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STEM Courses: More engaging than they appear.

Posted on Mar 12, 2013

Pieces of paper pointing at a brain.Public school districts in Nashville, TN and Houston, TX have decided to incorporate STEM courses in their high schools. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses are growing in popularity in schools across the nation. STEM courses provide students with much needed exposure to fields of study commonly reserved for post-secondary education and specialized secondary schools. As blended learning becomes more and more prominent in schools today, STEM based courses are more easily implemented into lower levels of education.

These school districts chose to use STEM Fuse’s GAME:IT programs to implement the STEM courses. GAME:IT, the company describes, “was created and piloted by high school technology and business teachers. At its core GAME:IT is a computer programming course with a dash of physics, math and business mixed in – all taught through game design. What better way than gaming to get students excited about science, technology, engineering and math?” With varying levels of difficulty, students from grades six to twelve can participate.

We’ve talked a little about the advantages of using gamification in a blended learning environment, but I never considered it used in this sense – rather than just playing games to learn, they are designing them. With GAME:IT, students can easily design popular games similar to Pac Man or Pong. With each new rule they introduce or setting they tweak, they receive immediate feedback for their actions when they test the game. Learning these STEM based tools allows students see the real-world application of this kind of knowledge. As you’ll see below, for such technical fields of study, they certainly aren’t lacking in creativity.

As an added incentive, STEM Fuse invites students to compete against one another in their semi-annual GOT GAME? Competition. Check out the latest winners here. Digging around a bit more, I was able to find a couple of other very appealing STEM based competitions for students looking to dabble in those fields.

In an attempt to raise support for STEM education, the Army Educational Outreach Program funds an annual competition that challenges students in grades 4-8 to build the fastest, best looking, most functional solar powered car they can envision. Aldebaran Robotics invites students to enter into their annual Robotic Idol competition, a humanoid robot dance competition.  Check out this robo-rendition of the YouTube sensation, “Evolution of Dance” for an example of the kind of choreography made possible through studies in STEM.

Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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