An Interview with 2018 Science Fair Winner Kabir Jolly

We interviewed 2018 Science & Engineering Fair of Houston Winner Kabir Jolly, and he answered some of our questions about how he came to like STEM:

CEEF: Tell us a little about yourself (your name, age, grade level or job title/description, etc). Also share your favorite thing about STEM (why do you like it?).

KJ: My name is Kabir Jolly. I am 16 and a sophomore at The Academy of Science and Technology. My favorite thing about STEM is the multitude of solvable challenges that lie within this field. It gives people an opportunity to practice and strengthen their problem solving skills to overcome any obstacles.

CEEF: How old were you when you realized you were interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)?

KJ: I have been interested in STEM ever since I was around 10 years old in 4th grade.

CEEF: What would you say to a young student who doesn’t like STEM?

KJ: I would tell them to keep exploring STEM. Since they are young, they have not been exposed to the numerous facets of this field. I encourage them to keep looking because there is a part of STEM for everyone.

CEEF: Did you have any teacher(s) who mentored you or inspired you to pursue STEM?

KJ: My elementary school teacher, Mrs. Brock, was very influential in inspiring me to pursue STEM. The engaging activities and experiments that left our 3rd grade class in awe played a big factor in my continued interest. In the past 2 years, my school’s headmaster, Dr. Caffery, has been very influential as well. She provides a lot of support and feedback, which has been invaluable for science fairs, and motivating for continuing STEM in college and beyond.

CEEF: What are you currently working on that involves STEM?

KJ: My science fair project that tackles the food waste problem using an app-based service is something that I am working on that involves STEM. It actually includes every aspect of the acronym: I conducted intensive research about the problem (science), I used databases and simulations to increase functionalities of my project (technology), I programmed and developed an application (engineering), and I used math to optimize user time and payments (mathematics).

CEEF: What have been some of your biggest challenges in your academic pursuits? What have you done to overcome them?

KJ: For the most part, I have enjoyed my academic pursuits. However, one big challenge I am currently facing is deciding between fields of interest or potential career parths when I enjoy both equally. Although it is definitely early to make a decision like this, I want to focus more time on one area. My plan to overcome this is to explore both a little, because I do not want to limit myself to one area. Once I understand all the aspects I can potentially dive into in each of these areas, I will be able to make an informed decision.

CEEF: Where do you see yourself in 10 years (and even in 20 years)? What path do you plan to take in order to accomplish those goals?

KJ: In the future, I hope to combine my fields of interest to start a successful business that uses software or an invention as an integral part of the company. I plan to learn a lot in entrepreneurship, as well as engineering/computer science to be able to accomplish these goals.

CEEF: How could you help others to get involved in STEM?

KJ: Helping others get involved in STEM, in my opinion can be done through a lot of outreach. Whether it is altering curriculum at schools, or holding events similar to Energy Day, I feel that making people (especially young children) aware of the fun behind STEM is integral to getting them involved in this area.

We look forward to keeping up with Kabir as he pursues his interests in STEM!

Educational Apps and Games

Since the kids will be out of school before we know it, it’s a good idea to have a list of educational games and apps for you to pepper in their screen time. In my house, we have a list of about 15 things that must be done before my kiddos can have screen time (playing outside, reading, and building something are just a few of those things). WARNING to adults: some of these apps may be addictive for you also (I play several from the bottom group daily). Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

With that in mind, here is a working list that will continue to be updated:

Math

Arithmetic Invaders Express: Grade K-2 Math Facts – Defend the solar system by solving counting, addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems.

Mathical – Mathical was developed by teachers for practice of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts; fractions of shapes and place value. The games within the app have adjustable difficulty to suit differing abilities for ages 5 – 10.

Math vs Zombies – The world is overrun with zombies. You are a part of a squad of highly trained scientists who can save us. Use your math skills and special powers to treat infected zombies.

Mystery Math Town –  It’s part math drills, part seek and find game and totally engaging. Kids ages five and up should find this both fun and challenging.

Mathmateer – While your rocket is floating weightlessly in space, the real fun begins! Play one of the many fun math missions. Each mission has touchable objects floating in space, including stars, coins, 3D shapes and more! Earn a bronze, silver or gold medal and also try to beat your high score. Missions range in difficulty from even/odd numbers all the way to square roots, so kids and their parents will enjoy hours of fun while learning math.

Math Ninja – Use your math skills to defend your treehouse against a hungry tomato and his robotic army in this fun action packed game! Choose between ninja stars, smoke bombs, or ninja magic – and choose your upgrades wisely!

NumberStax – Number Stax is a puzzle game to test your number skills! Drop numbers and operators in the correct places to match the number or expression shown at the top of the screen to score. You can’t remove tiles but you can swap them around. You can freeze the game at any time, but remember to watch the clock!

Coding

The Foos (iPad) and The Foos (Android) – codeSpark Academy teaches the basics of computer programming through a variety of interactive learning activities including puzzles, games, step-by-step creative projects, game design and offline printables – all of which can be monitored by parents.

LightBot (iPad) and LightBot (Android) – Lightbot is a programming puzzle game: a puzzle game that uses game mechanics that are firmly rooted in programming concepts.

Kodable (iPad) – Award-winning coding curriculum for kids! Kodable is designed to teach computer science to elementary students grades K-5 (Ages 4-11).

Scratch Jr. (iPad) and Scratch Jr. (Android) – By snapping together graphical programming blocks, children can make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. In the process, children learn to solve problems, design projects, and express themselves creatively on the computer. They also use math and language in a meaningful and motivating context, supporting the development of early-childhood numeracy and literacy.

Bee-Bot (iPad) – The Bee-Bot App from TTS Group has been developed based on our well-loved, award-winning Bee-Bot floor robot. The app makes use of Bee-Bot’s keypad functionality and enables children to improve their skills in directional language and programming through sequences of forwards, backwards, left and right 90 degree turns. The app has been developed with 12 levels encouraging progression. Each level is timed and the faster it is completed the more stars you get! The levels are set in an engaging garden scenario and will appeal from age 4 upwards.

Critical Thinking and Exploration

Brain Training (Android) – Brain Trainer app that exercises to your brain using different strategies: short term memory, concentration, focus, speed, and accuracy; it has 15 different types of brain training games.

River Crossing (Android) (the App Store has similar games, but not this exact one at this time) – In this fun and challenging game, you will find a complete collection of all known river crossing logic problems, plus some completely new riddles that you will not find anywhere else. If you want brain teasers to improve your IQ while you have fun, you’ve come to the right place.

Infinity Loop (Android) and Infinity Loop (iPad) – Simple, relaxing, endless game. People love it! It can be considered a puzzle game about creating intricate looping patterns or just the application of using a simple concept: “connecting multiple things” and make fun out of it.

Rube’s Lab (Android) and Rube’s Lab (iPad) – Rube’s Lab is a physics puzzle game with an amazing interactive world. Venture into the world where you`ll need to save Rube’s Lab from the wiles of Dr. Evil using logic and imagination. Items, objects, mechanisms, chain reactions… Solve puzzles through available tools in limited time frame.

Brain It On! – Physics Puzzles (Android) and Brain It On! – Physics Puzzles (iPad) – Deceptively challenging physics puzzles for your brain! Draw shapes to solve challenging physics puzzles. They’re not as easy as they look.

Logic Master 1 (Android) and Logic Master 1 (iPad) – The game contains brilliant questions that incorporate use of memory, logic, attention, and the ability to think in unconventional ways.

Logic Master 2 (Android) and Logic Master 2 (iPad) – The second version of a brilliant and unusual puzzle game that tests your attention and ability to think outside the box.

If you know of any great ones that I’m missing, please email me and let me know.

Training & Professional Development for STEM Teachers

Occupations in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related fields are some of the fastest growing and best paid in the world. The STEM workforce is broad and complex, and it touches every aspect of our economy. Even many non-STEM jobs require technical proficiency, such as basic software skills. With the growing need for these skills in both technical and non-technical occupations, it is more important now than ever to ensure that students are properly prepared to succeed in these fields. One of the most important components of students’ success in these subjects is high-quality science and math teachers, but finding, recruiting, and retaining these teachers is one of the greatest challenges our nation faces today.

Most people can recall at least one teacher who was able to motivate students and build interest in a subject. This usually requires a teacher who challenges the class to use critical thinking and is able to relate the concepts of the lesson to real world experiences. Such high-quality teaching can have lasting effects on students. Educators who are able to provide a solid STEM foundation through well-rounded curriculum and engaging classroom activities may help spark an interest in STEM at an early age that can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, there is an extreme lack of trained and qualified science and math teachers in the U.S. It is estimated that over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years. Of the active teachers, roughly 30 percent of chemistry and physics teachers in public high schools did not major in these fields and have not earned a certificate to teach those subjects, and more than two thirds of middle school math teachers are not qualified to teach the subject. If a teacher lacks the knowledge and capabilities required to teach a subject, it can be difficult for students to understand the concept, likely resulting in a loss of confidence and interest in that field.

State and federal policymakers have made efforts in recent years to create programs that help recruit and prepare effective STEM teachers, but this is a challenging undertaking. President Obama’s 100Kin10 coalition unites the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers within the decade. Already, more than 150 foundations, companies, and others have come together to lead 100Kin10, raising over $30 million, but there is still a long way to go, and a successful program demands that leaders from every sector take action and spread the word.

Additionally, state legislators such as Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Rep. Bobby Guerra of Texas have introduced bills recognizing the importance of certification and professional development for public school teachers, but these programs need to extend beyond the subject of computer science to provide training, professional development, and mentorships in all STEM fields.

Elected officials, business leaders, and educators must continue working together to provide STEM teachers and prospective teachers with the tools they need to successfully teach STEM subjects and motivate students to follow career paths in these fields. Students need teachers who are capable and knowledgeable, so it is critical that we work together to create programs that attract, train, and retain talented math and science teachers. If we are able to improve the quality of STEM education in the U.S., our students will be better prepared for the workforce, and the ability of the U.S. to compete in a 21st Century technology-intensive, global economy will be strengthened.

Written by Kathleen van Keppel

STEM Summit

STEM summit meant to stimulate student interest in science-oriented career paths

A line-up that included employment specialists, employers and educators analyzed the need to prepare America’s youth for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) during a March 20 summit conference hosted by the Northeast Pennsylvania Manufacturers and Employers Association.

Participants learned that an abundance of STEM-related job openings — including those in the natural-gas industry — are not being filled due lack of workers with adequate STEM skills…read more