I am constantly amazed at how quickly today’s youth pick up on new technology. My son played with a remote control car before he could say complete sentences and both of my children were interacting with software using a mouse on a PC before turning three. Technology has just always been there for them from day one. They don’t learn technology, they just live it.
Still they need help when it comes to learning STEM. It’s all the rage in education right now. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. If you don’t have specialized programs at your school you will soon.
I personally am heavily involved in evangelizing the benefits STEM education. I’ve served on a school board and continue to serve on the Technology sub-committee. I volunteer for FIRST and helped promote the Hour of code initiative. Most of my volunteer time is spent evangelizing STEM education and technology related programs that advance STEM skills.
Why do I do this? I think it mostly flows from enjoying seeing children’s faces light up when they learn to do something with technology. I have helped children learn to make a robot move, make a program do something and publish it to the web, animate a bouncing ball, edit a video, build a 3D model in a CAD program, print their model on a 3D printer, develop an understanding of the basics of machine learning and artificial intelligence and shown students how math really can help them solve a real world problem. I love of bringing real technical education to young students to get them excited about becoming a real engineer where they can impact the world with their inventions.
I have also had great personal rewards in getting to spend time with my own children teaching them all of these skills. I’m a professional geek and whether they end up being professional geeks or not, they will have a decent grasp of what we all do.
I wanted to start off the New Year with a new series of blog posts focused on sharing what I’ve learned about STEM education. I hope to make regular posts.
For this first post I thought I would share my list of links!
My list has been forwarded around many times on internal Microsoft aliases and each time I get new suggestions from individuals. If you see a glaring omission in my list, please leave the suggestion in the comments section.
Let’s start first with robots and in this case I would first focus on FIRST. This is a great program that I have volunteered as a coach and a judge for almost four years now. It is a great program because the hook of LEGOS and robots really piques the interests of young girls and boys.
HTTP://USFirst.org – USFirst is a program founded by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway scooter. It has programs for students K-12 and targets the development of STEM skills with students in a fun sports like program for the mind. The program partners with the Lego Company to use their MindStorms technology in the program (sorry no real discounts on LEGOs).
- US First Jr FLL for K-3rd grade – http://www.juniorfirstlegoleague.org/
- First Lego League for 4-8th grade students (where I have mostly volunteered):
- First Tech Challenge for 7-12 grade – http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/ftc
- First Robotics Competition for 9-12th grade – http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/frc
If you get into the FIRST program and or LEGO robotics in general here are some useful links
- Official lego site (cost is about $350 retail) – http://www.lego.com/en-us/mindstorms/?domainredir=mindstorms.lego.com
- EV3 Programming Tutorial – http://www.stemcentric.com/ev3-tutorial
- MoreThanJustBricks has advanced programming ideas for Mindstorm robots – http://thinkbricks.net/?cat=30
- NXT Programs is a great site if you have the older NXT Mindstorm robot but certainly the models and programming ideas can be used with the newer EV3 Mindstorms – http://www.nxtprograms.com/
There are other robotics competitions. Some use LEGOs, some use Arduino, and other use different technologies. Here are some of the links:
- This blog post is a great resource as a list of robotics competitions. I haven’t even had time to click on a third of the 122 plus links.
- NASA supports many robotics competition and has a list of the programs here http://robotics.nasa.gov/events/competitions.php
- More LEGO Competitions and Events
- WRO – World Robot Olympiad is a global LEGO robotics competition program for K-12 and college students. I haven’t done this program yet but it looks interesting.
- The International Space Elevator Conference and Competition is returning to the Seattle Museum of flight in the summer of 2015 – http://www.isec.org/sec/
- MoonBots is a Google sponsored program for 9-17 year olds – http://moonbots.org/. It does not seem to happen every year though.
- Other robotics competitions non-LEGO
- VEX makes a robotics kit and they sponsor a robotics competition for elementary through middle-school with partners like NASA and autodesk.
- BEST Robotics for Middle Grade through High School http://best.eng.auburn.edu/b_about_best.php
- It’s a free program but it is still growing and may not be in your area.
- This is the BEST Robotics YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7EaPBYMX2RoeWh7DYVWaCQ
- This is a great YouTube video that can help you learn more about the program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpZ0MxYc8lA
- Other programs and interesting links
- Set up your own School Robot Olympics
- Here is an example from a school http://www.scoe.org/pub/htdocs/robotics-challenge.html
- Massive line follower competition – http://www.control.aau.dk/~ms/lego_competition/robocup
- RoboCup is a fun multi-faceted program that in 2015 will be held in Hefei, China http://www.robocup.org/about-robocup/. This is not a kids program but is fascinating to study.
- Set up your own School Robot Olympics
Development of Programming skills
These sites support the development of programming skills for students K-12. The list of sites continues to grow even more rapidly than the robotics list I keep.
- These sites generally promote the beginning concepts of programming using graphical interfaces rather than writing lines of code. They are a great way to get younger students exposed to programming and feeling a sense of success.
- http://code.org – Open Source site supported by multiple corporations to help students learn programming concepts with a simple graphical programming interphase.
- Do not forget the Computer Science Engineering Week the first full week of Dec each year http://hourofcode.com.
- http://touchdevelop.com – A site developed by Microsoft Research for students to program apps that can run on Windows, Android and Apple IOS. It uses HTML5 and is compatible across devices.
- http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/kodu/ – Kodu by Microsoft Research runs on Windows PCs and XBOX. Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Xbox, allowing rapid design iteration using only a game controller for input
- http://scratch.mit.edu/ – Scratch 2.0 is a Java script based graphical development environment for students supported by MIT. It will run on PCs, Mac, and Linux computers.
- Most of the sites above promote a graphical programming interface but these next two promote writing real lines of code.
Other STEM Programs:
- http://www.tealsk12.org/ is an organization started by Microsoft and former Microsoft employees volunteering in schools to teach STEM skills sign up and get a professional to come to your school.
- Skype has an initiative to bring professionals to the classroom via skype. Professionals are encouraged to submit a lesson plan and teachers can search and connect with the professional that looks to be a fit for their class. https://education.skype.com/
- http://codetolearn.org/our-impact – Foundation that supports scratch but also has links to other cool program.
- http://digigirlz.com – This is a great program for High School aged girls. It has an online community as well as several Microsoft sponsored summer camps hosted around the United States. The camps are free but they do fill fast.
- http://www.cs-first.com/ – is a google sponsored program that focuses on 4th-8th graders
- https://www.imaginecup.com/ – Microsoft sponsored global competition for students ages 16 and up to include college students. Must be an enrolled student.
- Microsoft IT Academy is a program with resources for teachers to help them teach Microsoft technologies such as Office in the classroom as well as resources to help teachers and students earn certifications in important technologies. http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/education/training-and-events/it-academy/
A great list of Open Source or Free Software for schools that helps with STEM education
- 3D animation
- CAD programs
- AutoDesk offers Fusion with a free trial – http://fusion360.autodesk.com/
- Design Spark Home is free and a good beginning tool. http://www.designspark.com will redirect you to another page but is the best link I found.
- SketchUp is used in many schools and though they don’t have a free version for students they do have a free trial that lasts long enough for most students to take an introductory level class. http://www.sketchup.com/3Dfor/k12-education
- 3D Modeling and Printing
- Cura from Ultimaker is a free program that has many positive supporters. I’ve only just begun to dabble in it but I like it better than the paid for programs from other 3D printing companies.
- Many of the 3D animation and CAD programs can also be used to develop models for a 3D printer
- Video and Image Editing – not everyone would include video editing under STEM but I have had multiple students find this the technology that really hooked them. Being great at video editing certainly combines artistic and technical skills so here are some of my links.
- InkScape for Vector drawings. Can be imported into 3D modeling software. https://inkscape.org/en/
- Blender – Yes it is mostly for 3D animation but it is also a great video editing tool. http://www.blender.org
- LightWorks is a great tool and runs on windows, Linux, and Mac OS. LWKS.com
- For real simple video editing you can still get the windows movie maker – http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/Windows-Live/movie-maker
- Wondershare has a lot of positive reviews and always has a free trial – http://www.wondershare.net/
Now that is quite a long list of links. I know it’s not comprehensive and it may be a bit broad but I have found each one of them to have good content related to STEM education, competitions, software, and support. Enjoy and please leave your own links so I can learn from you.