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Full STEAM Ahead with Hands-on Learning

Full STEAM Ahead with Hands-on Learning

Crowds gather at STEAM

Problem solving is at the core of every scientific endeavor. For Tennessee STEAM Festival organizers, they seek to solve two great problems at once.

First is the challenge of giving access to young people of all ages, from pre-kindergarten to college students and beyond, to the practical and engaging aspects of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM), as well as to “cultivate the next generation of citizen and professional science advocates and practitioners.”

Second is filling in the gaps of the existing workforce with the added goal to “inspire our future workforce to seek careers in Tennessee’s fast-growing and diversifying economic climate.”

For STEAMers, the belief is that solving the first problem solves the second.

The efforts are led by Murfreesboro’s Discovery Center, whose commitment to Murfreesboro and the surrounding region will mark its 30th year in 2017. The STEAM Festival was born out of the Discovery Center’s desire to expand a hand-on, engaging real-world experience well beyond the walls of children’s museums and science centers and into our businesses, universities, schools, and neighborhoods.

We sat down for a Q&A with STEAM leader and Discovery Center Director of Philanthropy Caitlyn Brown:

ENA: Explain the motivation behind the Tennessee STEAM Festival’s creation.

Caitlyn: We want to foster collaboration to enhance hands-on learning. Families, students businesses, employees, and employers, we aim to bring them together so they can demonstrate, in a very hands on way, what they know. Really, to allow them to learn something new from each other that could impact what they choose to do with their future professional careers.

ENA: Explain the Discovery Center’s role in STEAM.

 Caitlyn: 95% of learning happens outside of formal classrooms. A large part of what we do at the Discover Center is making this happen with hands-on, engaging learning. We’re focused on being a go-to resource for STEAM planners to ensure they have all the knowledge they need on how best to make that happen at their events.

ENA: What do you look for in an event partner?

STEAM campersCaitlyn: Excitement, energy, and ready to share what they do. We’re extremely proud of our eclectic list of partners. We have a Sauerkraut Making (Fermentation) Workshop at Short Mountain Cultures—a literal sauerkraut lab for all ages. There will be a musical Audition Workshop at the Arts Center of Cannon County for aspiring musicians to hone their auditioning skills. We even have a Way Late Play Date at the Muse in Knoxville with exciting hands-on science activities and demonstrations that explore high-tech gadgetry, arachnid- and botany-inspired superpowers, and more for big kids 21 and older.

 And, demonstrating STEAM’s efforts to foster collaboration and leverage experience to deliver hands-on learning, Amada Senior Care is hosting Planes, Trains & Automobiles Through the Years. Seniors will partner up in teams with teenagers to collect local recyclable materials in the community, and then the teams will assemble at our CommuniServe Senior Center and build models/representations of either a plane, train, or car from any era learning about the technology from yesteryears! It is really a teaching moment for all to discuss the merits and content of the recycled materials being used to create the models.

ENA: What has interest in STEAM been thus far?

Caitlyn: Amazing. Our first year we only planned to have events in Rutherford County. Then, based on interest, we’d hoped to expand out to our contiguous counties in three years. But after hearing our pitch, the state asked us to go statewide in year one.

ENA: As STEAM progresses, what are you hoping will be the outcome?

Caitlyn: From our event hosts, I’d love to hear, “Let’s talk about next year!” And from our attendees, I think it will be incredible to see how these events impacted their professional journey. If a young man or woman comes up to us and says, “Because I attended an event on the aerodynamics of building paper airplanes, I’m now a rocket scientist…that would make my year!”

STEAM has a natural partner in Education Networks of America, and ENA Manager of Systems Engineering and STEAM evangelist David Mabry believes demonstrating the value and excitement of science, technology, engineering, art, and math on the road is a game changer both for future employees and employers.

“STEAM education is critically important today and will be essential to our future. Science and technology always push the current known boundaries of our universe and we will need creative people who are willing and able to take on the challenge of redefining those boundaries and pushing farther into the unknown,” said Mabry.

Mabry believes the Tennessee STEAM initiative is a great way to help those future creative technologists in shaping their careers.

“The Tennessee STEAM Festival is a great way to engage students of all ages and to show them the many different ways they interact with STEAM in their daily lives. The goal is to spark an interest in STEAM that will grow into a lifelong, passionate love to better know and understand our universe through science, technology, engineering, art, and math. What better way to ignite that spark than to experience it firsthand through all the many different and exciting events offered during the Tennessee STEAM Festival.”

As an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions provider that passionately enables student achievement, operational efficiencies, and future capabilities, ENA is happy to be a sponsor of this year’s Tennessee STEAM Festival.These unique, innovative learning activities ensure families, young adults, and Tennesseans of all ages and backgrounds interact with and learn from scientists, engineers, designers, and just about every sort of expert in between.

Learn more about the STEAM events at http://tennesseesteamfestival.org/ and find an upcoming event near you.

Brad White is a communications professional and digital marketer at ENA. A former seventh grade language arts teacher, he has a passion for engaging and serving the educational community.
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