All Post Times Editorial
With the growing need to empower and encourage more students around the world in STEM subjects, WPI’s Global STEM Education Initiative leverages the university’s expertise and resources to help other countries and underserved schools in the United States to provide quality, accessible K-12 STEM education the world needs now.
For more than 50 years, WPI has shared its expertise and resources to grow the STEM pipeline, inspire and equip the next generation of STEM leaders, support the educators introducing students to STEM, and with global partners in theirs to work together in their own communities. With the programming, resources, activities and support of this initiative, WPI is increasing its collaboration with educators around the world to adapt and improve their STEM education systems.
“WPI has long recognized the importance of the global demand for STEM education,” said Joseph Doiron, director of the initiative, teaching assistant at the Global School and co-director of the Global Lab. “The core of WPI’s value proposition is practice-oriented STEM teaching and learning. That is always the starting point. When you combine this with our global presence in over 50 project centers in all parts of the world, we have a global network of relationships that is unlike any other place. We work with people who share our commitment to fully exploiting the multidisciplinary knowledge and lived experience of the teams. We are already doing this with local communities and around the world.”
Whether it’s engaging students in STEM at the Farm Stay Project Center’s working farm and educational nature center in Paxton, Mass., or using project-based learning modules to create a unified methodology for teacher training in Africa using the Math and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (MS4SSA) initiative, WPI’s approach is holistic and focused. As the world continues to face increasingly complex challenges, a more diverse population of professionals who can bring different lenses, experiences, questions, and passions to labs and boardrooms is essential. The creation, translation and application of new science and technology for the benefit of the health and well-being of all will depend on the inclusion of many perspectives.
“Where there is a world that really needs STEM to thrive, there is a new generation of young people at many levels who really need STEM to reach their full potential.” -Wole Soboyejo
While STEM concepts are rooted in concrete principles, WPI interim president Wole Soboyejo emphasizes that dreams, imagination and curiosity are essential to truly understand these principles and to drive the work needed to translate them into new, innovative ways implement reality, all for the benefit of humanity. Both the concrete principles of science and creative imagination are critical to preparing and inspiring tomorrow’s STEM leaders.
“If you dream big, even when you have very limited resources, the size of your dreams will determine the scale of your impact,” says Soboyejo. “To me, getting kids excited about STEM is just as important as encouraging them to dream big and surrounding themselves with people who nurture and nurture that dream.”
This philosophy took center stage at this month’s FIRST Global Challenge, an annual Olympic Games-style international robotics competition that brought together high school teams from more than 180 countries in Geneva, Switzerland to solve global challenges together.
For the competition, WPI and DEKA Research and Development Corp. teamed up to create the Experiential Robotics Platform (XRP) – a simple, easy-to-build experimental robotics kit. The project was supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant through the organization Engineering For Us All (E4USA) and allows each team to take home a kit of the first version, nearly 200 in all. Received as part of the robotics kit Teams have access to a WPI-developed curriculum that helps educators create lesson plans around it.
Robotics has proven to be an excellent and adaptable tool to stimulate student curiosity and spark a broader interest in STEM. Regardless of the user’s age, ideas become concrete and useful as soon as the concepts of robotics – from mathematics and computer science to engineering and physics – are applied to building or programming a robot.
“A tangible and fun tool like a robot is a great STEM entry point for students to see the potential of their own thinking,” says Soboyejo. “The great thing about dreaming is that it stimulates your efforts to then make the dream a reality.”
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