Posts about K-12

Alternative Career Paths Attract Many Women in Science Fields

Instead of following traditional paths, women are using their science, technology, engineering, and math degrees to create new careers.

There are plenty of women out there engaged in traditional jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math, but many are forging novel, interdisciplinary, STEM-based careers that blur categories and transcend agenda.

Because women have traditionally been excluded from these disciplines, and because their fresh eyes allow them to make connections between fields, many women are launching careers, and even entire industries, based on a flexible and creative definition of what it means to be a scientist, artist, or engineer. K-12 schools have done a particularly poor job of integrating study across STEM fields and encouraging creativity and interdisciplinary connections.

We continue to teach science, technology, and math in isolation, as if they have little to do with one another. This sort of compartmentalized approach runs counter to what we know about effective learning: Students need to be able to connect content knowledge and concepts to real-world applications in order to develop mastery and passion for a subject.

The challenge for anyone seeking to forge a brave new path through STEM careers, particularly ones that involve interdisciplinary study and practice, is the challenge of job stability. Kendall Hoyt, professor of technology and biosecurity at Thayer School of Engineering explained, “Interdisciplinary career paths are easier to create than they are to sustain, because there is not an established career trajectory and evaluation system.”

The challenge of how to maximize the opportunities for those interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and math is important to all economies. There are difficulties in doing this and so continued focus on this area is good. My personal belief is we focus too much on the gender issue. Yes, we should reduce discrimination. I think we have done well but still have further to go.

Most of the suggested changes in how things should be done help women and also plenty of men that are turned off by the old way of doing things.

I also think we need to be careful in how we use data. Clamoring about discrepancies in a field with far more men (say physics) while not doing the same about a field with far more women (say psychology) is questionable to me. I don’t believe that any field that isn’t 50% male and 50% female is evidence that we need to fix the results so they are 50% each.

I believe we should provide everyone the opportunity to pursue the interests they have. They must perform to earn the right to continue. And we don’t want to waste potential with foolish barriers (for women, minorities or men). But if we do so and certain fields attract more women and others attract more men I think we can waste our effort by being too worried that certain fields are problematic.

If we are concerned it should be based on data and looking at the real world situation. In the coming decades my guess is women will exceed men in careers in many science disciplines (engineering still has fairly high male bias overall though some field, such as bio-engineering are already majority female graduates). It starts with education and women are already the majority of undergraduate degrees in science and engineering overall. And in many disciplines they dominate.

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Math Education Results Show China, Singapore, Korea and Japan Leading

The most comprehenvise comparison of student achievement in math and science around the globe undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) focuses on math understanding of 15 year olds (the 2014 report will focus on science). The 2009 report focused on the results of science education student achievement around the globe.

2012 results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Singapore – 573
  • 2 – Korea – 554
  • 3 – Japan – 536
  • 5 – Switzerland – 531
  • 6 – Netherlands – 523
  • 7 – Estonia – 521
  • 8 – Finland – 519
  • 9 – Canada – 518
  • 12 – Germany – 514
  • 24 – UK – 494 (this is also the OECD average)
  • 34 – USA – 481
  • 49 – Malaysia – 421
  • 50 – Mexico – 413

All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries and economies participated in PISA 2012, representing more than 80% of the world economy. Portions of China participated and did very well including Shanghai-China (highest mean score of 613 points – if you ranked that as a country, I ignored these “regional results” in the ranks I shown here), Hong Kong-China (561, 3rd if including countries and regions together), Chinese Taipei [Taiwan] (560, 4th), Macao-China (538, 6th).

Boys perform better than girls in mathematics in 38 out of the 65 countries and economies that participated in PISA 2012, and girls outperform boys in 5 countries.

Related: Playing Dice and Children’s NumeracyNumeracy: The Educational Gift That Keeps on GivingMathematicians Top List of Best OccupationsThe Economic Consequences of Investing in Science EducationCountry H-index Ranking for Science PublicationsEconomic Strength Through Technology Leadership

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10 Year Old’s Molecule Design Becomes the Topic of a Scientific Paper

10-Year-Old Helps Professor With Theoretical Chemistry by Marimar White-Espin

[10-year-old Clara] Lazen’s teacher, Kenneth Boehr, introduced Border Star Montessori School’s 5th grade class to the periodic table, molecules and chemical bonds. Lazen found the topic interesting and Boehr gave her the tools she needed to explore the subject.

Equipped with a molecule-building kit, Lazen experimented with the colored wooden balls by creating existing molecules and some of her own.

Lazen approached Boehr and asked if the molecule she created using the kit was real. Unsure of the answer, Boehr emailed his longtime graduate school friend and chemistry professor at HSU, Robert Zoellner.

“Maybe [the molecule] is real and we’ll find out,” Zoellner responded.

Upon further research, Zoellner discovered the particular molecule, tetrakis(nitratoxycarbon) methane, Lazen had created had never been discussed in literature and possibly had never been thought of before.

The significance of the molecule Lazen created is that it has the potential to store energy. The dense structure allows for stable energy storage meaning the molecule can be used to produce energy or as an explosive.

Lazen was excited to hear her discovery could be used as an explosive. “I thought, ‘Wow, it could go boom!’ I could put [the molecule] in a bomb and it could blow up something,” she said.

Lazen’s mother, Lori Schmidt was excited to hear that not only would her daughter be a co-author to the scientific article, but the discovery would be recognized in a scientific journal. “One only dreams as a parent,”

Fun stuff.

Related: 11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsScience for KidsEncouraging Curiosity in KidsSarah, aged 3, Learns About Soap

Journal of Emerging Investigators Will Publish Middle and High School Student Research Papers

The Journal of Emerging Investigators is a new journal for publishing research paper and reviews of research papers by middle school and high school students from any country.

The Journal of Emerging Investigators strives to provide students with as much access to original scientific writing as possible. With this in mind, all submissions are covered by an attribution non-commercial, no derivative license. This means that anyone is free to share, copy and distribute an unaltered article for non-commercial purposes.

Graduate students with substantial research experience will review the manuscripts.

All hypothesis driven science is acceptable for research articles. This includes, but is not limited to, life science, physics, chemistry, health, psychology, and physiology. Engineering articles are also accepted as long as there is a clear question and hypothesis being tested.

Hopefully this will encourage some students to give research a try. Advisors may submit items for publication (students have to have an mentor/teacher do the submitting.

Similar journals: The Journal of Experimental Secondary Science, open science :-)Canadian Young Scientist, closed science :-(

Related: 8-10 Year Olds Research Published in Royal Society JournalYouTube SpaceLab Experiment CompetitionOpen Access Engineering JournalsKids on Scientists: Before and After

20th Annual US First Robotics Competition

If you have a child, niece, nephew, grandchild… who you haven’t been able to convince about the wonders of science maybe the starts on this promo (Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber…) can help convince them. If you want to convince your grandparents science is cool, then maybe they will like the cameos by Steven Tyler and Bono :-P This is an effort being pushed by will.i.am (Black Eyed Peas) and Dean Kamen (US First Founder) to promote science and engineering. Since most politicians don’t seem interested in promoting and supporting science anymore maybe musicians can help turn things around.

I have written about US First, it is a great program. It engages children in learning by taping their curiosity and desire to create. I think learning this way is much more natural and fun and affective than what we have too often in schools today. I know I was bored quite often but was told the adults knew best. Well know I am an adult and I think I was right back then: our education system can, and should be greatly improved. Until then, US First, and similar, programs give kids a good environment for learning that keeps their desire to learn intact.

The video spot was created to promote a TV show commemorating the 20th annual US FIRST Robotics competition. Watch the TV show:

Related: Lunacy, FIRST Robotics Challenge 2009For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), 2005 postTest it Out, Experiment by They Might Be GiantsBotball 2009 Finals

YouTube SpaceLab Experiment Competition

YouTube SpaceLab is an open competition inviting 14 – 18 year olds (anywhere in the world) to create an idea for a science experiment in space. You don’t have to actually do the experiment, you just have to record yourself explaining it.

Entries must have be submitted on YouTube by 07:59 GMT on December 8th.

The winning experiments will be conducted on the International Space Station (ISS) and beamed live on YouTube for the whole planet to see.

Winners get the choice to either watch the rocket blast off with your idea on it in Japan or take a specially tailored astronaut training course in Russia when you turn 18. There are other amazing prizes for the runners-up too.

Here is an example entry from 3 students in UK on an experiment to learn about quorum sensing by bacteria in the micro gravity of space.

Related: Google Science Fair 2011 ProjectsBacteria Communicate Using a Chemical Language (quorum sensing)11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsResearch by group of 8 to 10 Year Olds Published in Royal Society Journal

New Life Form Found at South African Truck Stop

Man discovers a new life-form at a South African truck stop

An order is one of the big categories of life, a big branch on evolution’s tree. Animal species are named every day, but finding another new order would be equivalent to discovering bats having not previously known they existed. Bats constitute their own order, as do primates, beetles, flies and rodents.

The Mantophasmatodes look, inescepably, larval (they lack wings, for example, and have no ocelli) and so Picker like others mistook them for immature versions of some known creature, perhaps some weird kind of cricket. When more than three quarters of all species of animals are not yet named, it is hard to know which ones to get excited about finding. Picker went through his collections looking for specimens of Mantophasmatodes. Within weeks, he had found twenty-nine individual Mantophasmatodes. Thirteen living species of Mantophasmatodea have now been named and placed in 10 genera and three different families.

In other words, Zompro has done something more amazing than finding a rare new order of animals. He has discovered a common order of animals that everyone else had missed, a discovery in plain view.

Mantaphasmatodes are not a far away species confined to some remote hunk of rock. They are a whole suite of species, some of which live places as mundane as backyards. They are also a kind of a living extended metaphor for what lurks around us unnoticed all the time.

I was always told as a child that I shouldn’t question so much and just accept what adults have decided. I am sure I was very annoying questioning everything. Especially how amazingly boring they make school. I love learning stuff. In general I did not love school. But questioning that school really should do a better job of making it fun to learn was seen as being a bothersome kid. I should just accept this is how school is and learn. I still think I was right. School is horribly designed to nurture the innate curiosity of people. Rather than seeing the kids that point this out as troublemakers we should see those that perpetuate the current system as troublemakers.

I still remember my sophomore year in high school I was taught by a biology teacher that new very little. They had been a 2nd grade teacher for like 15 years and due to seniority (they didn’t need as many 2nd grade teachers I guess) she bumped the biology teacher from the year before and we were stuck learning from her. In fact, any decently interesting question was more likely to be answered by a student (Peter – who then went to Princeton and then to play for the National Symphony) after the teacher said she didn’t know.

I found biology horrible. And it probably took a decade or more for me to finally notcie how amazingly cool biology. Fantastically cool. The amount of just super interesting biology is so vast that I have huge amounts of great stuff I get to look forward to learning. My teacher made it even worse, but frankly the way it is taught (I would imagine) is pretty bad even if the teacher is good. My high school was populated largely by the kids of Professors and compared to other schools in the USA I was told many times was fantastic (and the data seemed to support that – I believe we have more national merit scholars the year I graduated than all but 1 other public school in the country).

We need to do a much better job of harnessing the native desire to learn people have instead of killing it (which we do far to often). It really is a tragedy. It isn’t noticed because you can get by alright without loving learning. But it reduces the lives people have when they have their love of learning crushed. I didn’t have mine crushed but when I look around at many adults they seem to have done so to a large extent (sometimes it pokes through in a hobby or with their kids). And of course many adults kept a strong love of learning (all those geeks for example – and don’t forget the biologists).

Related: Photos of Rare Saharan Cheetah, Sand Cat and More WildlifeThe Only Known Cancerless AnimalWhat Kids can Learn, if We Give Them a ChanceIt took me a lot longer than most kids to stop asking why?, why?, why?Teaching Through Tinkering

MIT Engineering Design Workshop for Boston High School Students

This summer, a few dozen Boston-area high school students chose to spend their mornings toiling away with a variety of materials to create working marvels of engineering in the Engineering Design Workshop, a month-long program that gives teenagers a hands-on experience with the joys and challenges of engineering.

None of the activities are prescribed; instead, students take part in brainstorming sessions on the first day, and things develop from there. Typically, the “counselors” — a mix of undergraduate and graduate students from MIT and other local universities — present a few ideas, and the high school students decide which projects they’d most like to work on. I really like the idea of involving the college students.

This year, the 22 students divided themselves into five projects: a modified Razor scooter, equipped with a motor and brakes; a sound system of giant tower speakers; remote-controlled “anything” (which ended up including cars, fish, birds and even a flying turtle); a mosaic tiger meticulously assembled from pieces of stained glass; and an electric cello.

Each student is allotted $100 to spend on materials for his or her group’s project; this way, projects that attract more students have a larger budget to work with. Counselors help them purchase supplies online and work with them on the construction from the ground up.

There are probably thousands of similar type activities throughout the year to help engage students in engineering. I think it is great, but we need to do more. We need to let young students know what they are missing. If people know the wonders of engineering and choose something else for their career path, that is fine. It is a shame when people don’t get to decide, because they never experience what engineering has to offer.

Read the full press release.

Related: Infinity Project: Engineering Education for Today’s ClassroomRutgers Initiative to Help Disadvantaged ChildrenInspirational EngineerWhat Kids can Learn on Their Own

Google Science Fair 2011 Projects

The Google Science Fair selected 60 semi-finalists in 3 groups (age 13-14, 15-16 and 17-18). The 60 global semi finalists will then be narrowed down by our judging panel to 15 global finalists who will be announced later in May.

The 15 global finalists will be flown to Google HQ in California, USA for our celebratory Science Fair event and finalist judging round will take place on 11 July 2011. These finalists will be expected to present their projects before a panel of acclaimed scientists including Nobel Laureates, tech visionaries and household names.

Sailboats using canting keels are among the world’s fastest ocean-going vessels; however, there are inherent problems. Canting sailboats require the addition of canards or dagger boards to replace the loss of the primary underwater lifting surface, adding significant complexity. The second and more important issue is that the cantilevered weight of the ballast bulb at the end of the keel generates tremendous loads on the vessel. The objective of this research was to test a concept to make sailboats even faster and safer than the current designs. To test the concept, this researcher built a remote control functional model fitted for both canting and hydrodynamic keels. The results showed that the hydrodynamic keel out performs the canting keel both upwind and downwind.

The Grand Prize winner plus one parent or guardian per winner will win an amazing 10 day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expeditions. Traveling aboard the National Geographic Endeavour the winner will visit Darwin’s living laboratory and experience up-close encounters with unique species such as flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, and domed giant tortoises. They also win a $50,000 scholarship, split equally between team members should a team win this prize. This scholarship is intended to be used towards the finalists’ further education.

The 2 age group winners that are not selected as the grand prize winner will win $25,000 scholarships.

You can vote on your favorite projects and help select the people’s choice winner that will receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Related: 11 Year Old Using Design of ExperimentsPresident Obama Speaks on Getting Students Excited About Science and EngineeringScience Fair Project on Bacterial Growth on Packaged Salads

Help Science Education in Tanzania

Students in Tazania using a microscope

Diana Hall, a physics teacher from Bell High School, Ottawa, Canada is spending 6 months in Tanzania helping build a more active science program. This reminds me of my time in Nigeria (while my father taught Chemical Engineering at the University of Ile Ife to help build a strong university program). It is great to see all the good that people are willing to do.

The objective of the Do Science, Tanzania project is to share teaching strategies and equipment with science teachers and students in Moshi, Tanzania. The goal is to facilitate a more active science program and to inspire students to continue studying beyond the secondary level.

The photo shows students at Reginald Mengi Secondary school, Tanzania, getting their first experience with microscopes in the classroom. There are over 210 Form I (freshman in high school, for you USA readiers) students in 4 classes. The 4 classes had an introduction to the microscope by preparing slides and viewing onion cells.

Working with science teachers is a big part of do Do Science is about. Their blog discusses a recent meeting where 50 science teachers from the Moshi area attended a workshop. The teachers at the workshop modeled thinking exercises, conducted sample labs, investigated computer simulations and interfacing equipment, looked at some DVD resources. and networked.

You can help by donating equipment or money. Or if you are a science teacher with workshop and leadership experience who would consider spending some time in Tanzania as a facilitator?

Related: Learning Design of Experiments with Paper HelicoptersFund Teacher’s Science ProjectsScience Education ResourcesWays to Help Make the World Better

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Friday Fun: Dinosaur and Kids

Just a fun video for this Friday, showing a visit by a puppet dinosaur to a Australian school.

Related: Most Dinosaurs Remain UndiscoveredNigersaurusKids on Scientists: Before and AfterFriday Fun: Aerodynamics for SportsGreat 3D Printing PresentationTornado Ride, Wet-n-Wild Australia

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