By Bevil Wooding
Global STEM-Design Competition Provides Opportunity to Bolster Caribbean Education
Scientists, from Aristotle and Einstein through to the great inventors of our generation have long extolled the value of curiosity to the process of discovery and innovation. Humans have an extraordinary capacity for continuous learning. The basic questions of “Why?” and “How?” are common in childhood. However, without incentive or opportunity, that natural curiosity can fade as we move into adulthood.
Bevil Wooding is the chief knowledge officer of Congress WBN, a values-based, international charity and the executive director of BrightPath Foundation, a technology education non-profit organization. Reach him on Twitter @bevilwooding or on facebook.com/bevilwooding or contact via email
Creating and maintaining a healthy scientific curiosity about the world around us is the foundation of lifelong learning. It is also one of the drivers behind a new global initiative, called Cubes in Space™, designed for students aged 11-14 years old to develop STEM-based experiments for launch into space.
STEM is an acronym referring to the academic disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The Cubes In Space™ program is a no-cost, global design competition that is part of a collaboration with Rubik Learning Initiative, the US Space Agency, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, idoodlesoftware inc. and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium's RockSat C program, to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the universally popular Rubik's Cube.
“Leveraging the excitement of space exploration, the Cubes in Space program offers students and educators the opportunity to learn about the methodology for taking an idea from design through the review process. Such knowledge and skills are essential for 21st century learners, workers, and citizens” said Amber Agee-DeHart, Founder of the Cubes in Space program.
In a technology-enabled world, skillsets in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are foundational to the jobs and careers of the future. In emerging markets like Latin America and the Caribbean, STEM professions are crucial to sustaining development and addressing the complex challenges that must be overcome to build communities and transform nations. The problems of the future need solutions-oriented thinkers to be nurtured today.
"The goals of the Cubes in Space program are to show students the interconnections between STEM concepts and to teach students to become analytical and effective thinkers capable of taking more difficult courses and pursuing technical careers in the future,” said Agee-DeHart.
Agee-DeHart is part of the Rubik Learning Initiative (RLI), which provides educational tools, programs and global expertise “to foster the development of creative and multilateral thinking”. She explained that Cubes in Space initiative will expose students and educators to RLI-developed, content and activities to prepare them for the design and development of an experimental payload to be deployed into a small 40mm Cube.
“To keep the students engaged between submission of their projects and the actual launch date, students would be given online access to a resource website where they will be able to interact with virtual mentors from the engineering design team members,” said Robert Sowah, CEO of Idoodlesoftware Inc (www.idoodlesoftware.com)., a Canada-based education software company that is supporting the initiative.
Sowah explained that Cube projects selected from around the world will be loaded into a canister to be launched via sounding rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, VA in late June 2014.
A video of the Cubes in Space launch will be available for all participants to view the progress of the stages before launch such as packing of their payload into the canister and integration into the rocket. After the launch, each project will be returned to the schools or organizations for students to observe and examine the effects of spaceflight and analyze the data. A formal survey and evaluation process accompanies the entire program to measure the degree to which goals and objectives were met and to learn ways to improve the program for the following years.
Students from the Caribbean have the opportunity compete with their counterparts from around the world to have their experiments launched into space. The payload will later be returned to the students for analysis.
In the region, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC); regional Internet and cable service provider, Columbus International Inc.; the BrightPath Foundation, a technology-education non-profit, and the Caribbean Science Foundation; are collaborating to promote the competition in schools and youth organizations across the Caribbean.
Didacus Jules, CEO of CXC, the examining body that provides educational certifications in 21 English and Dutch speaking Caribbean Territories, is excited about the possibility for the Caribbean to be part of the initiative:
"Realizing the creative and intellectual potential of the Caribbean requires a multidisciplinary approach, both inside and outside of the classroom. Initiatives such as these should be encouraged and commended.”
Teachers and educators around the world can register online for the Cubes in Space program through the website http://www.cubesinspace.com
The final registration date is April 18th, 2014 with the launch into space via sounding rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, USA, on June 26, 2014.
Registrants will be given access to the background and instructional materials, lessons, and activities that would prepare students for the design through to the review process.
Once registered, students will be required to create a succinct proposal presentation that explains and pitches their design to be submitted as part of their application for spaceflight. Winning designs will be announced at the end of April and receive their Cubes in which to integrate their payload.
Further details on the terms and conditions for the competition are available on the cubesinspace.com website.