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Real-world problems

The path to success

“Houston, we’ve had a problem here”. So rang out those chilling words on April 13th, 1970, when the world first learned that the Apollo 13 manned mission to the moon was in jeopardy. An oxygen tank had exploded, resulting in a loss of oxygen, battery power, and water, all this with the spacecraft and crew roughly 200,000 miles from the earth. One oxygen tank had completely emptied, and the second...
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Learning and experience

The path from Piaget to Papert to project-based learning is a direct one. It was the Swiss psychologist, Piaget, who argued that children don’t learn by being passive receptors of information from the environment, but by actively confronting it. His student, Papert, who went on to be a founding faculty member of the MIT Media lab, followed in Piaget’s footsteps, arguing too that children learn by ...
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Work and self-worth

Increasingly, we are what we do and say, what we make and communicate. We know Einstein by his physical theories, Walt Whitman by his poetry, Dali by his art just as Mark Zuckerberg is synonymous with FaceBook, Jeff Bezos with Amazon, and Steve Jobs with Apple. On average, we work a third of our lives, some very much more. Work provides us not only with our livelihood, but friendships too, sometim...
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Putting STEM to work

“When people think of an industrial factory, they think dark, dirty and heavy lifting and it’s not that way anymore…People don’t understand that…it’s meant for somebody with higher analytical skills and higher troubleshooting abilities [as well as for somebody] who can turn a wrench.” http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/12/apprenticeships-could-provide-a-pathway-to-the-middle-class?int=a4...
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Coding and Curriculum

It has become commonplace to acknowledge the shortage of qualified computer science professionals, the scarcity of programmers, both in the general population, but particularly among those traditionally underrepresented: girls, ethnic minorities, and those on the autism spectrum or with other special needs. One school in Brookline, Massachusetts is aiming to reduce that shortage by integrating cod...
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STEM Spirit, Robotics and Village Glen

Last Saturday, on a cold, bright and early morning, a throng of students and adults descended on USC (University of Southern California) for a 7:30am viewing of the 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition reveal. The hall was hushed as the animation played, some taking notes, some with laptops open viewing it in stereo. Immediately after the short video, the throng made a beeline for the distribution cent...
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A Progress Report on STEM at Village Glen

Last week, Village Glen had a visitor, someone who had heard about our programs and about STEM at Village Glen in particular. He himself runs a school in England for students with special needs, so it was a rare opportunity to see how someone unconnected to and unfamiliar with our school would view us. His impressions were uniformly positive. He was amazed by middle school students milling about ...
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STEM, Robotics, and 21st Century Skills

Why should you take a class in robotics in high school? After all, it’s not part of the typical curriculum; it doesn’t necessarily jibe with literature or art, or with biology or government. And yet the classes remain enormously popular. Why so? Robotics is the quintessential hands-on activity. It involves motors, motion, and electronics, aspects of electrical, mechanical and computer engineering ...
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Foundational Skills and STEM

In the 19th century, the foundation of a good education was grounded in reading, writing and arithmetic. In the 20th, the mandate was to provide a sound liberal-arts education. Though we only have early returns to go on, the voting for the 21st century seems to be overwhelmingly in favor of a STEM education. This is not to say, of course, that literacy and numeracy are defunct concepts with no pla...
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Data in a digital age

We are awash in a sea of data. When you accessed your smart phone to navigate from home, your location and destination were tracked by satellite. When you bought something online, or ran a search as part of your research, those data were recorded. That exponentially growing pile of data includes medical records, financial records, educational records, and criminal records, to name but a few. Consi...
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