Technology is everywhere in the world around us, but how many of us really understand it? At the Excalibur Solutions STEM Academy, we aim to show that technology is not magic, nor is it the exclusive domain a select few. The real magic happens when knowledge, creativity, and ingenuity are coupled with technology. Anyone can learn what powers our smartphones, televisions, gas pumps, cars, and nearly every other device and appliance that we use on a regular basis.
We peel away the outer layers to expose what makes these things tick. In short, we take the mystery and mystique out of technology, and we demonstrate how relatively simple and inexpensive components coupled with just a bit of computer programming can be used to simulate parts of more complex systems so that anyone can see exactly how those things work.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM education programs strive to integrate the various subjects by exploring real-world problems where students can apply the concepts they are learning. While many STEM education programs incorporate robotics and computer programming, others are lacking in technical and engineering content.
Even programs that claim to offer Computer-Based Learning often fall short1. Using the computer to browse the web, complete electronic worksheets, and take tests does not teach skills that give students a competitive advantage when applying to colleges and choosing career paths. To truly understand technology, students need opportunities to work with it in a hands-on environment where they tackle interesting, relevant, and tangible projects.
1Enyedy, N. (2014). Personalized instruction: New interest, old rhetoric, limited results, and the need for a new direction for computer-mediated learning. National Education Policy Center. https://nepc.colorado.edu/sites/default/files/pb-personalized-instruction.pdf
Why is STEM important?
In 2007, the National Science Board published a report entitled National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education System. The report claims that the United States’ STEM “education system is failing to ensure that all American students receive the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century workforce” (p. 1). However, over 10 years later, the National Science Board published 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators. This report shows that the number of Bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM fields has risen only modestly since 2000 in the United States, much of Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. In China, the increase is much more dramatic.
According to the 2018 report from the National Science & Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education entitled Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education, the availability of STEM-related careers continues to grow at a faster pace than in non-STEM fields, and STEM workers are paid better than those working in non-STEM jobs. This report suggests that the discrepancy is due at least in part to that fact that “not all Americans have equal access to STEM education” (p. 2). Therefore, today’s education system must provide more opportunities for a larger number of students to learn and apply the skills they will need to become productive workers in tomorrow’s society.