Monday, June 6, 2011

STEM Outreach

One of the things that's important to me is engineering outreach. I've even created a Page for my blog listing engineering outreach events that I'm aware of. A few of them are events that I competed in during my education. Several more are events that I have volunteered at.

Earlier this spring, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Symposium honoring the 40th Anniversary of the Lunar Rover, as part of the Great Moonbuggy Race. The high school and college students asked the panelists a great many questions about their experiences on the moon and with the rover.

One of the questions the students asked, bothered me. The panelists answered it at least as well as I could. It might have been a question about Mars Direct and/or a one-way trip.

It occurred to me that the student probably wouldn't have asked that particular question, had they also participated in the Space Settlement Design Competition.

Soon after this, my SWE section presented The Planets to a 2nd grade class we had sponsored. I was a little surprised... by how much I had picked up and retained over my career, by the questions they asked.

About the same time, I also had the chance to talk with DS's preschool teachers, about doing outreach at the preschool level.

It occurred to me that it would not hurt to have some sort of aerospace science curriculum for the entire pre-K through at least 12th grade set. Something that could be used episodically, or as a single large story arc.

See, the Great Moonbuggy Race is for both high school and college students.
The Space Settlement Design Competition is for high school students, designed to rotate through four different scenarios so that students can work a slightly different problem each year of high school.

And there is a third event, the Future City Competition, designed for the middle school set.

They're all sponsored by different organizations, but it seems to me that the three events could be put together in a logical progression.

I'm not sure the elementary school students truly need a competition to consolidate what they know, but the foundations of scientific and engineering design need to be laid down in those years.

Actually, our local science center has a Sprouting Scientists program for toddlers and preschoolers. Many of their activities would be perfect for the younger children. They could probably be repeated for a few years, perhaps even in 3-year cycles.

It's something I've begun to think about. If you have any other competitions or resources, I'd love to hear them!