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)
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.
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.
Since 1987, teams of engineers around the world have built solar cars to participate in a road race around Australia called the World Solar Challenge, being tested on the race time, kilometers traveled, practicality, and energy used by the vehicles they invent.
These free camps are designed for children ages 10 to 18. Attendees are introduced to 3D CAD software and shown how 3D printers can make their work a reality. Many classes were nearly 50 percent girls and 50 percent boys.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.