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STEM is Greater than Programming and Robotics

STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) is the newest subject that is being driven to help develop tomorrow’s ever evolving Society. We have to be mindful when we talk about STEM because it’s not just a buzzword educators should throw around to signify the advancement and evolution of school education programs.

The biggest misconception I run into is the new association that STEM implies a simple Robotics program. Even though I am an engineer by trade I more often than not correct people that STEM is not only made up of Programming, Robotics, Engineering nor Aerospace. STEM is a deeper, complex, extensive subject that covers different concepts, skills, principles and topics.

There’s no arguing that robotics is STEM’s new darling, but I challenge, “how do one dimensional robotics programs teach all the STEM concepts in a manner that’s not limiting?” Let me say for the record that Robotics is the best platform to use to launch STEM educations. In my experience coaching robotics is that after you build a robot, and then what? What did the child learn and can they then after build a robot to solve a particular need? Without creative problem scenarios, an engaging storyline, mentally stimulating exercises  and hands on activities, what lesson does the student learn from building a LEGO’s EV3 robot and playing with it using bluetooth connectivity and  touch screen cellphone controllers?

STEM isn’t merely guiding a student to build a robot and play with it. It should be also about growing the student’s ability to think through problems and solve it themselves. STEM is just not robotics, electronics or programming, it is the entire gambit of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The main goal of STEM is to teach  tomorrow’s future innovators how to implement what they study in their classrooms. The biggest deliverable that STEM education should deliver is an education that prepares the student in school to solve real world problems. It is vital and important to introduce students to more concepts such as chemistry, biology, decision analysis, design, simulation, problem identification and many more…

True STEM programs expand their curriculum to use both Robots, Technology, Self- Critical Thinking and Fun Interactive Labs. All this is easier said than done but when STEM programs incorporate all 4 facets of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) it provides an enjoyable learning experience for the students. This perhaps gives rise to the romantic association of STEM to robotics because robots are similar to toys and hence most programs use this as their entire STEM solution. The true solution to STEM education lies in the ability to teach complex STEM topics using engaging, fun and enjoyable education for life.

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STEM education is the best way for students to learn the practical application of Scientific, Technological, Engineering and Mathematics principles.  I have long believed that education is two fold. Aside from first learning the theory and subjects in the classroom, it is vital that tomorrow’s workforce learn how to apply the knowledge they acquire.

It is not enough to simply give young innovators and pioneers the building blocks and then leave them to figure out how the pieces come together without teaching them how the different pieces fit together. The Design Technology and Innovations (DTI) program was developed to introduce students to real world  principles and good practices used in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Our hands on and minds on program provides fun interactive STEM labs that help students guide themselves through a conceptual journey of problem solving.  Our team has developed fun, easy to use and enjoyable interactive labs that challenge students to solve problems with minimal assistance from coaches. Students that go through this program will have an in depth understanding of STEM, enjoy labs and learn how to build prototype designs they can send home.

Just how Important is STEM education?

We live in a world that is constantly changing, with new technologies hitting the shelf all the time. I remember a time when technology took years to upgrade to a newer version. Nowadays a new upgrade for our  smartphones is out every season. So how fast is our world’s technology growth? The graph below provides some insight of how technology is growing exponentially. It compares the technology the United States has used to communicate and share information since the 1900s. Harvard Business estimated that the pace of technology development took roughly about 50 years for 50% of the American public to use Telephones. Keep in mind it took 20 years for half of America to use mobile phones and slightly less than 10 years for smart phones to reach significant numbers.

From No Telephone to Smart Phones

So what does all this technology boom mean for the world? This means that the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry has to grow and adapt simultaneously with the exponential development of new technology.

Studies indicate that roughly 65% of middle school students will be working in jobs that haven’t yet been invented! How do we respond to this prediction of increased new STEM jobs? What tools do we need to give the modern day grade school student in order for them to adapt to new job fields that are being introduced with the advances in technology? Former Michigan Governor John Engler argues that STEM education is the key to the US’s economic Future. Governor Engler also expresses the urgency to encourage more students to pursue STEM related fields to support a strong working culture in America.  

In 2009 the US Department of Labor estimated that 8 of the top 10 most wanted jobs required degrees in STEM. As outlined by Science Pioneers, STEM careers are clearly what will fuel not only the economy but the culture of technology hungry society in the future.  STEM industry jobs have grown by about 17% while other fields only experienced a 9.8% estimated growth.

Georgetown University predicts that by 2020, 65, percent of all jobs in the economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. So for the next 10 years, the exponential growth in technology will result in technologies that are 1000 times more advanced (The Emerging Future). This means the job market and STEM fields will be more advanced. These new state of the art technologies will require a human force behind it that have strong critical thinking ability to use the advanced technologies.

The demand to create an innovative and technology advancing society is apparent from all the sources we have discussed. As processes, simulations and procedures are automated and streamlined, the human role will evolve into one that is “hands  on” and “minds on”. The US currently ranks 29th in the world in graduating students into STEM related fields.

Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM)

 

Our team at Ascension Works has developed the Design, Technology and Innovations program to respond to the gaps between STEM education, application of knowledge and assessment of real world problem solving. Our 2016 Summer program is designed to teach students math and science applications early in their learning processes. The DTI program is comprised of fun interactive labs that aim to engage, enthuse and teach. The main goal of the DTI, STEM curriculum is to help student self identify to STEM related fields such as, medicine, biology, engineering and chemistry. Learn more about this exciting program that helps tomorrow’s innovators to apply knowledge as they solve fun challenges.

Part of a Winning Team

While I was writing my Thesis in Graduate School, I had the privilege of being involved with a global and collaborative project, the General Motors (GM) Sustainable Urban Transportation (SUT) Design Project. The SUT design challenge was a inter-disciplinary engineering project that challenged my problem solving and critical thinking skills. I am proud to be part of the Winning Team that Designed the Agriyah Vehicle set to be put into production by GM in 2025.  

 

GM Sustainable Urban Transportation Design Project

Ntengwa Mukosa, Director of STEM Programs at Ascension Works during his work at the General Motors (GM) Sustainable Urban Transportation (SUT) Design Project.

 

The Partners for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering design challenge was developed to introduce graduate engineers to real world problem solving by virtue of a design competition. I was part of a design team that included groups from, Mexico, 2 from India,  Michigan USA and New Mexico USA.  I was put in charge of the ergonomics team that was tasked with designing an ergonomic interior that was based in New Mexico.

With the help of my team, we were able to develop a methodology for car interior design that included various human factor and safety measures incorporated in our design.  The team powered through the early stages of the design process. We were fortunate in considering future processes while constructing a working prototype. After taking into account the manufacturability, bill of materials, time to assemble, maintenance and replaceability the team identified a lot of challenges with the initial design of the vehicle. Either the manufacturing costs were too high or the shapes & designs of certain parts could not be made in an assembly line or replacing the assembled pieces was not convenient for end users. This was a lot to digest for my first experience outside the classroom and safety of a one hour lab.

Real world experience is vital for tomorrow innovators, because the theory and the application of theory are vastly different yet co-dependant. Education is a 2 step process that consists of attaining knowledge and applying the knowledge learnt for the betterment of humankind. Imagine providing a solution to a real world problem as being a puzzle you’re trying to solve. The scientific knowledge base makes up the pieces of the puzzle and the application of that knowledge is the sequence in which the pieces to the puzzle are joined together.  

To help tackle this our DTI curriculum introduces scientific concepts where  students are self-guided through our creative design scenarios. Students are given real world problems to solve. This hands-on program allows tomorrow’s scientists and engineers to get a complete education by also learning how to apply their knowledge base and design skills in fun interactive lab exercises.

DTI students are a part of a winning team! They have the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss solutions to a problem while going through a fun, scientific exploration. At the core of  the DTI program, we are creating a culture of critical thinkers and problem solvers that have the mindset to help solve real world problems. The skills young innovators learn in the DTI program provide them with an education for life. Learn more about the program. Help us teach the world how to fish.

The Value of Real World Experience to Young Learners

The biggest engineering project I have had the privilege to partake in thus far was NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project. This was a 5 million dollar research project that involved engineers and scientists from different majors. What a great opportunity for me to get real world experience right after getting my Bachelors in Industrial Engineering.  You can view some cool videos from this project here.

 

 NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project

Ntengwa Mukosa, Director of STEM Programs at Ascension Works during his work at NASA’s Reduced Gravity and Bio-mechanics (RGB) Simulation project

 

The RGB team was a multi-disciplinary project that included over 40 engineers involved with the various parts of the project. Working on a project with so many moving parts, there were many obstacles that we had to overcome as a team.

The biggest lesson I learned from this project was how to work with a team. Imagine working with 6 departments in charge of either the Mechanical, Human Factors and Ergonomics,  Adaptive and Balancing, Simulation and Testing, System Engineering, Safety, Lab Design and Lab Construction.  Phew! Just thinking about it has me catching my breathe.

The RGB project challenged my application of scientific theories and principles, towards real world tangible solutions.  The STEM based curriculum we developed at Ascension Works introduces students to scenarios, and challenges that they can solve themselves as we take them on a journey as explorers from earth to an intergalactic planet.

Can you picture working on a project with that many teams with each team consisting of 6 engineers and each team running into design challenges simultaneously with engineering and science based problems to solve? The most valuable lesson from my work on NASA’s RGB project was learning how to work in groups with other professionals to accomplish a common goal. Collaboration with others in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics world usually leads to a more indepth understanding of your knowledge base.

The  Design, Technology and Innovation (DTI) program gives students the opportunity to hone in on their ability to perform fun teamwork exercises as they work to solve problems by themselves and then develop their solutions in groups. Studies like the one published by the National Science Teachers Association identified that collaborative exercises in educational settings help students to self reflect, think critically, listen to others and work cohesively together to overcome design challenges. At Ascension Works we believe this is a crucial component to growing a culture of tomorrow’s leaders that can think critically and problem solve while working with others.

At DTI, students will work in a collaborative environment that allows them to exchange ideas and discuss solutions to a problem while going through an enjoyable, scientific exploration. The main goal of the DTI program is to create a culture of critical thinkers and problem solvers that have the mindset to help solve real world problems and not just acquire and then regurgitate knowledge for a test score. The skills our young innovators will learn in the DTI program will provide them with an education for life. Go to www.awnow.org/dti to learn more about the program.

Program Opportunities for Early Childhood Learning Centers

We have great new opportunities for Early Childhood centers to enhance summer programs with Design, Technology and Innovation (DTI),  a hands-on STEM summer program designed by real engineers with experience that spans the globe. Your students will be guided through an engaging hands-on summer experience that will challenge and excite them.

We provide all the tools you need to be successful from curriculum, program support and technology, to actual robots and technical assistance every step of the way. Contact us today!

 

 

 

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The Impact of STEM in a Child’s Life

STEM at work

 

Growing up, my old man believed in fixing everything himself so my first taste of technology/ engineering was not pleasant. It felt like another chore around the house that had to be done and got in the way of me spending time at a playground. I would later grow to love this very thing that gave me the  ability to solve problems, implement ideas and design solutions  in real world situations.

The ability for children to self-Identify with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field is a huge advantage in helping young people acquire the vital tools needed to be a part of an ever changing world. A recent study conducted by DUKE University in 2015 revealed that approximately 65 percent of today’s students will end up in jobs that haven’t yet been invented! That’s frightening! How do we arm tomorrow’s innovators and leaders with the tools needed to adapt to the ever-changing technological environment?  

The answer is simple… STEM.  

STEM provides  tomorrow’s innovators the crucial problem solving, critical thinking and strong decision making skills they need to grow with the changing times.

So What is STEM?

The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) define STEM as;

“STEM education is the intentional integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and their associated practices to create a student-centered learning environment in which students investigate and engineer solutions to problems, and construct evidence-based explanations of real-world phenomena with a focus on a student’s social, emotional, physical, and academic needs through shared contributions of schools, families, and community partners.”

This is the definition that we used to build the Design, Technology and Innovations (DTI) program. FLDOE also outlines that “The acronym STEM is fairly specific in nature referring to science, technology, engineering and mathematics; however, the concept of STEM encompasses much more than the sum of its parts.” We have to be mindful when describing STEM because it is not merely a buzz-word that refers to Science Technology, Engineering, Maths or Robotics. STEM is much more than that. STEM is the building blocks for tomorrow’s technological future. The skills that STEM offers in a student’s life are the ability to;

  • think for themselves
  • learn how to ask the right questions
  • identify real world problems
  • apply scientific principles throughout the design process
  • provide practical solutions to real world problems
  • evaluate the performance of working designs

So how does this impact a young person’s life?

The Ascension Works DTI program was developed to spark math, scientific and engineering interest in elementary, middle and high school students. DTI is built on the premence of teaching STEM based principals in a fun interactive curriculum. Our STEM Program is designed to demonstrate the application of existing technology. Students in the program will be introduced to state of the art design concepts. Tomorrow’s scientists and engineers will have the opportunity for hands on experience in building working prototypes they can test in a fun environment. The interactive program is designed to keep students interested in STEM activities while learning critical concepts they will use later in life.

Candidates that go through this program will be able to develop their knowledge base past the classroom and self-identify with a career in the STEM industry even if their parents or guardians do not actively participate in the STEM world. The program is designed to leave successful students thinking to themselves, “I can see myself doing this.”

To learn more about the summer DTI program,register and/or to partner with us, click here

Help us bring real world solutions to your community.

 

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We are a community based organization that bridges the opportunity gap between preparation and sustainability to empower communities. We prepare you to be successful in the classroom and beyond by providing sustainable life skills & strategies. We are architects of social change and positive experiences for today’s student. Our team is dedicated to providing education, opportunity and access to those most in need.

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