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STEM Champ

"This is no experiment, it's the future of education"

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January 2016

She can be a STEM Champ too…

So you all remember Dexter and DeeDee? Do you remember how Dexter had a lab and DeeDee was supposed to be an annoying sister? Even the character of Mandark was a genius and the only thing DeeDee seemed to be interested in was her dolls? Well times have changed and so has DeeDee. Today, DeeDee can have her own lab and she can create better technology than Dexter. Blasphemous? No, we don’t think so.

Men or Women, there is no bias today. There can’t be and there shouldn’t be. Period. The world has moved on to brighter times where a woman is not restricted to the four walls of her household. Even writing that down felt ancient! A woman today has a very powerful tool; Choice!

India has seen progress in terms of numbers of women in fields of engineering and computing. However there is still a huge gap in the ratio of men and women in this field. Science, and especially technology, has been considered ‘masculine’ for a long time and gender gap in science has been is observed in most societies. This disparity is validated by several government surveys conducted to quantify the representation of women in the fields of science and technology. As per data collected by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, only 15.6 percent of the total manpower were women employees in various R&D establishments (dst.gov.in). Even the representation of women in top-tier institution like CSIR, ICMR, ICAR, ISRO, DBT, and DST are well below global averages, with women representation in some cases reported as low as below 10 percent.

For a country vying to be included in the top nations of the world aided by rapid development in the fields of science and technology, India cannot afford to leave half of its population outside the development radius. While women can choose to do what they like, it can’t be sheer coincidence for so many women to not choose engineering and other mathematical fields. This is where STEM education comes into picture. We believe that STEM subjects can’t be taught in isolation. Even though in schools, girls and boys do equally well in class, guys get more exposure then girls and hence the disparity. The STEM initiative wants to erase that disparity by creating a platform for both girls and boys to get hands on technical experience at a very young age.

Introducing children to STEM at a young age would ensure a bright future, both for them and our nation. It will encourage the children towards innovative thinking. They will learn to find practical solutions to tactical problems, while exploring their own potential by taking forward their ideas to build something new. Women especially have a lot to gain from the introduction of STEM as they wouldn’t have to fight the society anymore to get experience. It will be a right. It’s still a right, but one which they are not able to avail to their own advantage. But only the government can make it a necessity.

Introducing STEM to girls at an early age would provide skilful and innovative thinkers for tomorrow. They would be efficient in the jobs they hold, while they would learn to follow their heart with the books they read. Reflect on this example from US – Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs; considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs in US (esa.doc.gov).

Women have always been assumed to follow rules, it’s time for them to break boundaries and do wonders in the field of science and research. Even in engineering colleges, the number of female students is very limited, it’s changing for sure and we believe STEM introduction early in the education system would certainly help reduce the same. The more girls are taught to value hands on experience, the more they would understand the importance of engineering and would be able to contribute more to the economy. Women will learn not to quit and persevere because now, they will have guidance. They will have a platform to perform. STEM education is their chance at learning the practical approach to studies.

STEM education will empower women and it will empower students. Innovation is the next big thing and so are women innovators!

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About Us

Not Dexter, we want you!

We all love Tom and Jerry, don’t we? The best thing that we love about them are the ways in which they get back at each other. We love how their mind works. They keep coming up with something or the other and from what we know, they don’t even go to school!

We are not suggesting that we should not go to school and chase our friends around our house! We can’t, our parents won’t let us. But what we can do is to come up with amazing ideas like Tom and Jerry. There are certainly better examples of putting the point across but for some reason all the scientists in cartoons are portrayed as evil or crazy. They are either trying to kill or hurt someone. But that’s not at all what Science is about. Science is about creation and discovery, it’s about innovation. Another relevant example here is Phineas and Ferb, the two kids who keep designing new technology to deal with everyday problems. Remember, they once made their own amusement park? Haven’t watched the show yet? It’s a must watch! One of the favourites. It’s a lot like Dexter’s laboratory but with more colours and characters.

Talking about Dexter. Well who doesn’t love him? Remember growing up watching Mandark, Dexter and Deedee in a triangle. We are sure that we all wanted to have our own laboratory ever since we watched that show. If only schools could teach us how to be that smart. Well that is where STEM education comes in. We know…we know…it’s a new term. Let us help you out there.

STEM education is basically a way to teach young minds like yours to study subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in a practical manner, providing hands on experience such that instead of just libraries, we can create our own laboratories. Where we could learn to create our own magnetic trains & robots!

Sounds great right? Well that’s what we are all looking forward to. Now you can be your own scientist and maybe someday there will be cartoons and shows about you. What say?

Teachers are the real investors, their choices matter (Choose STEM)

We all know that technology is an intricate part of our lives. Yet the number of innovative thinkers in our world is far less in comparison to the number of adopters of a given technology. Maybe, it is the comfort that restricts us into believing that we don’t have to worry about it since others are already working on it. This way of thinking is hazardous as it doesn’t just make us dependent on others but it also makes us less productive. The number of successful innovators in India is much smaller compared to the western countries (which is not true for Indians, as a lot of innovators are Indians but just don’t innovate in India). It’s not that people aren’t trying or are restricted by their own thinking, which can partly influence a person but the problem lies in the evolution of the education system of our country. Indian education system though evolving, has not adapted adequately to prepare the child to meet the fast changing global requirements. It remains specific to age groups and function on pre-built versions of limited experiential learning. People are taught to ‘follow’ in schools. The idea of doing something in their own way is anti-establishment and hence does not fit the ‘rules’ & ‘guidelines’. STEM bridges this gap by complementing the current education system through emphasizing on innovation & development of problem-solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills.

That is why India needs to revise the way young children are taught today. One should be able to come to terms with the fact that all the great thinkers were the ones who failed miserably at the onset of their research, so failure shouldn’t stop you from trying further. However, they also worked against establishment and in the end they proved themselves to the world. I am not quoting experiences in isolation, from Galileo to Newton to Einstein the world has gained much from people following their curiousity and not the established system. But with the increasing level of literacy we are lucky to be alive in modern times where new ideas if not encouraged are also not tabooed, which gives us hope.

We hope to introduce a new way of thinking with our STEM initiatives.  A new approach to educating young minds, which will allow them to break bounds and create new technology for the benefit of the nation. It will help the kids shape their curiousity in science and technology efficiently & effectively. They will get hands on experience and guidance in order to turn their imagination into reality. They will get help to work on their potential and expand their skill set. However this cannot be done without the encouragement and consent of their parents and teachers. The government definitely needs to invest more in this initiative, which has already proven itself in countries like US. However, the person who is directly responsible for the development of a child’s potential is the teacher.

Teachers are the ideals children look up to. This might come across as not so believable with changing times, yet if you ask people about their inspiration they would always quote the names of at least one teacher. Parents would obviously want to invest in their kid’s development but it is the job of the teacher to invest his/her time and experience in shaping their futures. That is why we believe that the first step towards encouraging the children to participate in the STEM initiative is to train the teachers efficiently about it.

We first need to understand that STEM subjects can’t exist in isolation and just rote learning theory would not get the kids anywhere in the field, given the current technical scenario. We need teachers to understand the need and benefits of STEM education so that they can opt to promote it. It is in their interest because at the end of the day they wouldn’t want to invest all their efforts in a lost cause. We all love to see good results. Especially in times where marks are everything, students focus only on passing the exams and sometimes vomits textbook theories instead of understanding the underlying principles. This also means that even if they score well, they are no good in the industry. We want our teachers to make sure they keep this away from happening. Their job is to inspire the kids and generate an interest in STEM. Without interest, knowledge has no future. We want to build a bright future for our country and we want you to invest in STEM. Help us in helping you. Be a part of our initiative.

Reference: What is STEM?

It’s time for India to catch up, let stop this brain drain, let’s focus on STEM!

Education is a continuous process of learning. Now various methods can be implemented to ensure that a student is taught right from the wrongs, facts from the myths and numbers from the letters. Education primarily aims at making a person efficient if not an expert, in all fields of life. The goal is to make a person capable of surviving in the harsh world today but it can be more than that, much more. However with the advent of better technology, it’s hard to keep up by just educating yourself with the basics. The right kind of education will make sure that at the end of your course you are skilled in at least one sphere of life and can afford a job for yourself which will also be beneficial for the nation.

People today are obsessed with accumulation of degrees than with accumulation of knowledge. With the cut throat competition rampant in all spheres of life, people try all means of first getting selected and then on a later stage realize that they might not be adequately skilled for the job. Let me give you an example. There is a person who scores well all their life and finally gets a job based on his marks. The profile let’s say is a ‘Civil Engineer’. Now this person has no real experience at drawing buildings on his own and when he sits to work, it takes him hours to do the same work that a person who has been working as an intern from a long time before. All his degrees will not aid him here because the prime outcome of a practical approach is hands on experience.  It will take him a very long time to get a sense of all the material required to draw perfectly fast for the job.

This example is more common than we deem it to be. In the same manner a lot of people turn up for jobs they are not skilled for or some jobs fall in the hands of people who have no inclination towards them, a perfect misfit. However, it’s not their fault, rather the curriculum and system of education is to be complemented in such a way which helps to set things right.

Things are not the same outside India. Taking the example of US, after an interagency meeting of NFS (National Science Foundation), Rita Colwell provided a solution to the problem at hand and introduced STEM education system.  Since then it has been implemented in all parts of the US, with recent spending of about $2 billion on STEM education. Obama is largely supportive of the STEM way of helping the kids learn. On the other end, most of the immigration debates in America are surrounded by factors concerning STEM. With the lack of skilled workers for Hi-tech jobs, the preference for the right skilled candidate has increased to ensure fair contribution in the country’s economy and welfare.

The problem with the current system of education elsewhere is that the subjects of STEM are taught in isolation with no practical approach. Now while it might ensure great theoretical knowledge, it has no effect when it comes to doing a task at hand. The STEM education in USA today serves multiple purposes and is largely the most encouraged learning program in the US. The idea is to teach the kids at an elementary level so that they get hands on experience at a very young age. The program also targets teachers and helps them to develop skills through additional training of STEM.

US also has an award program called Boy Scouts of America which is a great step towards promoting interest and involvement in STEM disciplines. They have awards like Nova and Supernova for young boy scouts as they complete specific levels required in their program in each field of STEM. After US, the next big step is taken up by Australia. I-STEM (invigorating STEM) which is an enrichment program based in Sydney. The success of this very program has resulted in numerous universities and science organisation supporting the STEM initiative. I-STEM also involves enrichment programs where students as well as teachers are taken to the US Space Academy Program.

In terms of the percentage of its graduates who studied in STEM programs, Canada ranks 12th among other peer countries with 21.2%, a number higher than the United States but lower than countries such as France, Germany and Austria. The peer country with the greatest proportion of STEM graduates is Finland with over 30% of their university graduates coming from Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering programs. Canada also has a scouts program similar to the US initiative. Countries like India, Turkey and Qatar are also in league with a few people taking the initiative forward but the ratio of expenditure in these countries is miniscule in comparison to western countries. To describe the impact on India due to this, three out of four students (78%) from India who have migrated to US for higher studies have enrolled into STEM programs-highest proportion than any other country. These are the numbers, now let’s discuss facts.

This is where India stands today. In a world quickly evolving and inclined towards technology, India is lagging far behind in terms of making the right investments in the field of education. The nation doesn’t need new uniforms, but it does need STEM. The better half of the world has realized this and has already started working towards it. It’s time for India to catch up, let stop this brain drain, let’s focus on STEM!

Reference: Meet the STEM scouts, STEM enrollment in US by international students

Be both the rabbit and the tortoise, realize your potential with STEM…

We all remember the story of the little race between the tortoise and the rabbit. It ends with a very inspiring moral of ‘slow and steady wins the race’. However recently, if you’ve been active on the social media platforms, a new version of that story is running viral with a totally different, yet wonderful moral for each one of us to realize.

It starts with the same old race but here the rabbit realized his mistake and challenges the tortoise again. This time he wins because nobody in most likelihood would like to repeat the same mistake. The story goes on with the tortoise realizing that he can’t beat the rabbit at speed but there is one thing the rabbit can’t do, that is swim. So he challenges the rabbit to race on his kind of route which requires one to cross a river. After this one race, it is certain that both rabbit and tortoise have a forte different from another. In the next race they both work together and the first half the rabbit carries the tortoise on ground and the second half is for the tortoise to carry the rabbit across the river. Win-win for both!

This story introduces the value of team work against competition. Yet there is one salient message that is hard to miss, the story revolves around the theory of multiple intelligence. While this differential is settled in terms of looks and psychology, a lot of people overlook this when it comes to intellect. The dictionary meaning of multiple intelligence goes like: “The theory of multiple intelligence is a theory of intelligence that differentiates it into specific (primarily sensory) ‘modalities’, rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability”. According to Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University, these ‘modalities’ are eight in number, all different from each other. Now imagine running a combination of these modalities to make up for a pattern of multiple intelligence! Which proves that no two children are the same.

Now, the idea of STEM education is to cater to all these different modalities and foster creative-analytical thinking in the children. While they will learn how to experiment and create new things using their theoretical knowledge, they would learn to do it using their potential. Each child has a different potential and STEM education would focus on helping the child realize his.

It is safe to say that theory and marks are not the only things what define a person; people are more than just a number on the paper. STEM Education is an initiative that realizes the difference in potential and caters to multiple intelligence in students. STEM is an intricate part of our lives and each of these talents can prove themselves as equally important in terms of function. One of the reasons students in India fail to understand this and suffer from depression is because there is no proper emphasis on this very important aspect. They are all competing to fit in one shoe while they have a bigger foot.

The best thing about practical experience is that there is no set rule or ‘the right way’ to do it. One can experiment and discover a new phenomena which can be responsible for a new theory altogether. The basic idea is to formulate a sense of responsibility in the children at a very young age so that all their theoretical knowledge can be united with their practical approach to life.

One thing we need to make sure is that the child is well guided in his experiments so that his efforts are not futile. Nothing comes out of digging water and STEM education is an organised initiative that will take charge of shaping and coordinating the cognitive and practical aspects of a student’s life. They will learn to indulge in their intelligence according to their choosing and not be forced to pursue something that they feel they have no interest or potential in. They will be helped and guided throughout to come up with theories of utility which will empower them and help them realize the actual importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It is to actually create and not just rote learn how to create.

We all have a potential and STEM is all inclusive, there is not one field that functions independent of these. Hence the idea is to encourage students to realize their potential and foster a scientific approach so that their grey cells keep busy while they explore the area of their interest.

Reference: Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence

Don’t just study creation, create!

What they said…

“STEM is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world.”

– Barack Obama

“Policy makers and politicians want more STEM; educators want more STEAM. Both, in ways that are eerily similar, are engaging in social engineering to support an ideology. At the macro-level, in both worlds, it’s all about teaching a point of view, rather than teaching students to learn. We seem hell bent on an arbitrarily linear approach to engineering a useful or job-securing education, from which we continue to get mixed results.”

– Henry Doss

STEM Champ Pedagogy Framework

  1. Curriculum: Research based curriculum materials aligned with National & International standards.
  2. Material Support: Cost-effective systems for supplying STEM
    equipment and materials to classrooms.
  3. Professional Development: Programs & courses that prepare educators to teach inquiry-centred STEM subjects & professional growth to be an ongoing process.
  4. Community Involvement: Strategies for building and sustaining district and community support for STEM education.
  5. Teacher Driven Research & Development: Design & development for continuous improvement of teaching & learning.
  6. Assessments: Strategies aligning the evaluation of student performance with the goals of inquiry-centred STEM programs.

 

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