Abhishek Sharma, Co-Founder of STEMpedia, a startup that is developing technology and educational tools to make learning-by-doing accessible and and long-lasting for the young minds believes that even though STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning kits have been around on the market for a while, kids don't devote more than a few weeks to them before they forget about them, and the once-exciting learning kits end up forgotten in a closet.
"We wanted to create something which has the best of both worlds: An affordable open-source platform with versatile project-making capabilities comprehensive by users of all skill levels," Abhishek Sharma tells Interesting Engineering.
"Something you could make projects with when you are a beginner and maybe have zero experience with electronics and programming. Something you could continue learning with, even when you have gained some expertise and crave projects which can solve complex problems. This eventually led to the birth if STEMpedia," he says.
STEMpedia is part of Agilo Research, an EdTech hardware startup working in the field of STEM education.
They want to foster creativity and innovation among the young students. Agilo Research was founded in 2017 by three students of IIT Kanpur.
evive, the STEM learning platform launched by Agilo Research, was part of India Innovation Growth Program 2.0 by Lockheed Martin-Tata Trusts-MIT Energy Initiative-IIMA-FICCI.
evive was successfully crowdfunded on Indigogo and won the Hackaday Automation Challenge 2016. Agilo Research has been selected for pre-incubation in Cohort 2 by the Nexus Startup Hub at the American Center.
STEM education: Teaching STEM to Generation Alpha children
Generation Alpha are children born from 2010 to 2025. They are the first generation entirely born within the 21st century. This is the generation that will co-live with Advanced Artificial Intelligence. Gen Alphas need to be creative and prepared with STEM skills.
"By 2025, Generation Alpha will number two billion globally. It will be the wealthiest, most educated, and technologically literate in history," said Robert Hannah, Chief Operating Officer at Grant Thornton U.K."
Generation Alpha is the most influential generation of the 21st century. It is the generation that is going to turn into the innovators and leaders of tomorrow. And the ones that will probably travel to the stars. Generation Alpha is considered to be the most technological-infused demographic up to date.
"These children are the most connected, educated, and sophisticated generation ever, so when educating, a school should provide an environment that enhances learning for these digital integrators," said Jenny Coetzee, a career educator and founding member of the ADvTECH Group's prestigious Crawford School La Lucia.
Through a mix of theory with experiential and experimenting learning, STEMpedia wants to teach children of eight years of age and above how to develop 21st-century skills that will be the basis of tomorrow's jobs: Electronics, Programming, and Robotics.
Open source learning platforms
Arduino and Raspberry Pi are perhaps the two best known open source learning platforms for those embarking themselves in STEM Do-it-Yourself (DIY) projects.
Abhishek Sharma points out that while LEGO is a near-perpetual learning-by-doing experience but it's not open source. Open source, however, seems to be more in sync with 21st-century kids and their learning demands.
STEMpedia: Teaching STEM in schools by doing
The STEMpedia Starter Kit is for both individuals or for schools but uses different curricula," Abhishek Sharma tells Interesting Engineering.
The STEMpedia Starter Package is aimed at beginners, an introduction to the world of electronics, programming, and robotics.
"STEMpedia is meant to make project-making a fulfilling experience for young minds." -Abhishek Sharma, Engineer and Co-founder of STEMpedia
According to Sharma, the kit includes parts for over a dozen projects, access to online courses, and software and application resources of STEMpedia. "It is meant to make project-making a fulfilling experience for young minds," he says.
The question of how a school can use the STEMpedia Starter Kit in their classes with a large number of students arises. The answer is teamwork.
Since collaboration is one of the soft skills engineers have to possess or develop to achieve a successful career as the world and jobs become more automated, teaching how to build STEM projects as a team when children are still at school is an extra benefit.
"While individuals can use our online courses, tutorials, and project examples to learn, we have dedicated resources for educators. Though it is one kit per kid on an individual basis, schools can divide their class into groups of two to four students each and get one kit per group," Sharma says.
"Only the online courses would need to be procured as one registration per kid," he explains. The video above shows how children work in groups and learn through online modules to build their robotic projects.
Because teachers are at the center of education, they also need to continuously train and update their skills according to the new technologies and current teaching methods. Otherwise, they are risk of keeping teaching old skills that are now obsolete for the new generations and their future in the workforce.
"We provide training and support to teachers via our teaching resources," Says Sharma. "We have a lot of presentations, activity sheets, tutorials, and other material teachers can easily tweak and use. The modular curriculum can be integrated into existing STEM programs. We also offer on-demand training and technical support to teachers via Skype and video sessions," Sharma tells Interesting Engineering.
Top 10 DIY projects on STEMpedia
STEMpedia courses include Introduction to Electronics, Introduction to Programming, and Introduction to Robotics. There are going to be more courses added as STEMpedia grows. Here below are some examples of what kids can create with the STEMpedia Starter Kit.
After a successful Indiegogo campaign, STEMpedia is ready to move to production. Now with an extension in the Indiegogo campaign, there is a new referral program which goal is to reach more students, teachers, and schools. The more schools, students, and teachers know about STEMpedia and the learning opportunities it offers the better STEM educational tools they are going to have to improve their STEM education.