Excellent article that ties the solving of society's evolving challenges to the need to engage students of all ages via improved curricula, tools and general exposure to how technology can be fun. As a FIRST robotics mentor, I see many kids who otherwise would have no connection to this fascinating world. After some reflection on this aspect of what FIRST is about, I have concluded that there an additional benefit to both the students and the mentors: such programs deliver environments that are as real-world as it gets in many ways. Specifically, I have drawn four specific "takeaways".....
1. Such programs effectively serve as an Highly Accelerated Life Test ("HALT") training program for managing people of any age,
2. Both students and professionals can benefit from being pressed outside of their comfort zones,
3. Education/training that is timely, appropriate and continuous is the key to personal growth and stability,
Dave, I'm a little surprised that you, given your position within NI education, seem to have forgotten NI's First Robotics participation,for which you provide the C-RIO FPGA and Labview IDE. I happen to be a mentor, and we mercilessly seek publicity in advertising how much fun can be had in the pursuit of engineering to the young'uns. And part of this is letting the old folks know about the effort and how to get involved...
Getting involved in local schools is one of the best things engineers can do. A lot of companies want to do something good for their communities - why not utilize the unique talents of your employees? Anybody can hold a canned food drive - and there's nothing wrong with that - but TI's involvement in the community reflects who TI is as a company. Other comapnies should follow their example.
Its always good to start it at its early stages. Even anything is best at its younger days. When it gets old you can control things which you might have done in the younger stages which you feel is wrong or should have worked well if its beein controlled somewhat. This is the way to go. Start from the beginning and then you can expect wonders in the future since they have an idea about what their future lyes
Hi Dave, Your article is timely because of the complex problems that challenge our society and the increasing demand to solve them with a highly skilled and creative workforce. I see today's computer scientists and engineers playing a significant role in motivating today's youth by being mentors working within Makerspaces, robotics clubs, and technology based competition environments (FIRST). The major contribution NI has made is with the core LabView engine that powers the LEGO Mindstorms NXT brick and the impact with kids pursuing STEM based careers. As mentioned, I've written two LEGO Mindstorms books and have used them in Chrylser Pre-Engineering Outreach programs with overwhelming success. It's tools like LabView, Arduino, and LEGO Mindstorms that will continue to motivate and establish creativity and problem solving skills for the next generation of computer scientists and engineers. Great article Dave!
Thanks to everyone for sharing all of your comments. I have enjoyed reading the discussion. I am encouraged to see others as impassioned as I am about educating the next generation of engineers. Providing the tools, coupled with shifting curriculum and an elevation of awareness to this discussion is what will ensure our progress. In full disclosure, what many don't realize is that the engine behind the LEGO MINDSTORMS platform is based on NI's LabVIEW graphical programming software. The same software used to design some of today's most complex technology products. In fact, many of our employees at NI mentor school robotics clubs to support these learning initiatives, not because it is required, but because they realize its importance. Seeing kids as young as 6 years old grasp basic system design concepts and get excited about innovating and discovering at an early age is personally fulfilling to these individuals, as well as makes a vital contribution to a better future for all of us. While programming languages may evolve over time and continuing education will be an unavoidable truth, the two things that are a common thread to all of this are the math and the understanding of how to build systems. Finding ways to keep student mind's engaged in mastering these core concepts is the ultimate goal as we move into a time when these skills will be more valuable than ever before.
Thanks Charles, With the educational kits mentioned, it seems like a no brainer but the school structure is quite rigid with the standardized curricula teachers must adhere to. That's the reason for outreach programs and makerspaces to complement the established educational infrastructure.
Kudos, Mrdon. Your post demonstrates a simple point: There's a wealth of information and learning opportunity out there for those who care. Let's hope we can get students in American schools to care about these subjects.
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