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Rooting Ourselves in STEM

A company is only as good as its employees. And the growth of a company hinges on the job market for those employees. As Hanson and companies like us trace this path back, we see K-12 education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) as a critical component for our technology-based industry.

The STEM subjects represent the majority of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade. The National Science Foundation also estimates that 80 percent of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of math and science skills. It’s a worthwhile focus for parents, educators, and the whole community.

STEM in the Park

Bowling Green State University (BGSU), in partnership with the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education, holds an annual event where area universities, community groups, and businesses gather to promote STEM education. STEM in the Park is a free event where kids of all ages can come and interact with science, technology, engineering, and math displays.

After talking with the program managers of STEM in the Park, we at Hanson were super excited to take part in this day. The task before us became: what can we do to get kids interested in technology? Technology is so pervasive in society that the challenge was daunting. How would we create something new and interesting about technology that would capture interest of kids ages 3 to 18?

Our response to that challenge was to focus in on very specific parts of the technology landscape. Since this was a hands-on event, we used iPad as the tool for kids to get their hands on. We chose three technologies in the iPad to look at:

  • Camera: While familiar to all selfie-takers, the camera and graphics system provides more computer imagery functions than just basic photo filters.
  • Gyroscope: Often used for putting games in motion, the gyroscope can drive any movement-based interface.
  • Multi-touch Display: We all know tap, touch, and two finger pinch, but what about 3, 4, and up to 10 fingers? How can this untapped (pun totally intentional) feature be explored?

Our Display

Interactive computer media is really an intersection between technology and art. Artistic creativity can be a great companion in learning, so we decided to incorporate some Art in the STEM to engage kids as they explored each technology.

Our display at STEM in the Park was anchored by a large flat screen monitor driven by a laptop communicating wirelessly with the iPads. As kids explored each technology through custom apps, they could send their artistic creations to the display. With their name attached to the image, their family and other passersby could see their work.

Camera capture in the CameraKaleido app allows exploration of computer imagery. Kaleidoscope style tiling is used to see the camera image through triangle, square, and hexagon shapes. Color mapping, the re-assigning of the color spectrum, livened up the images with wild colors.

Gyrospiro blends a classic 1960s/1970s toy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirograph) with the movement tracking of the gyroscope inside the iPad. Users choose shapes and colors and then carefully control the drawing by tilting in each direction.

Kids are again challenged with shapes as they draw designs with triangles, squares, heptagons (that’s a 7-sided shape for the polygon illiterate), and more. TouchShapes invites two or more fingers to be your brush that paints as fingers are moved across the display.

  • CameraKaleido

Reception and Beyond

To go from holding an iPad for a wide-eyed 3 year old looking at kaleidoscope images to talking to a high schooler about how a gyroscope can mimic pitch and roll-like flight dynamics, it was clear that we were able to capture technology interest in all ages. The hundreds of designs that were created at STEM in the Park are certainly a testament that creative expression can go hand in hand with technology learning.

Many kids and parents asked about these apps being in the App Store for use at home. We’re pleased to say that you can now get these on your own iPad, for free. When you are done creating a design, simply click “Save” to get the image into your Photos app.

To download in the app store, visit:

GyroSpiro—App Store:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gyrospiro/id1044834675?ls=1&mt=8

CameraKaleido—App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/camerakaleido/id1044834537?ls=1&mt=8

TouchShapes—App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/touchshapes/id1044834679?ls=1&mt=8

We are also pleased to release the source code for all three iPad apps and the host Mac OS X app on GitHub. Educators interested in presenting this in their STEM events are free to use.

GitHub: https://github.com/hansoninc/STEM-in-the-Park

Thank you to all participants for your kind words, and to members of the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education for your help and encouragement. We are excited to come back again next year with an even greater sophomore effort!

 

Links

Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education – http://cosmos.bgsu.edu

STEM in the Park – http://cosmos.bgsu.edu/STEMinPark/