcry over the need for improved science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. It's such an important issue that it's become a political hot button. Many are lobbying for more government funding of STEM programs as part of a broader strategy to bring US manufacturing and innovation back to its glory days.
Design competitions are one way vendors are doing their part. By sponsoring teams at the grade school, high school, and university levels, they hope to ignite that competitive spark that nurtures a lifelong love of technology and draws students into engineering professions.
Click on the image below to see highlights of the projects borne from some intense design competitions:
The Gerber-sponsored student team's robot in the FIRST Robotics Competition has a tank tread conveyor system that is designed to draw game pieces in the form of racket balls into the system and up into a basket. (Source: Gerber Technology)
Beth, these are interesting projects and competitions. Hopefully they will have the desired effect. First Robotics is a great activity. I have seen it from high school to university. It really stimulates people to work on these things. Another fun one, although maybe not so benign, is robot wars. I first saw this in British TV when I was in England. My boys loved it.
A couple of years ago there was a solar vehicle race that ended in our town. My oldest son went with me to watch the finish. It really encouraged him.
I agree that these programs are instrumental to getting young people interested and engaged in STEM careers and opportunities. I think beyond the local school-sponsored events, which are no doubt awesome, the programs that are sponsored and orchestrated by big business (like the Shell EcoMarathon and others that are similar) really do a lot. Not only do they foster an interest in engineering, but they go a long way in helping up and comers make the connection between innovation and real business needs and that is what is really important in terms of nurturing the next generation of engineers.
In times past, the degree of enthusiasm outweighed the degree of difficulty relative to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). I certainly hope those days are returning and we see many more students entering areas involving technology and math.I am somewhat pessimistic about the return of manufacturing to our country, at least to the extent we enjoyed in the 50s, 60s and 70s.As we all know, manufacturing, at one time, was the engine that provided paydays for many many engineers and designers.I will say this, several companies I do business with are bringing products and assemblies "home" due to less than acceptable quality and reliability.They are also finding procurement and communication can be a real problem and have decided that higher costs are acceptable relative to the chaos and delays involved with doing business overseas.The down side is we have lost one entire generation as far as experience.Let's hope competition such as the one Beth has shown us will stimulate additional entry into STEM professions.
Excellent point. I think many universities are realizing that students want their courses to remain relavent, interesting and worthwhile. The very best courses I had during my university years were conducted by professors who had "been there and done that". Hands on experience wrapped around good sound principals always holds a sudents interest. "Book learning" is fine but it must be shown to be useful in solving problems.
@bobengr: I'm with you in hoping that these competitions can stimulate more interest in STEM jobs as a career. I think that just seeing the fruits of these student competitors' labor shows how engineering and manufacturing jobs are evolving in this day and age and how it demands a very different skill set than what was expected in the earlier decades.
Chuck: I believe the Buckeye Bullet still holds the record for fastest EV. These guys are pushing the envelope so much that President Obama recently visited them and highlighted their work as part of recent tour to promote US manufacturing.
Good article. I'd like to add that every one of these teams of students has engineers like us mentoring them, encouraging them, and helping them develop buildable robots out of sometimes challenging brainstorm session outcomes. The only thing limiting even more teams being formed is local engineers volunteering to get involved. You can really make a difference! Watching these kids eyes light up when something they daydreamed becomes a working piece of equipment is incredible! Find a team and get involved.
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