The future of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) starts with children today. Plain and simple. Many studies have detailed the need to build interest in STEM fields early in childhood education to ensure continued interest through college and beyond into careers. While school systems around the world have related classwork, it is important for children to see real practitioners, particularly female, from STEM fields and have tangible engagement in these areas to build their interest. This is where industry leaders can help!
In this post I’d like to highlight why this is important work in which more industry players need to participate, and share the multi-faceted win for students, schools, employees and our future!
Hands-on program drives early STEM engagement
Keysight After School (KAS) is a company-funded program that provides a STEM engagement experience to school children. It features 23 different hands-on life, physical and earth-science experiments designed as complete "programs-in-a-box" that are delivered by Keysight employee volunteers working with local school communities. From single-kit experiments tied to in-class curriculum, to multi-week engagements and even special after-school focused sessions, we can adapt the kits and customize the engagement for students. Through the program, Keysight engages upwards of 10,000 children worldwide each year, while offering our employees the opportunity to volunteer in their community and help drive the future of their fields.
Engaging the future
Recently, I partnered with my local school district in Loveland, Colorado, to support a full-day STEM engagement for students in grades 3-8 using the KAS program materials. It was a teacher work day, which meant the kids had the day off. Instead of staying home and likely watching TV or playing video games, the school district gave students the opportunity to sign up for a full-day STEM program. This was a unique approach to implementing the KAS kits and I was excited to be a part of a more immersive student experience.
Working with assigned substitute teachers from the district, we started by determining which STEM topics the kids were currently studying, and then selected two KAS kits that best aligned with both curriculum and age group. From there, the teachers designed a morning curriculum for the students to learn the basic concepts of their respective STEM topic. The full-day event culminated in an afternoon hands-on experiment with Keysight volunteers armed with KAS experiment kits.
- For the group of third, fourth, and fifth graders, we selected electricity and magnetism as the target topic. During the morning sessions, teachers introduced the concepts of magnets, compasses, and electricity. Using the “Invisible Forces” KAS kit, students did hands-on experiments with not only magnets but also the magnetic field induced by the flow of electricity through a wire. The experience culminated with students building a working electric motor so they could see first-hand the practical application of the invisible forces of electricity and magnetism at work.
- For sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, we selected the principles of hydraulics as the study topic. The KAS kit we paired with this subject was the “Hydro Lift” kit, in which students built their own working hydraulic lift and learned how the transfer of energy can be used to increase force.
After completing their experiments, students took their finished projects home with them – furthering the STEM engagement opportunity as the children share their projects with family, friends, and teachers. In total, for this event alone, we engaged 131 students across 5 schools with 28 Keysight employee volunteers. It was a great feeling to see the excitement in the eyes of the students as they learned about important scientific concepts and how engineers use them in practical everyday ways to build devices and machines they are already familiar with.
A Fun and Rewarding Experience for All!
The hands-on experience and the very visible volunteer STEM practitioners are what truly made the connection with the students. As one of the Keysight volunteers offered:
"The kids were engaged, asked good questions and answered our questions well too! Everyone got their motors to work, and they were fascinated by the Keysight oscilloscope display we brought with us. They all brought their motors over to the oscilloscopes for 'testing'. One student was so enthralled by the process, that he built two motors to test!"
In turn, the school district’s STEM coordinator with whom I worked said:
"At every camp I visited, I saw students who were actively engaged in learning. I know that this was an experience that they will remember for quite some time. I appreciate your commitment not only to taking the time from your busy schedules to sit down with our students and work through the kits, but also your willingness to share your love of engineering and a little bit about what you do and how you got into your field."
While this was just one of many ways to take advantage of the KAS kits, the unique approach and engagement model is worth noting for others to consider. The engagement was a true multi-faceted win. Students had the chance to learn STEM concepts, teachers were provided a new way to support their curriculum, Keysight employees were able to give back to the community, and Keysight as a company had a part in developing the next generation of engineers and scientists! As the school district’s STEM coordinator noted, “Hopefully, some seeds were planted with students that will lead to their becoming engineers one day!”