Girl Day at UT – a Smashing Success!

Some of the intrepid ACCHaoS troup, in the elevator on the way to pre-event safety training.

Some of the intrepid ACCHaoS group in the elevator on the way to pre-event safety training.

What a great event the Women in Engineering Program (WEP) put on yesterday for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at UT Austin!   They were so organized – color-coding the grade levels and buildings, conducting  safety training and an info session before the event began,  feeding all of the volunteers pizza and keeping us all hydrated with bottles of water.  It was an amazing feat, and it was very well attended.  About 2600 girls had pre-registered online – I don’t know what the final total of walk-in registrants was.

IMG_1968The set-up was a little challenging – we were in a classroom with individual desks that were bolted to the floor and couldn’t be pushed out of the way.  But with some tables supplied by the WEP voluteers, some cork bulletin boards to serve as table tops, and a lot of ACCHaoS ingenuity, we were able to get all of our activities set up and ready before the girls arrived.

We were a little worried at first that we might not get many “visitors” because we were set up in a classroom toward the back of the Engineering Science building.  We shouldn’t have worried!  Lots of people came, and when they came, they stayed for quite a while.  Our “bouncers” Velvet and her friend, Derrick even had to do some crowd management, and ask people to wait until some other people came out before we let them in – the crowd was bigger than the room could handle.

IMG_2008It was really fun to hear the girls and their parents discussing the different activities.  The girls were amazing, as kids always are, but this group really spent a lot of time thinking and experimenting.  Their insights were fantastic!  I had a great time with one little girl who was determined that she would get the hang of the gyro rings.  She must have worked on this for at least 15 to 20 minutes – and she finally got a couple of the rings to spin.  What determination!

Packing up car #1

Packing up car #1 – putting our Tetris skills to use!

All of our volunteers did an awesome job – our regulars -Qurrat,  Velvet, and Zach, our extra volunteers Saad Eways and his wife, Kathy, who have joined us before, and also our first time volunteers (talk about a trial by fire!) – Qurrat’s daughter, Zaina, Derrick, and Julienne LeMond.  A special thanks to Karl Trappe for stepping up to fill in for our fearless leader, Paul Williams, who was ill and unable to attend. Get well Paul!

It was a great day, and we’re looking forward to being a part of it again next year!



Is There a Bleak Future for STEM Education in the US?

IMG_1877It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone remotely involved in education that US student fare poorly in the rankings of on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but in STEM Should Be a Natural Extension of Literacy Education, written by Chuck Cadle, CEO of Destination Imagination, there is sobering news not only on the state of STEM education in the US, but also on the perception of its importance by parents.

Cadle cites the Organization for Economic Coordination and Development (OECD) rankings that found (US) students were “finishing 25th in math and 17th in science in the ranking of 31 countries”.  He also includes the results of the research conducted by Harris Interactive for Microsoft in 2011 “to conduct research to determine the STEM perceptions of parents and students.”  That report found that “49 percent of K-12 parents see STEM as a top priority, but only 24 percent would be willing to spend extra money for STEM education.”

Is it possible to improve STEM education without additional funding?  How will we do that – through privately funded resources?  Will that create a cultural divide, with only those with the means to supplement their education having access to the competitive skills provided by an enhanced STEM education?  If we can’t improve STEM education without public funding, how do we stress its importance to the stakeholders in public education?

Ways to Use Social Media to Connect Parents to School

This is another item that is not directly ACCHaoS related, but is related to the ever-changing methods schools can use to improve communication.  What do you think?  Would this improve communication between home and school?  What about parents who aren’t using social media?  How would this affect them?

12 Questions for the 21st Century

I lucked onto this blog while I was searching for blogs about science and elementary students (apparently I am not phrasing the search right, because I haven’t found any.  And that seems wrong).  Great set of question by David Penberg.  I especially like # 11 – How do we move away from the pursuit of the right answer to the capacity to generate profound questions? From the single-minded adherence to the lesson plan to spurring the insatiable desire to learn more?  

Very thought-provoking read –