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Posts Tagged ‘ed-tech’

Students Discover STEM at New England Botfest and Botball

Botfest

We all know by now that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is important for students, who need to build 21st-century skills to compete in today’s workforce. But STEM feels a bit like a prescription to eat more vegetables instead of birthday cake. Yes, STEM is nutritious, but the arts and humanities are so much more alluring, succulent, and enriching. At least that’s what I thought until a group of middle and high school students—and their robots—proved me wrong.

Botfest and Botball

At the 2016 New England Botfest Exhibition and Botball Tournament at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, students showed off their robotic creations. Lego pieces transformed into a walking pig, a butler, and a police station. LED lights adorned clothes and accessories. Several robots zoomed around to greet curious guests. And autonomous robots competed at Botball.

This annual event is the culmination of a STEM outreach partnership between the UMASS-Lowell Computer Science department and K-12 schools throughout Massachusetts and New England. According to the UMASS website, “Botball and Botfest provide fun, challenging, team-based, hands-on learning experiences for middle and high school students in computer science, robotics and technology. These efforts instill curiosity, knowledge and confidence to prepare students for college, career choices and the high tech workplace.” With the help of donations, this program provides teacher training and robotic classroom supplies.

Lessons Learned

While students explained how they built their creations (common materials: Lego pieces, motion sensors, motors, and computer software), I learned that my preconceptions about STEM were wildly inaccurate. STEM education encompasses so much more than science, technology, engineering, and math; it also includes teamwork, creativity, problem-solving, and—most shockingly—art.

Students from Brookside Elementary in Dracut, Massachusetts, worked together to design a walking pig, which they built with Lego pieces. They solved challenges such as programing their pig and using the appropriate motor to control its speed. Their labor resulted in a work of art. In fact, all of the creations I saw were indeed works of art.

STEM education, I realized, is not just about a bunch of abstract concepts. It is about creating things that have value in the real world, whether artistically, functionally, or both. Robots like NASA’s Valkyries, one of which recently arrived at UMASS-Lowell, are the future after all. Most importantly, though, when I asked the students if they had fun, each answered with an enthusiastic “yes!” So I guess STEM isn’t so bad.

How has your school integrated STEM into the curriculum?

Share your thoughts with us on Twitter @ProQuest or in the comments below.

Join the Digital Learning Day Conversation on Feb. 17th 2016!

2016 is the fifth year since the inception of Digital Learning Day. This is a day to enhance the way students learn through technology. It’s a day to celebrate computers, apps, digital tools, devices, and the ways they’ve transformed education. The more comfortable students are with technology, the better prepared they will be for the future. This is also a day to have fun and learn something new. There are multiple ways you can join the digital learning day conversation. Bring ed-tech to your classroom or library and share the digital fun with everyone. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. Get on social media: 

    Twitter is an online social network perfect for spreading the Digital Learning Day message and sharing the ways you and your students are getting involved. @OfficialDLDay is the official Digital Learning Day Twitter account page and using the hashtag #DLDay will keep you connected with the latest postings.

  2. Visit the #EdTech Perspectives blog:

    The #EdTech Perspectives blog is located on the Digital Learning Day website. It is a curated blog and lists its contributors with their latest posts. Check out some of the archived posts and learn how Digital Learning Day is impacting educators, students and schools.

  3. Share online resources:

    The online resources page at the Digital Learning Day website provides a sampling of free digital tools that can benefit all types of learners. While there are many more ed-tech resources available online, this compilation is a good place to start.

  4. Try a new education app with your students:

    With an endless array of education apps to choose from, educators may become overwhelmed by which ones are the best ones for them. Helpful lists like the one at Shake Up Learning categorize some of the Google Chrome compatible options. The Digital Learning Day website contains a small list of apps that both students and educators may find useful. DailyGenius contains a list of the “best education apps for connected classrooms.”

How will you join the Digital Learning Day conversation? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.