This week in STEM, many educators and organization are hoping to build children's confidence in science, and help them understand how they can use science, engineering, technology and math in a wide variety of situations. Here are some of the most recent developments for makers (and future makers) that we find most exciting.
The American Farm Bureau Foundation recently launched a series of challenges -- called the Purple Plow Challenge -- that will get students involved in the maker movement in ways they perhaps never have before. The goal of the challenge is to help students in grades 6 through 8 understand more about the science, technology, and engineering behind the food that they eat and the fibers that they wear. The first challenge, which runs through May 1, asks kids to design an aquaponics system that can support both edible plant life and marine life.
STEM education doesn't have to be limited to the classroom. A recent study by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next found that after-school STEM programs were also greatly beneficial to students who participated in them. After-school STEM-focused programs were shown to help more than 70 percent of participating students make positive achievements in STEM subjects, gain knowledge about science careers and develop critical thinking. These programs have also been shown to improve "STEM identity" -- or a student's belief in his or her own ability to succeed in science classes.
Incurable brain diseases have long plagued the human population. Engineer Greg Gage is trying to change that by getting neuroscience-related technology into the hands of young people early. Gage founded Backyard Brains, a company that offers neuroscience equipment that allow kids to learn about electrophysiology and the way that the brain works. Backyard Brains sells things like the SpikerBox, a low-cost bioamplifier that has a built-in speaker and allows students to actually hear what their brain sounds like.
Three-dimensional printing is great for small projects, and for use in the classroom -- but it's also making a huge impact on the world at large. One Russia- and San Francisco-based company called Apis Cotr is hoping to revolutionize housing by making it possible to 3-D print houses quickly (and safely). Recently, Apis Cotr 3-D printed a home in less than a day, and they hope that they will be able to use a combination of 3-D printing technology and smart machines across the world to improve living conditions.
STEM education is starting early these days, and beloved television show, "Sesame Street," has decided to incorporate STEM lessons into their episodes. The writers chose one character to be the spokesperson for STEM -- and that character is Grover, the beloved blue character known for always putting forth his best effort, but often failing. The creators of "Sesame Street" explain that they chose Grover for that exact reason; he has a propensity for mistakes, but is always determined to succeed. The writers hope that children see themselves in Grover, making mistakes, but also making new, important discoveries because of those mistakes.
Don't have a big enough budget to buy a 3-D printer for your classroom? Take a look at STARTT, a starter 3-D printer that sells for less than $100. Users of STARTT have to build the printer themselves, but once it's constructed, it can be used in conjunction with a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux. The STARTT printer sells for $99.99.
Want to start getting your students interested in the Maker Movement? Try our easy-to-use 3D design tool TinkerCAD. You can learn the basics about how it works by clicking here.