Category Archives: STEM

This is a GREAT article about something we care deeply about: Inspiring Girls and Young Women about STEM Opportunities

In 1984, 36% of computer science graduates were women.  Now, that percentage is 12%.

We need more women involved in STEM-related careers, and inspiring an interest at a young age is a great start.

STEM education: 7 awesome ways to get girls excited, from apps to clubs to cool websites. Bookmark this, and share as widely as you can – inspire a young woman in your life today.

BRICKS 4 KIDZ Sydney | 7 Awesome Ways to Get Girls Excited about STEM

Thanks to Cool Mom Tech for posting on such an important issue.

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When the man behind Darth Vader suggests you look, you *really* should look

BRICKS 4 KIDZ Sydney | Edutopia STEM Infographic | www.edutopia.orgHere’s what you need to know:

  • People everywhere are realising that the careers of the future will depend more and more on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).
  • These are not just traditionally geeky jobs like rocket scientists – these are what are considered “regular” jobs, like sales reps and forestry technicians.
  • We need to *inspire* kids at young ages about STEM concepts.
  • Unfortunately, the evidence in Australia is that our relative performance against other nations is falling.

George Lucas, the man who created the Star Wars films as well as Indiana Jones and other things, is a man with a mission.

In 1991, he co-founded Edutopia, an organisation dedicated to improving innovation in schools.  Currently, they are focused on engaging students with STEM, a successful approach to integrated studies that combines science, technology, engineering, and maths.

To that end, Edutopia produced this useful infographic, which we’ve shared here on the right.  It neatly captures:

  1. Why is STEM important (answer: many careers of the future will depends on mastery of STEM elements)
  2. How is the USA performing (answer: badly)
  3. What people can do (answer: get kids interested in STEM, early)

A full set of Edutopia’s resources for STEM are available here.

 

Why should you care?

Australian kids will be in the same jobs marketplace as US kids, given the increasingly global nature of the workplace.  The opportunities in STEM apply equally here as they do in the USA.

The Chief Scientist of Australia, Professor Chubb, agrees – in September, he released a report detailing his recommendations for a strategic approach to science and its related fields, titled Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future.

This new strategy is partly a result of our own tumbling results.  While the opportunities of STEM careers have grown dramatically over the last decade, PISA results from last year show that Australian high school students’ achievement in maths have slumped.  We’re going the wrong way.

Ask your school principal about their strategy for STEM.  If they don’t have one yet, they should get moving!

 

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It’s not rocket science, people! Chief Scientist Ian Webb weighs in on the state of STEM Education in Australia

She Blinded Me With Science! | Flickr Public DomainYesterday, the Australia 2025: Smart Science symposium was held at Parliament House in Canberra to discuss and highlight the importance of STEM Education in Australia’s future.

The news isn’t great.

 

Australia needs a coherent and long-term STEM strategy

 

In the symposium, Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb called on the federal government to “bring coherence” to research and innovation.  He warned that without coherence, the nation risks being left behind in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  He argues that a long-term STEM strategy – with more focus on cross-disciplinary collaboration and less on academic publication – is imperative for Australia to achieve and maintain international research standings.  Hear, hear!

Despite this, Australia remains the only country in the OECD not to have a current STEM national strategy.  Even worse, currently 40% of Year 7 to 10 mathematics classes in Australia are taught without a properly qualified mathematics teacher.

 

The essence of bricolage

 

Because of our remoteness, Australia has excelled at “bricolage” by necessity – the ability to innovate and create something new with limited materials available.  We need to ensure that spirit of tinkering isn’t lost!  Kids need to be presented with challenges and encouraged to use their knowledge and imagination to find opportunities.  A cross-disciplinary foundation in STEM helps kids (and adults!) see possibilities by drawing on insights and expertise from multiple fields.

 

Download the report

 

The full report can be downloaded here – anyone with an interest in the subject should take a look!

As we continue to debate the best ways to stimulate STEM Education in our schools and inspire the imagination of our children, it is worth remembering an earlier warning:

The reality is that we can’t relax. We can’t be complacent.
There can be no sense of entitlement. We must understand
that we will get the future we earn.

– Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach (July 2013)

 

The image above is shared from the Flickr Public Domain – the original can be accessed here.  Thank you Peter for contributing that image!

 

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“Why the next Zuckerberg won’t be Australian”: Disappointing STEM results in Australian schools and what can be done

At Bricks 4 Kidz we believe STEM Education is important for our childrenWe’ve been silent on our blog for a few weeks because we had our hands full with the very busy school holiday season!  Over the first two weeks of July, almost 420 kids came through either our own Sydney school holiday workshops or the sessions we conducted on behalf of North Sydney and Willoughby local councils.  It was a fantastic response – many thanks to all the junior master builders who joined us in the sessions, for their creativity, enthusiasm and ideas!  You can see some photos from our workshop sessions over on our Facebook page.

At BRICKS 4 KIDZ Australia, we are passionate about the need for Australia to be a nation of builders and we want to play a positive role in inspiring kids about the potential of STEM concepts (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  We’ve written before about the importance of STEM education in schools, for the careers of our kids and the health of the economy they will inherit.  So it was disappointing to come across another article detailing the disappointing state of STEM education in Australian high schools!

Tim Dodd wrote recently in the Australian Financial Review about the recent Engineering Workforce study conducted by the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency (AWPA).  The full study results can be downloaded here.

Dodd’s article, provocatively titled “Why the next Zuckerberg won’t be Australian”, highlights a number of key points from the AWPA study:

  • Australia lacks a “co-ordinated national approach” to STEM education;
  • Students are poorly informed about engineering and other STEM professions; and
  • The school career counselling system is letting down the STEM professions, by not correctly advising students about the potential of the professions and the paths towards those professions.

This lack of emphasis is reflected in the average results achieved by Australian students in global studies of maths achievement in primary school and early high school. In the recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, only 10 per cent of Australian year 4 kids reached the advanced standard, compared with 39, 37, 43 and 34 per cent from Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) respectively.

Nick Cerneaz, executive director of the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering at the University of Sydney, weighed in on the discussion and his arguments are also captured in Dodd’s article.  Cerneaz believes (as we do) that the key to reversing these results rests with primary school.  Students need to be stimulated and their intellectual curiosity peaked by STEM concepts early in their school years before their perceptions of university subjects and subsequent careers harden in high school.

At BRICKS 4 KIDZ, we’ll continue to contribute our bit.  Seeing the flash of pride and excitement when a child builds something new, or succeeds in making their construction move, spin and whirl, makes two exhausting weeks of workshops with over 400 different kids worth all the effort!

BRICKS 4 KIDZ Sydney | The importance of STEM and primary education

 

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“How STEM Jobs Can Take Women To The C-Suite And Beyond”: A message worth sharing!

“The STEM background is a great foundation for problem solving and leadership. Our job is to solve problems. A lot of people believe as an engineer you’re sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer by yourself. We have to collaborate to really innovate.”

Every year, Forbes magazine hosts a Women’s Summit in New York City to bring together successful women redefining careers.  This year one of the sessions focused on the opportunities presented to women through STEM-related careers (“STEM: The New Pathway to the Corner Office “).

At Bricks 4 Kidz we believe STEM Education is important for our childrenThe quote at the head of this post came from an article highlighting the key points from the session, and it gets right to the heart of the issue.  Too often, STEM careers are seen as the exclusive domain of nerdy “brogrammers” but the reality is that success in this field relies on the characteristics that women excel at – collaboration, communication and fresh points of view.  STEM careers can be a great launching pad for ambitious young women.

It is fantastic to see women standing up and arguing the case for more girls in STEM-related education.

It is a message that is worth sharing!

 

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Somewhere, a blind person might now be able to read this blog post, thanks to a 12-year old kid.

Inventor Shubham Banerjee with Braigo | www.en.wikipedia.org:wiki:BraigoMeet Braigo: the low-cost Braille printer made of LEGO® pieces, built by .. (wait for it) .. a 12-year-old boy.

Parents everywhere grew up with LEGO® and know it as a great way to get kids building with their hands.  But, LEGO® has moved on a long way since our days.  I remember the most desirable models in my neighbourhood came from the 1980s era Classic Space collection.

Now of course, kids can choose from Star Wars, City, Harry Potter, Friends and endless other, vastly more sophisticated LEGO® collections.  But LEGO® (and the possibilities) go way beyond that.

Shubham Banerjee (pictured above) is a young kid who grew up in Belgium and then the US.  In January this year, as part of a science fair challenge, he built a working Braille printer using a LEGO® Mindstorms EV3 kit and some extra commonly used hardware.

All up, the printer was built withUS$350 of pieces.  It sounds like a lot of money, but not when you hear that previously, Braille printers cost over US$1,900 each!

An amazing achievement.  What may be most impressive however is what happened next – Shubham decided to open source the innovation, by publishing the software he used and the instructions to build the printer, to encourage as many people as possible to copy it.

At BRICKS 4 KIDZ®, we are passionate about encouraging kids to build unique creations with LEGO® bricks, such as the Braigo.  Have a look at our Programs & Events to see how your child can get involved.

And, check out the tw0 minute instructional video to build Braigo here – it could be a great winter’s day project!

Bravo, Shubham!

 

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In 1984, 37% of all computer science graduates were women. Now, that number is 12%. We need more women in STEM-related fields.

CERES Satellite | New Scientist | http://www.newscientist.comAt BRICKS 4 KIDZ®, we are passionate about kids and education, but particularly STEM-related education. If you’re not familiar with the term, ‘STEM’ stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  It is important because so many of the world’s industries and careers rely increasingly on STEM-related roles. For kids to be best prepared for the jobs market they will encounter, they need to embrace technology and leverage its capabilities. It is our mission to work with students and the school systems here to get as many kids engaged in these topics as we usefully can.

So this article today in US News caught our eye: “Getting Girls to Study STEM: It’s About More Than Just Making Science ‘Cool’”.  It is an interview with Maria Klawe, the President of Harvey Mudd College in California, and discusses how she quadrupled the number of female computer science majors at her school.  The stat in the title of this post comes directly from the article.  Getting more women into STEM fields is critical, because diversity leads to better thinking and more innovation.

Maria makes a number of good points.  As a society we encourage people to “study what they love”, so if kids (and particularly girls) don’t develop an affinity with STEM concepts at a young age then it is unlikely that they will gravitate to engineering or computer sciences. Networking, mentoring and support are useful. It is important that kids embrace and engage with science and technology to develop an intellectual curiosity about these subjects.  There is good food for thought here for educators as well as families.

By the way – the image that heads this post is from New Scientist magazine’s Picture of the Day – if you haven’t seen their site, you can head over and check it out. This image is the of the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), the first of five instruments ready to be to be installed onto the JPSS-1 Earth-monitoring satellite, part of a new network of environmental and weather forecasting satellites.  The glowing yellow cavity is a radiometric calibration chamber – it was a test to see if the satellite is ready to go.  Every day there is a cool new shot.  The photos are another great way to start conversations with kids.

 

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“Making things with your hands can be really cool.”

Making things with your hands can be really cool | Image from www.ft.comAwhile ago we came across an article, written by Gillian Tett in FT Weekend.  In it, she describes how serendipity brought her family back into contact with LEGO® – a rainy weekend, two kids trapped in a hotel room, and LEGO® room service to save the day.

She extends the story to talk generally about the cultural impact LEGO® has had (and is having!) on our communities.  LEGO® is everywhere right now – the movie, the new model sets from Star Wars and elsewhere, and places like BRICKS 4 KIDZ that are encouraging the use of LEGO® to get kids engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts.  You could say that perhaps LEGO® is more influential right now than it ever has been.

Gillian raises good points about this impact.  The movie has something for everyone – and, side note here, if you haven’t seen it, give it a whirl!  Kids love the colour, action, music, characters and whimsical story.  But for parents, the story presents an interesting message.  As Gillian says in the article:

“The bigger message it imparts is this: making things with your hands can be really cool; creating real-life structures is (almost) as exciting as texting friends, playing computer games or watching American Idol. And right now that is a particularly valuable moral for American and European parents to hammer home.”

It is essential now for kids to engage with STEM concepts.  Articles everywhere point to early exposure to STEM as a key influencer on graduates’ levels of interest in science and engineering.  Governments, school systems and companies everywhere are launching initiatives to increase this exposure – another article today in NY City Lens covers the investments in NYC by public-private partnerships to get children into STEM-related activities.  In Australia too there is increasing discussion of such investments.  After all, STEM is the gateway to well-paying jobs and a stronger economy.

It is good to see.  We all know fads can be fleeting.  LEGO®, at eight decades old, has ridden the tide of popularity better than most.  And if it continues to excite kids about building and creating things with their hands, then we hope it has decades more to go.

** The image used in this post is from the original FT article – read it, and share!

 

Using LEGO® to Build Math Concepts (tx @AlyciaZimmerman and @Scholastic!)

Teaching Maths with LEGO®, from www.scholastic.com

Teaching Maths with LEGO®, from http://www.schoslatic.com

A little while ago we came across this gem – a simple and practical yet brilliant post by Alycia Zimmerman on the Scholastic site, sharing ideas of how to use LEGO® to build maths concepts in kids.

As Alycia says in the post, along with the obvious creative implications, while children play with LEGO® blocks, they are also building their spatial and proportional awareness.   There are many ways to use LEGO® in the classroom – here she talks about their utility in maths classes.  The post has practical tips and downloadable tools to help in lessons.

Here are some of the opportunities she points out in the post:

  • LEGO® for Building Part-Part-Total Thinking:  Students can group combinations of two or more LEGO® bricks and find the total number of studs, or students can start with a larger brick, cover part of it with a smaller brick, and figure out the amount of remaining uncovered studs.

  • LEGO® = Colourful Ready-Made Arrays: Having a collection of LEGO® pieces on hand during multiplication lessons is so useful. Use them to reinforce the area model, to demonstrate square numbers, and to remind students about the commutative property of multiplication.

  • Tackling Fractions with LEGO®: The only way to combat fraction-mayhem is to provide students with a LOT of opportunities to experience fractions with tangible objects.

  • Exploring Mean, Median, Mode, and Range with LEGO®: While evening out LEGO® towers of varying heights, students have a first-hand experience of what “mean” means.

Great stuff.

 

ABOUT ALYCIA

Alycia is a third grade gifted and talented teacher in NYC – according to her Twitter profile, she “loves hands on science, outside the box math, and everything children’s lit”.  Check out her website and Twitter feed for more practical ideas to get kids engaged with science and maths.  Please check out her post, and share!

 

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