Tag Archives: technology

NSF Sponsors Community College Innovation Challenge


Laboratory studentsTeams of community college students with a faculty mentor and a community or industry partner are encouraged to submit their proposals for innovative STEM-based solutions to real-world problems within one of the following themes: Bid Data, Infrastructure Security, Sustainability (including water, food, energy, environment), Broadening Participation in STEM, and Improving STEM Education. This challenge furthers NSF’s mission by encouraging students to discover and demonstrate their capacity to use science to make a difference in the world and to transfer knowledge into action.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recognizes the important role community colleges play in workforce development and the future of science research in the United States. Community colleges are a vital part of the scientific research pipeline, training technicians who become an integral part of research efforts and students who go on to continue their education at four-year institutions, especially in underrepresented groups.

Up to 10 finalist teams (2 from each theme) will be invited to attend the Innovation Boot Camp, a professional development workshop on innovation and entrepreneurship. Each team will receive $500 to further refine their idea and compete in the final round of competition. Travel, room and board costs associated with attending the Innovation Boot Camp will be paid for team members and faculty mentors.

Each member student of the first-place team will receive $3,000. Each student member of the second-place team will receive $2,000. Each student member of the third-place team will receive $1,000.

Submissions must be received between Sept 15, 2014 and Jan 15, 2015.

For more information or to enter, visit the NSF Community College Innovation Challenge.

Students Think Tablets Make Learning Fun


school boy using tablet computerWe all know that kids are hooked on technology — especially smartphones and tablets — but a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Pearson shows that 90% of the kids believe that tablets will change the way they learn in the future and 89% believe tablets will make learning more fun. This could be good news for schools looking for better ways to use technology with their kids — especially since tablets can be more affordable than full laptops or computers.

Interestingly, 1 to 1 computing and high speed Internet access is still a challenge for schools. While using and owning a mobile device is growing among students, only 62% have wireless access at school versus 93% who have wireless access at home. Only 16% of students attend a school that provides every student with a laptop or tablet.

The survey asked 2252 students how they currently use mobile technology for learning and how they would would like to use it in the future. Respondents included 501 elementary school students (4-5th grade), 750 middle school students (6-8th grade), and 1001 high school students (9th-12th grade).

“This year’s study findings show a high level of optimism, engagement and confidence with mobile devices among U.S. students,” said Douglas Kubach, president, Pearson’s School group. “While we are seeing consistent growth of mobile device use among students for school work, a gap still exists between home and school access, preventing many schools from taking full advantage of the digital learning technologies available today that can be instrumental in improving educational experiences for students.”

It looks like there is an opportunity for app developers to continue to work to improve educational offerings on tablet devices.


Register for The Nation’s Biggest Computer Science Competition for Middle School Girls


1487918_770154953048219_4429101847756277780_oIt’s one thing to have a computer science contest for middle school girls — it’s quite another to have that contest be run by high school and college girls who are incredibly passionate about computer science. 2015 ProjectCSGIRLS does just that, not only giving middle school girls the confidence they need to know that they can do computer science, but also putting them into direct contact with girls who have had success.

One important aspect computer science and technology, and especially in showing how they are useful to girls, is in how effective they are in solving and mitigating social problems. ProjectCSGIRLS challenges girls to actively use computer science and technology to develop a solution to an imminent social problem in one of three themes — global health, a safer world and intelligent technology.

2014 was the first year of ProjectCSGIRLS and was limited only to students in VA, DC and MD.  Unlike the 2015 event, which is open to all US middle school girls, 2014 did not require applicants to build their projects, only to conceptualize them. 2014 reached over 100 girls with the awards gala drawing over 130 attendees of students, teachers and industry leaders.

For 2015 there will be finalists, state winners, regional winners, national winners and grand prize winners.  All winners state and above will be invited to the two-day national gala event to interact and network with leaders in technology, tour top tech companies and startups in the DC area, and participate in a formal awards ceremony recognizing their efforts and announcing the 3 grand price award winners from the national winners.  All winners will receive an awards package and be recognized on the ProjectCSGIRLS website.

Judging will be based on originality, demonstration of technical knowledge, creativity, impact and clarity.  Girls will submit their project via the submission portal which opens in January 2015. Results will be released mid March.

For more information on the competition or on how to volunteer or partner, see the 2014 ProjectCSGIRLS website.

2020 Girls — Introducing Girls to the Thrills of Science, Design, Engineering & Tech


DSC_7470There is no doubt that there is a need for professionals in the STEM fields in this country, especially women. ITEC in Lansing, in partnership with MCWT, is jump-starting girls’ interest in STEM with their 2020 Girls program, launched just this year. About 100 middle school girls are participating in programming, engineering and design activities led by female instructors and assisted by women currently in the field.

I attended one of these classes, where the girls were presenting what they learned over the course of the session. Brightly decorated posters with pictures encapsulated what the girls liked best. The girls eagerly shared how they built racing LEGO robots and programmed games using Scratch. Mostly they learned how to use tools to create, design and solve problems while working together and building confidence. As Kirk Riley, Executive Director of ITEC, explained, it’s “an ordinary environment to do extraordinary things.”

While ITEC more formally surveys the girls at the start and end of the sessions to gauge impact, if you asked any of the girls, they were excited by what they learned and eager to come back. This eagerness and excitement is what really impressed me — what we really need to encourage girls to continue learning. These girls had the opportunity to experience STEM at its best and hopefully this excitement encourages them to take more STEM courses in their schooling.

With the success of the 2020 Girls pilot program, ITEC hopes to double, or even triple, the amount of schools they’re operating in, as well as extend the duration of each program.  The only real “complaint” they received from the girls was that the clubs didn’t last long enough (5-7 weeks). Ideally 2020 Girls will run the length of a semester starting in the fall.

2012-10-10 18.18.25The curriculum used for 2020 Girls was compiled from ITEC’s “Techtronics” courses (Lego Robotics, Programming and App Design).  They spent a good deal of time identifying the core content of each course and implementing it in a way that is more relevant to girls, which was implemented by the instructional team.  With 5-6 2020 Girls clubs this summer, the Science and Art of Game Design will be added (more instructional time). Graduates from the program will also have the opportunity to re-enroll during the following semester as mentors to new girls.  This will allow the instructors much more liberty to explore the curriculum, while also providing additional time for guest speakers and field trips.

ITEC will extend the 2020 Girls program this summer to a camp and hopes to renew their grant to offer sessions next school year and summer. If you’re interested in helping, volunteers to assist in the classrooms are coordinated through MCWT. For more information, please visit the 2020 Girls page on the ITEC website.

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