U.S. students may love technology, but they often don’t understand concepts of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as well as many foreign peers—a shortcoming that American government, education and business leaders are trying to address in appealing ways.
A fun way to learn is by optimizing, re-designing, and racing radio-controlled (RC) cars, so the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Science Education Department is hosting a campus workshop Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 14-15, for 35 Southern California current and future eighth grade science teachers on this innovative way to teach California science standards on the concepts of force and motion. The team will also be addressing concepts which overlap science, math and literacy standards.
The free workshop takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in CSULB Hall of Science Room 281, where participants will learn to use materials and techniques from the UC Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science’s Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) and the Ten80 Student Racing Challenge, a collaboration of the national organizations Ten80 Education and Lab-Aids endorsed by NASCAR and supported by the U.S. Army, and other science, technology and education organizations.
“It’s a way to get kids more involved with the engineering and technology aspects that sometimes people find harder to work into a traditional science classroom. This is one of the ways that they could bring in the T, E, and the M in STEM into the science classroom,” said Professor Lisa Martin-Hansen, who joins CSULB this fall as the new Science Education Department chair.
“Students have to use geometry to consider the drive-path and many physics ideas—inertia, speed, velocity, and math,” she continued. “They reverse-engineer a car to understand its design and how to optimize it for racing as they think about how it’s going to interact on a path. They have to think about the center of mass on a car—how can you construct a car so that it won’t flip over easily as it’s turning. And then they actually get to test their cars and race them.” To compete successfully, students also must learn planning and problem solving.
“The idea is that we’re really emphasizing STEM in a more integrated way,” added Laura Henriques, outgoing Science Education chair. “This integrates the four letters rather than ‘Here’s science and now let’s do engineering and now let’s do math.’ It does really try to pull them all together. For the pre-service teachers to see what that might look like before they get into a classroom is pretty cool. There’s such a push for STEM but I don’t think there’s a common agreement or understanding of what that looks like. It’s a good buzzword but what does it really mean in the K-12 setting?”
Henriques, who remains a CSULB science education professor and also is the 2013-15 board president of the California Science Teachers Association, noted that this workshop is an excellent opportunity for teacher education students to also learn from credentialed teachers. She and Martin-Hansen hope to host future workshops through SEPUP and Ten80, as well as on biotechnology.