Motivating STEM Students

| May 19, 2010

“If the U.S. is to maintain its economic leadership and compete in the new global economy, the Nation must prepare today’s K–12 students better to be tomorrow’s productive workers and citizens. Changing workforce requirements mean that new workers will need ever more sophisticated skills in science, mathematics, engineering and technology.”- National Science Board (NSB)

A longstanding concern in education to encourage American students in science, technology, engineering and math subjects continues to push for innovative programs to inspire students into STEM fields. One such innovative approach to this challenge asks if hip-hop can impact student’s choices to enter STEM fields?

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Described in this article Honeywell and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been involved in a project since 2004 to inspire students into STEM fields. They announced the fall 2009 tour of their award-winning science education program FMA Live!

FMA Live! is the only nationally touring, multi-media, science-education production of its kind. Designed to make science relevant to kids’ everyday lives, the program brings an authentic, live, hip-hop concert experience to middle schools across the country. This concert will reach over 16,000 students during its 10-week, 20-city tour of the United States and Canada.

Named for Sir Isaac Newton’s second law of motion (force = mass x acceleration) FMA Live! uses professional actors, original songs, music videos and interactive science demonstrations to teach middle school students Newton’s three laws of motion and universal law of gravity. During each FMA Live! performance, students, teachers and school administrators interact with three professional actors in front of a live audience to experience Newton’s laws firsthand. A giant sticky wall is used to demonstrate inertia; go-carts driven across the stage illustrate action and reaction; and ‘extreme’ wrestling and a huge soccer ball show that force is determined by mass multiplied by acceleration. All three of Newton’s laws are demonstrated simultaneously when a futuristic hover chair collides with a gigantic cream pie. Educator and student feedback is consistently and overwhelmingly positive after each tour stop.

In 2006 and 2007, FMA Live! received a Yahoo! Big Idea Award, BrandWeek’s Gold Reggie Award for Best Community Outreach Campaign and the Diamond Award Winner for Best Cause Marketing Campaign. In 2005, FMA Live! received the gold SABRE award and was recognized as the best community relations program worldwide by The Holmes Group. The entire program, including the 18-wheel truck, tour bus and 10-person street team, is fully funded by Honeywell.

If you are interested in creating programs or innovating to encourage students in STEM the National Science Foundation (NSF) has an upcoming grant called ITEST that has multiple strands for people to create applications and experiences in this area for either students or teachers. Here is a nice summary of areas of the grant and includes a link to the official NSF grant website.