I Founded STEM Fuse, because I was convinced I was going to lose my job. How’s that for motivation? I was working as a college admissions & recruiting manager for a Minnesota college system. My goal was to fill STEM degree programs (computer science, IT, health sciences, engineering, etc.) with high school students. Problem was there were not very high school students taking those classes at the high school level. Oh Oh. You see the problem.
So I founded STEM Fuse to reverse this trend. To help high schools promote STEM / STEM related electives and fill classrooms. We focused on high schools only because it was the logical place to make a quick impact. All along I knew it wasn’t really going to fully change the direction of STEM education… that has to be done all the way down the line at the elementary level. What the U.S. really needs is an Operation STEM Project Elementary. That is we need to better figure out how to introduce our students to STEM projects at the elementary level.
We designed our first (more to come!) STEM Project elementary level course using game design. There are terrific game engines suitable for our elementary level students that allow for real hands on learning. We believe that game design itself is a terrific vehicle with which to teach STEM projects and even more so at the elementary level. We decided to build our STEM project elementary curriculum around Scratch (developed by MIT). It is extremely user friendly, easy to teach and learn, and requires no previous technical background at all. IT allows us to introduce some very basic programming concepts, a little engineering and design (students create and adapt original games) and of course some grade appropriate math and physics (gravity, speed, etc.). How cool is it to combine games and STEM projects for elementary students? IT works.
Back the original problem of the U.S. developing enough “STEM students”. Capturing our students at a young is really the key. Engage and interest them with “cool” STEM projects at the elementary level and watch that wave grow through middle school, high school and into college. The trick is show students how STEM (each facet or as an entire concept) affects them. Games, as a STEM project elementary, hits very close to home! Even our youngest students like, are motivated by, and like to learn, with games. From that initial interest we can continue to design other engaging STEM elementary projects and broaden our student’s exposure to the awesome world of science, technology, engineering and math. I am convinced it has to start at the elementary school level. Operation STEM Project Elementary is coming – if only from STEM Fuse.