With a growing need to empower and encourage more students around the world in STEM disciplines, WPI’s Global STEM Education Initiative leverages the university’s expertise and resources to help other countries and underserved schools in the United States provide affordable, high-quality K-12 STEM education. the world needs now.
For more than 50 years, WPI has shared its expertise and resources to grow the STEM pipeline, inspire and equip the next generation of STEM leaders, support educators introducing students to STEM, and collaborate with global partners in their own communities. With the programming, resources, activities, and support provided by this initiative, WPI is increasing its work with educators around the world to personalize and improve their STEM education systems.
“WPI has recognized the importance of the global demand for STEM education for a long time,” says Joseph Doiron, director of the initiative, assistant professor at The Global School, and co-director of the Global Lab. “At the core of WPI’s value proposition there is hands-on STEM teaching and learning. That is always the starting point. When you combine that with our global presence in more than 50 project centers around the world, we come equipped with a global network of relationships that is unlike anywhere else. We partner with people who share our commitment to making the most of the teams’ multidisciplinary knowledge and lived experience. We are already doing it with local communities and around the world.”
Whether it’s engaging students in STEM at the Farm Stay Project Center’s working farm and educational nature center in Paxton, Massachusetts, or using project-based learning modules to establish a consistent method for training teachers in Africa with Mathematics and Science for Sub-Saharan Africa (MS4SSA), WPI’s approach is holistic and purposeful. As the world continues to face increasingly complex challenges, a more diverse population of professionals who can bring different lenses, experiences, questions and passions to the lab and boardroom is essential. The creation, translation and implementation of new technologies and scientific knowledge to benefit the health and well-being of all will depend on the inclusion of many perspectives.
“Where there is a world that really needs STEM to develop, there is a new generation of young people on many levels who really need STEM to develop their full potential.” -Wole Soboyejo
While STEM concepts are rooted in concrete principles, WPI Interim President Wole Soboyejo emphasizes that dreams, imagination and curiosity are essential to truly understanding those principles and driving the work needed to make them a reality. new and innovative ways, all for the benefit of humanity. Both the concrete principles of science and creative imagination are critical to preparing and inspiring the STEM leaders of tomorrow.
“If you dream big, even when you have very limited resources, the size of your dreams determines the scope of your impact,” says Soboyejo. “For me, as important as getting kids excited about STEM, we need to encourage them to dream big and surround themselves with people who encourage and nurture that dream.”
That philosophy took center stage this month at the FIRST Global Challenge, an annual Olympic Games-style international robotics competition that brought together high school teams from over 180 countries in Geneva, Switzerland, in the spirit of solving global challenges together.
For the competition, WPI and DEKA Research and Development Corp. partnered to create the Experiential Robotics Platform (XRP), a simple and easy-to-build experiential robotics kit. The project was partially supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation through the Engineering For Us All (E4USA) organization and allows each team to take home one kit from the first version, nearly 200 in all. As part of the robotics kit, teams gain access to a WPI-developed curriculum that helps educators create lesson plans around it.
Robotics has proven to be an excellent and adaptable tool for engaging students’ curiosity and stimulating broader interest in STEM. Regardless of the user’s age, once robotics concepts, from math and computing to engineering and physics, are applied when building or programming a robot, the ideas become concrete and useful.
“A fun, tangible tool like a robot is a great entry point into STEM for students to see the potential of their own reflections,” says Soboyejo. “The best thing about dreaming is that it ignites your effort and then translates the dream into reality.”