My Experience at the 2016 California STEM Symposium

Posted by A 9th Grade STEM Student on 10/14/2016

From teachers to students, there were sessions, speakers, and exhibits for everyone at the 2016 California STEM Symposium.

 

Monday started with a keynote speech from Sir Ken Robinson, the acclaimed British speaker and author. Sir Ken kicked off the event with his ideas on creativity and the impact of the standardization of education on students. He presented his vision that students should not be forced into rigid molds. Instead, they should be given the freedom to find their hidden talents. His speech conveyed his passion for education, and shared his unique views on schools.

 

The first round of breakout sessions started after that inspiring speech, but rather than attend, I wandered the convention floor. There were booths ranging from Jiji Math to Project Lead The Way. Everyone was enthusiasticly explaining how their curriculum helped students learn in new and more engaging ways. As a STEM student, I would love to see more of these tools migrate from the show floor to the classroom. One booth that caught my attention was the Lego EV3 booth. Their program can spark younger kids’ interest in robotics, as well as engage older students in more complex designs.  

 

As I continued to explore the convention floor, I stumbled upon the Makerspace, a section of the show floor dedicated to new technologies and strategies teachers can test for their classrooms. The Makerspace had so many amazing options, I didn’t have time for them all. The Arduino and paper-circuits was one of the more interesting stations. These simple circuits will make Arduino easier and more fun for kids. I was intrigued enough that I will continue to explore the concept well after the symposium. Another cool booth was the past projects table. There were innovative prototypes like a fruit-powered musical device. If the “ground” slip of metal touched one of the sensors, the device played certain notes through the fruit-powered speaker. It was very promising and had the possibility to morph into a very cool finished product. I also enjoyed some of the 2D to 3D rendering technology. An overhead camera took a 2D picture of whatever object was beneath it.  From there, you could manipulate the photo through an interactive mat. I played with several virtual containers of playdough, my cell phone, and a 3D model of a steak. This technology was advanced, albeit a little bulky. I wonder if it could be reduced in size.

 

One session in the second round of breakouts intrigued me, so I attended the Virtual Reality in Education talk in room 208A. The presenters highlighted the technical details of this technology and then we experimented with the VR headsets. We swam through coral reefs, walked around volcanoes, and followed schools of fish.  As fun as this technology was, it needs to be further developed before it is widely used in classrooms.   

 

The final event I attended was the highlight of my time at the conference. Reshma Saujani gave a passionate speech addressing the lack of diversity in the STEM fields. Her program, Girls Who Code, is opening the Computer Science door to thousands of women. I hope to see more women in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers thanks to programs like hers and the work of dedicated, hardworking teachers everywhere. It was eye opening to see the amount of hard work California teachers put in to improve the futures of their students.

 

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