Category: STEM Outreach

Examples and Challenges of Teaching STEM

Defining STEM…

When teaching STEM to minors, a common trap you want to avoid is that of mis-defining what STEM is for your school and your children.  STEM is not simply buying a bunch of iPads toSTEM_Takers-to-Makers1_mini do art, music, or using technology to complete homework assignments and classwork. Unless we’re teaching our kids creative innovation in a STEM related area, then we’re just fooling ourselves and, sadly, our kids.  As I explained in a recent talk for would-be-STEM educators, STEM should be about transforming kids (through hands on experiences) from consumers to innovators; or, as I like to say,
STEM is about turning kids from Takers into Makers.

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STEM Turns Technology Takers Into Technology Makers

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Here at Racksburg we’re big believers in exposing kids to STEM and  information technologies. Admittedly, we do this partly because making our region more attractive to seasoned technology experts with growing families is just good for business (as discussed in this previous blog post). However we also invest in STEM because exposing kids to IT/programming technologies helps transform their mind set from one of being mere consumers of new technology, into becoming more technology innovators, makers and creators. Something  we all need to strive to do in our communities and schools. Continue reading

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Local Tech Companies Launch “Blacksburg Week of Code” STEM programming events in December

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Young Zach (9) and his dad drove down
from Lynchburg to Blacksburg to take one of
LCBB’s first Arduino workshops in 2013.

Local Blacksburg tech leaders Rackspace and Tech Pad have been separately bringing quality STEM coding classes to Blacksburg and the New River Valley for a while now.  My own company and Internet/cloud hoster Rackspace has been running monthly Let’s Code Blacksburg! (LCBB) programming & technology workshops since 2012. Local coworking space Tech Pad has been running nearly weekly programming series with their Blacksburg Coder DoJo group for over a year now, and other local tech experts from around town have been running the New River Valley 100 Girls of Code workshops since this past summer.    

The leaders of these STEM coding groups like to occasionally meet to discuss and assist each other with various community opportunities, but recently we huddled around the idea of coordinating efforts around a single “Blacksburg Week of Code“.  This focused, three day set of coding opportunities (from December 10-12th) is being offered in conjunction with the global “Computer Science Education Week”  (December 7-13) efforts being evangelized by the Hour of Code STEM programming movement.  The now global Hour of Code movement proclaims, “Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science. It helps nurture problem-solving skills, logic and creativity. By starting early, students will have a foundation for success in any 21st-century career path.” Continue reading

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FIRST Lego League – It’s about more than just bots

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Duckies Boston Rosborough and Caleb Helsing preparing to
launch their bot at the FLL Chirstiansburg Middle School
competition.

In October and November of this year, Rackspace invested in spinning up several FIRST Lego League (FLL) teams in the New River Valley this fall. Working with the non-profit New River Robotics and local FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) group the Tuxedo Pandas, we spun up two FLL teams at Blacksburg Middle School, two at Christiansburg Middle School and two home school group teams. Other NRV area FLL teams and events were additionally funded by the Roanoke Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) and overseen by the Roanoke Blacksburg FLL (rbfll.org).

One of these home school groups, Rackspace was personally involved with.  I stepped in as “Coach Tweeks” and helped start the “Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies“— mainly because my own 11yr old daughter was one of the prospective team members. The FBRDs (as we became known) ended up being comprised of nine 9-11yr old home school kids from within Blacksburg.

The FLL Big Picture:
FIRST Lego League is the robotics competition for middle schoolers, run by the FIRST organization, started by Segway inventor Dean Kamen. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and is one of the leading world wide STEM organizations.
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