Across the globe, researchers, educators and organizations are studying the reasons behind declining degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields – and there is no shortage of data on “the problem.” However, it is extremely rare to find research or information on how to fix this decline; there’s no 5 step model of how to birth, deliver STEM graduates, and keep them in STEM careers. There are no books on how to decode STEM challenges or where best to have a STEM intervention – yet in every corner of every cube lies an opinion about the problem.
Finding a solution is a daunting challenge; yet it is also an opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace. The challenge is complicated. Yet, rather than spinning on the declines, hanging on to notions that STEM graduates will become extinct, Intel has shifted focus to finding bright spots and hoping to get energy around the good stuff that is making an impact. And in this case, it’s happening right here in our very own back yard.
Bright Spot #1 –Introducing kids to STEM in a fun and non threatening way will hook them! Just last week, we spent time with the Carl Hayden High School (Falcon Robotics) team in Phoenix. They are just one of the many teams that Intel supports via mentors, donations and competitions. Over the years they have repeatedly won the right to attend the US First international championship in St. Louis, and are recognized as one of the top robotics teams in the world.
Their mentors will tell you that despite so many things that are stacked up against them, such as being from an underserved community or parents who never made it beyond sixth grade, nothing stands in their way. As soon you walk into their robotics cave, it is game on – the place is humming with high energy, passion and commitment. The kids are electing to stay every day from 3-6pm because of the small things. This amounts to over two thousand hours of hands on technical experience over their high school career.
What stands out most aren’t the big things. It is the small things that are going right that matter the most. Below are just a few of the small things that stand out about these kids:
1. Kids are working on things that they love and are given the freedom to “play.”
2. The afterschool program creates a sense of community. Immediately you notice you are in a family-like environment.
3. A caring teacher that expects all of them to do well; we felt it as soon as he opened his mouth to talk about the kids. He maintains an inventory of kids in that room, what they are doing now, their hopes and aspirations, and for those that had graduated; he could tell you about them too. When somebody cares, lives can be changed.
4. Trust is very visible and the ability to fail is widely accepted. No fixed answers but a “just try stuff” attitude is the tone of the instructor.
Intel is a proud sponsor of competitions like this because we know these amazing kids will be inspired in unique ways. These kids are more likely to go to college, twice as likely to major in sciences and, for girls, are four times more likely to study math and science – and that’s good for all of us. This program is a bright spot.
What bright spots you have experienced while working with kids and STEM?