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Here is how you fix America’s Science Education problem

24 May 2011

I finally got to visit Maker Faire for the first time and I must say that you should definitely go check it out. The event makes me think of Burning Man for children where tens of thousands of children and adults come together to show their love of building things in all shapes in forms. From Tesla Coils, to mushrooms growing out of coffee beans, to Game Boy’s modified to generate techno music, to modified vehicles running off solar power, there is something for everyone if you are remotely interested in technology and science. Its like a science fair on steroids X 1000. There are many reviews talking about all the great stuff that appeared at Maker Faire and I’m not going to add to that, instead I’m going to talk about a different subject.

Engineers should be viewed as rockstars

Everyone in America is talking about how horrible America’s education system is compared to other countries. America’s students are behind in science and mathematics when you compare it to other countries like China, Korea, and Japan. Did you know 8 out of China’s top 9 goverment officials are engineers?
In the 60’s, America was in a space race against Russia to see who could get to the moon first. America as a country had a goal to get us to the moon and that required scientists, technologists, and engineers. Eventually America reached that goal and as time passed, so did America’s view on the sciences. President Obama has already stated that he considers science and technology as supremely important to the future of America.
America as a culture needs to look at these professions like rockstars just like how we look at athletes, musicians, and rockstars!

This key difference allows children’s imaginations to spread to unknown boundaries.

Over the course of the weekend, Maker Faire had over 70,000 people pass through. There were thousands of families that brought their children to learn, play with, and see how things are being made. How many of these kids to you think will have gone home after attending Maker Faire and be obsessed with building some cool projects. I saw this one drivable vehicle made by a couple of kids, some lawnmowers, various other parts, and even a shoe as a brake pad. It was so cool that even I wished I had some kids to bring to the event. There are many science fair style events that kids can attend, what makes Maker Faire special is that both adults and children come together where they create and share the things they have built. The children build and show off their own things, but they also get to see the possibilities that the adults (or large children) produce. This key difference allows children’s imaginations to spread to unknown boundaries. Mike Row from the tv series “Dirty Jobs” also gave a speech where he outlined his plans to produce a television show around people making new projects. This kind of exposure is what will allow America’s children have a deeper appreciate for the sciences.

Telsa Coils and Zelda music!

Dale Dougherty is the founder of Maker Faire. I recommend you check out Maker Faire and if you have any suggestions, make sure you send them his way dalepd.
I plan to attend many more Maker Faires and I hope to see deep integration with schools like contests and programs so that students’ projects are able to grow bigger and get more exposure.