I recently had the pleasure of delivering a youth Robotics program, and I was inspired by two young female participants in particular.  A 14 year-old middle school student and a college student, whom is aspiring to become a math teacher, worked together as a team for five days to learn about Robotics.  What I observed during their time together was a strong interest in learning and their ability to overcome obstacles to reach their goals.  They came each day looking forward to one project in particular, which involved building a Robotic Arm using servos, brackets, an Arduino board, and lots of inputs/outputs and wires.  The task at hand involved following a detailed instruction set and later testing their finished product by using Arduino IDE software with the Robotic Arm to engage the servos and maneuver the Arm.

What I observed brought me back to a time in my career when I worked on a manufacturing assembly line - building printed circuit boards and electronic components.  I was 18 years old, and the assembly line crew of over 60 people was predominately female.  I was the youngest and least experienced on the line, but I loved working with schematics and building the assembly kits that I was tasked with.  That job is what created my interest in the technology industry and is what spiraled me into my career of over 30 years. As I watched these two young women, I saw and felt what I had experienced on the assembly line…the energy and excitement of building something with your own hands and then watching it come to life. The feeling of accomplishment expressed by both young women could be seen and felt by everyone in the room.

The science behind all of the energy created lies in the neurochemicals that were generated and how that impacts the brain over time. Those neurochemicals are what motivate a student to learn more and build the confidence in their own abilities to stretch outside of their comfort zone and build on that learning.  This one program, and how it enabled a 14 year-old young woman to foresee what might be possible for her future and how much fun being challenged can be is powerful. Even after multiple failures, she persevered in order to experience the sense of accomplishment in shaping something with her own hands.  With each of her failures, I watched the frustration on her face, the anxiety of realizing where she went wrong, and the emotion of what it felt like to repeat her mistakes.  The realization of how those mistakes created a stronger understanding of what she was creating and how it all worked was her “ah ha” moment.  Without each of those failures, the entire project would have had a very different end result.

Having this opportunity to be “in the moment” with this small group of students, it helped me validate what I already knew.  When we create learning experiences, we need to engage all of our senses and allow for the ability to fail again and again.  However, we need to be sure we explain the value of failure and that we also create the motivation to continue towards success.

When students engage in learning experiences where there is autonomy to explore and where the learning process is facilitated, what you see and feel not only energizes the students but the facilitator as well. Facilitating, as opposed to traditional teaching models, can run counter to what we are accustomed to and feel comfortable with in a classroom. That bias is extremely difficult to change; not until we experience the difference between teaching and facilitating and understand the science behind when it is more appropriate to facilitate versus teach can we develop new approaches that create greater value long term.  This transformation in our own thinking is called neuroplasticity, and in todays' disruptive world where knowledge is expanding at such a rapid rate the teacher becomes a student and in many cases the student becomes the teacher. Embracing this new world requires everyone to learn together and to allow students to be a part of the learning process.

It is important for educators to have a basic understanding of how and why people learn, and knowledge of brain-based learning can help us more effectively facilitate student learning. By creating active learning experiences for our students, we create classroom environments with the right recipe for learning and long-term retention and growth.

With the right recipe for learning through the understanding of neuroscience, we can inspire many young women to engage in STEAM careers. Through that effort we need to ensure that our future teachers have the same opportunities to experience the possibilities, and to bring that energy into our classrooms.

You can be a part of shaping the next generation of women in STEAM, creating that "ah ha" moment for more students by supporting We Connect The Dots. Our programs place students at the center of the learning experience, driving their own outcomes and learning together. To learn more about the Robotics program and how you can help be a part of the change visit http://we-connect-the-dots.org

To learn how Laurie Carey Consulting, LLC supports We Connect The Dots, Inc. through Robotics training programs for schools and STEAM Learning Kits visit http://LaurieCarey.com/STEAM-Learning-Kits

References:

Doyle, T. (2011b, November). The one who does the work does the learning. Symposium conducted at the Lilly Conference on College Teaching, Oxford, OH.

Flagel, S. B., Clark, J. J., Robinson, T. E., Mayo, L., Czuj, A., Willuhn, I.,… Akil, H. (2011). A selective role for dopamine in stimulus-reward learning. Nature, 6, 469 (7328), 53-7.

 

Posted
AuthorLaurie Carey

Another year of CreatingSTEAM has passed and it is with deep emotion that our team separates after almost three weeks of preparing, training, and then delivering an incredible ten-day program for students ages 13-18 years old.  Students enter the first day confused, nervous, and unsure of what to expect.  They exit energized, more mature, with new friendships, mentors, and empowered to continue learning. How can all this be possible in just 10 days, you might ask? In its third year of development and continuing to be shaped each year this immersive program challenges students to find their strengths and stretch outside their comfort zones.  WCTD provides the optimal learning environment by giving students a space in which to learn and to experience what the real world of entrepreneurship feels like.  Whether they will someday start their own business, or be a part of a team that does, this program takes them on a journey to see and feel what might be possible.

Many programs create separations in gender and in cultural backgrounds however, in the real world students will enter a workforce filled with diversity. WCTD believes that in order to change the gender and racial biases that exists we need to stop placing students in buckets of separation and teach them the value of diversity at any early age. Not only diversity in gender, culture, socioeconomic background, but diversity in thinking and learning styles as well. It is not an easy task, but unless we bring about change many students who can bring enormous value to the workforce will be left behind. The loss of intellectual potential is beyond our understanding today but will become apparent when these students enter the workforce and businesses pay the price in training their staff members to value the diversity they bring. We believe that investment needs to take place now, before the bias becomes so difficult it costs businesses 1000x the cost it would to invest while students are in middle school and high school.

Students delve into their first activity

Students delve into their first activity

Starting the first day with activities that engage the students to value each other's diversity is critical so we begin with teaching Mind Mapping. Mind mapping helps students demonstrate their creativity and get to know each other.  They share their values, their goals for the program, and a bit about who they are and what they enjoy. Call it an icebreaker, maybe. We call it the key that starts the engine, moving students to work together.

Students creating their first mind map to introduce themselves to one another. 

Students creating their first mind map to introduce themselves to one another. 

We developed an algorithm to meld the students into diverse teams to ensure that we have a blend across age groups, gender, coding skill levels, school attended, and creative skills. Each team is tasked with developing a business that solves a social issue with global impact. They then must create a website, mobile app, develop a branding book, integrate a humanoid robot, and prepare a 15 minute presentation that includes a 1-2 minute marketing video that demonstrates their product or organization with a call to action. It is immersive and real world. Of course we teach them the skills necessary to accomplish the project requirements. They are mixed with students they have never met and must learn to understand the value that each member brings to the team and execute under time constraints.

Winners of our Tower Building Team Activity!

Winners of our Tower Building Team Activity!

Each day brings more team building to help create the bond they will need to execute a successful project. Students are introduced to Stanford Universities' Design Thinking model. They will leverage the model to brainstorm ideas and utilize mind mapping to expand on those ideas. They make connections to how their idea maps to the team's values. Supporting students in understanding the importance of values and how those values contribute to successful businesses, helping to shape the mission statement for their conceptual business idea.

Students learning the Design Thinking Model

Students learning the Design Thinking Model

For many students coding can be a scary thought and drive them away from ever discovering their potential. Creating an environment that allows for exploration and autonomy helps to shift their thinking and stretch beyond their experience to reach new goals.  In this way students learn how to empower their own learning and what it means to be a lifelong learner.  Our online student community provides a mechanism for students to not only stay engaged with the students they meet, but the speakers, mentors and to engage in future programs.  Taking students from middle school to high school, to college and to career ensures they have the resources to support their learning and the community to develop a network for their future.

Our Community Ambassadors teach GitHub and the Command Line 

Our Community Ambassadors teach GitHub and the Command Line 

As students learn about design thinking they are introduced to the concept of ideation and how that plays into engineering of both software and hardware.  Introducing students to robotics with our Trossen humanoid robots is always a big hit and provides the opportunity for students to learn skills in Linux operating system as well as command line coding. The best part for the students is learning problem solving skills through continuous failure.  Working with something new creates a challenge and they must stretch to understand new concepts.  They fail over and over again and again, with our support we help them see the value of failure. When they master for example getting the robot to stand on its own through programing the feeling of accomplishment helps to create the long term value we seek in shaping them to understand the value of failure.

Breaking out the HR0S1 Humanoid Robot to learn about engineering and design

Breaking out the HR0S1 Humanoid Robot to learn about engineering and design

Learning to collaborate, in diverse teams is critical and a necessary 21st century workforce skill. Our students gain self-awareness and the understanding of the value of having a diverse team and the impact that diverse thinking has on innovation and bringing a product to market. Learning to collaborate develops confidence and coopetition to support success in school, college and careers.

WCTD invested this year to build the capacity to teach students global collaboration skills through our International Code-a-thon. We partnered with Iluka Resources in Western Australia (WA) where a team of employees and industry volunteers delivered the program for students in WA. The success of that program lead Iluka to support a team of 5 to participate and learn from our CreatingSTEAM program in NYC in July, with an intent to establish WCTD programs in Australia and support STEAM education in Australia. This demonstrates that the WCTD program concept is transferable to other countries and can support a range of industry talent needs by driving more students towards STEAM careers. 

The Community Ambassador Program (CAP) grows through mentor participation at CreatingSTEAM. Our organization is run by students for students, and that is demonstrated in the results we see from CreatingSTEAM each year. Watching the student ambassadors lead sessions, moderate career panels with industry experts, develop their leadership skills, and provide continuous feedback to make the program better is what makes the program such a success. The CAP students demonstrate the character, motivation, and willingness to learn that employers seek to find when recruiting. We could not be prouder of their dedication to the program and to their own professional development. These are the students that will shape our future and who are dedicated to creating positive change around the world.  We look forward to continuing to build the CAP program and provide students the opportunity to teach, learn and develop leadership qualities around the world.

Community Ambassadors lead students the day's learning.

Community Ambassadors lead students the day's learning.

When you deliver a consistent process in teaching you see the key changing points that occur with the students each year.  We know when the teams start to jell and flow in their work together when they begin to inspire each other and collaborate to see each other succeed, and the effort they put in outside of the program, in some cases late into the night.  It is amazing to see and feel the energy that is created when you provide students the space to learn and to succeed through failure and success; it energizes everyone and creates the model and characteristics that employers seek to hire.  Students come away with pride in their work and a true understanding of what the real world work environment could be like. They have a sense of how their role in contributing to a team and working hard together to solve problems that impacts humanity can change the future in positive ways.

The final projects the teams produce is emotional for the students, the parents who come to watch, the mentors who supported them throughout the program, and our entire team and volunteers who shape the program and ensure the students outcomes are positive.  Students come away learning resource tools from Microsoft that are utilized in the workforce, coding and website design, the design thinking model, self-awareness and presentation skills and so much more. The outcomes create what is necessary to build the personal confidence to present in front of a live global audience. When the students depart they are just beginning their journey to be lifelong learners and have a greater understanding of the meaning of collaboration and the value of failure in learning to succeed.

You can see what our students think of We Connect The Dots by checking out a presentation put together by CreatingSTEAM student Adam Y. CLICK HERE

Stop by our Facebook page to see the stunning projects created by our student teams during their two weeks with us at the Microsoft office: https://www.facebook.com/weconnectthedots/videos

How You Can Help:

Help us to do more by donating to WCTD.  In order to continue to offer these types of programs we need your support, help us to create positive change for everyone.

Here is how you can help us. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved:

  1. Help us secure sponsors for future programs: If your place of business, parent group, or organization is looking for outreach and community involvement, help us by securing sponsors for our Code-a-thon this January. Branding opportunities are available for sponsors, and is a great way to get exposure through philanthropy. Simply contact our program manager, Stephen Sobierajski at (631) 468-7475 Ext 0, to learn more about sponsorship and what it means to our students.
  2. Bring programming to your school district: We Connect The Dots can deliver high quality experiential education programs in your district, but we need your help to make the connection! Visit our site and fill out our program inquiry form to tell us how we can improve exposure to STEAM education for students in your district: Bring Programs to Your School.
  3. Volunteer: We need volunteers to make our programs possible, support our daily activities, and help us reach out to more students that need us. As a volunteer, you can help us make positive change in the future of education and secure opportunities for students all over the world. Becoming a volunteer is easy. Just click the following link and let us know how you would like to help: Volunteer for WCTD
Posted
AuthorStephen Sobierajski

CreatingSTEAM 2016 is quickly approaching. In just a few weeks, students from all across the New York Metro Area will arrive at Microsoft NYC for two weeks of immersive STEAM learning, team building, and entrepreneurial challenges, working together to solve real problems facing humanity and learning valuable skills for the future. This year, students will also enjoy working with our international partners from Australia, as their team of students, teachers, and industry professionals will be joining us for the program to see how the model can be applied back at home. 

Students work together to program their humanoid robot, the HROS1 by Trossen Robotics

Students work together to program their humanoid robot, the HROS1 by Trossen Robotics

For those who have not experienced the CreatingSTEAM program, it is a life-changing opportunity for students who want to learn more about how science, technology, engineering, arts and math will affect their future, what kinds of careers will exist when they are graduating high school and college, and how to educate themselves and become lifelong learners.

Students brainstorm their concept for a conceptual business that will serve humanity

Students brainstorm their concept for a conceptual business that will serve humanity

Feedback from our students and teacher community has been overwhelmingly positive. Students report an increased or renewed interest in technology, a greater level of comfort using technology systems and tools, and a deeper understanding of the roles involved in industries like engineering, science, mathematics, and art. We compiled a few pieces of data from the exit assessment administered to students at the end of the program that show how the learning impacted the students' thinking. Students were asked to evaluate the program, what they learned, and how it changed their thinking. Here are some of their responses (identities have been removed to protect our students):

"I have discovered what I want to do after high school. I also know how to work better in team."

"This event has taught me to get out of my comfort zone. I used to be very shy and socially awkward, but the activities helped me interact with others."

"I learned a ton of things. One of those things would be that you can never give up on your dreams. Once you find something you love, stick with it and be open to opportunities because you never know where the world will take you. I also learned a ton of things about STEAM and what that is. I learned how many different jobs play into the idea of STEAM and how there are limitless possibilities in those fields."

"During my time here I learned so much, as in building computers, apps, and websites, also learning the different jobs and skills that people who in the technology and engineering fields need to have."

"I learned never to put my ideas on hold."

"I learned to try new things. And have fun doing it."

A student leads our discussion panel with experts from various STEAM industries. This was one of the most exciting parts of the two-week program. 

A student leads our discussion panel with experts from various STEAM industries. This was one of the most exciting parts of the two-week program. 

These are not one-off appraisals of the CreatingSTEAM program. These are the results we see time and again in our programs. We Connect The Dots emphasizes longevity in all of our programs by addressing where students can go for further learning, how they can access the resources they need, and asking them to reflect on what they have learned. The program this year will build on all of the positive experiences and learning opportunities in the past, and venture into new territory for the students participating this year. 

If you would like to attend this program, there are still a few seats available. Visit our webpage to learn more and sign up! If you would like to support We Connect The Dots in our effort to make these kinds of programs available to all students, please consider donating to our Indiegogo Campaign. Your support can change the life of a student for the better. 

 

 

Posted
AuthorStephen Sobierajski