Introduction: Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments

Adventures in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) & Virtual Worlds

Why is the sky blue? Why can’t you see the wind? What’s the biggest number in the world?

Can you answer these questions? These are some of our earliest questions about STEM studies. We all are born curious, and the more we learn about the world and how it works, the more confident we feel. We become less afraid of the universe. The big question is, why do so many of us stop asking such questions?

Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments
Adventures in STEM & Virtual Environments

Who needs STEM? Everyone, so don’t be STEM-phobic.

Try to go one day without using…

Science. Keep in mind that modern science was born the day we first used fire about 4 million years ago. It is our oldest discipline.
Technology. Maybe if you’re on a survivalist adventure, but you’d have to do without a knife, rope, compass as well.
Engineering. Our world is built by engineers. Maybe shipwrecked on a desert island, but you would quickly turn to engineer to save your life.
Math. Better yet, try to go one day without using any numbers.

STEM and People with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities often face challenges in pursuing careers and degrees in STEM. They are underrepresented in STEM fields. This video by the DO-IT program out of the University of Washington is an overview of STEM and people with disabilities. DO-IT and BreakThru are National Science Foundation Alliance projects.

Schoolkids’ Bee Study Lands in Prestigious Journal

“A group of elementary schoolchildren in Devon, England recently made a study on how bees identify colors that is, well, groundbreaking. They may be kids, but for the editors of ‘Biology Letters’, their research was anything but child’s play — in fact, it’s being hailed as “a genuine advance in the field” — so much so, the prestigious journal has decided to publish it.” – Treehugger, a Discovery Company by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Scientific Research for Everyone

Today, right now, anyone can do important research if you know how to design an experiment. Or you can accept one of the many opportunities to join existing research endeavors like those offered by NASA, the Discovery Channel, CEISMIC (Georgia Institute of Technology), and others all over the world. Bring enthusiasm.

Who takes STEM classes?

Spock was a STEM graduate, Captain Kirk was a STEM graduate; in fact, everyone on the starship Enterprise (2009) was a STEM graduate.

While that may sound like an exaggeration, on 21st Century Earth the study of STEM is more exciting than even a science-fiction movie.

Actually, many of the people who made the 2009 Star Trek movie have STEM backgrounds. Special effects, computer modeling, graphics, robotics, and storyline all come from STEM knowledge.

Can you write a story about time travel without some basis in science, physics, and math? Can you make a starship or its model without engineering, technology, and computers? But even if you don’t want to go where no one has gone before, if you want to do anything with your life, you will probably need STEM smarts to succeed.

  • Want to work in the music recording industry?
  • Think we can make solar power replace fossil fuels?
  • Want to take care of animals? Want to help heal people?
  • Got an idea for a new video game or social web site?
  • Do you want to invent a new kind of electric instrument?
  1. Want to help the victims of natural disasters rebuild?
  2. Want to predict the weather?
  3. Want to make a car that gets 100 miles per gallon?

Social Networking, the Internet, and Computer Games

  • Want to Tweet, Poke, Prod, share, follow, or friend? All brought to you by STEM scholars and graduates.
  • Youtube, Pandora, Google, and everything on or over the Internet were brought to you by STEM folk. Some of them even created their applications in their spare time (but they had STEM knowledge

NASA Quest Challenges

NASA Quest Challenges are Web-based, interactive explorations designed to engage students in authentic scientific and engineering processes. The solutions relate to issues encountered daily by NASA personnel. Why not take the challenge? Read more.

If the classroom is boring

Unfortunately, many schools have been forced to teach more and more students more and more quickly, and what is lost is the excitement that should be part of every subject, but especially the STEM classes.

We exist in a STEM relevant world and universe. We are controlled by the laws of nature, physics, and math. We use what we learn and invent to make the world better, safer, more fun. While much of what we accomplish may begin in the classroom, those who want more out of life never let it end there. Learning never stops, but our excitement about learning is up to us.

It’s up to you to be Learner-centric

If we’re really lucky we’ll have several teachers who inspire us and get us excited about learning. However, you can make learning fun and excite for yourself.

Take charge of your education; create your own classroom; do your own research; ask the big questions. With the Internet, you never have to be alone in your endeavors. With Mentoring and BreakThru, you will find more worlds and opportunities opening up for you.

BREAKTHRU is a Mentoring and Empowering Program

Too many students have been told that STEM is too hard or that they aren’t smart enough to do good work. STEM can be difficult, but it is made too difficult by poor or lazy or misguided teachers. STEM study is for everyone even if you don’t intend to pursue a career in one of the disciplines.

Too many students are not aware that they can do real science at any age, that they can do research on important issues, that they can help map the universe, that they can make a difference. And make a difference today, not four years from now, but today.

Mentoring can certainly help you with your classes, but more importantly, mentoring can help you apply what you have learned in STEM classes to the things, projects, and ideas that excite you.

BreakThru can help you gain the confidence that others have denied you. Numbers aren’t scary; science isn’t scary; computers and technology are scary, and a car or building isn’t scary. What’s scary are those who teach us to aim too low, to be afraid of the world around us, to be on the outside looking in. STEM is your doorway to new worlds both real and virtual, and BreakThru is your guide to those worlds.

BREAKTHRU: A Virtual and Real World Experience in STEM

Each student participating in BreakThru will have a mentor assigned. Students and mentors will have virtual face-to-face interaction for at least 1 hour/week. Mentors and students may also combine their time for larger group discussions or tutorials.

The mission of BreakThru is to empower students with disabilities to enroll and succeed in STEM classes or programs.

BreakThru is also working on a range of conversation topics meant to empower students in life as well as learning. Some of these conversations include “Mastering Testing Anxiety” “Acquiring Financial Aid” “Time and Project Management” “Study Skills” “Note Taking Strategies” and “Seeking Help from the Learning Institutions.” Mentors will also be completing BreakThru conversations, and teams can use the content to form the foundation of mentoring sessions each week.

Second Life – students, mentors, guest presenters, administrators, and others will meet on BreakThru Island. Second Life is a virtual world where users create their own avatars (representations of themselves) that move and interact with others and the environment. Besides serving as a mentoring platform, it will also enable communication among the BreakThru community. Everyone will be given training in using Second Life as an interactive learning environment.

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