The future is exciting, and that, of course, means that the jobs of the future also hold exciting possibilities for those who have the skills and knowledge to build and innovate. This is why many advocates in education are emphasising a strong STEM foundation to make this promising future a reality for today’s kids. Skills and knowledge of STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, can be built even when kids are not sitting in a classroom.
This academic article about engineering, for example, talks about various research-based strategies that educators can use to improve engineering education. We see three takeaways for parents here, too, regarding how they can cultivate and support these skills in their kids, which will be critical for their future career prospects in whatever field they pursue.
Get children involved with design early
This is, after all, the heart of engineering: coming up with a better device or an improved designed to make tasks easier, faster and cheaper. But the problem is our educational approach to engineering tends to emphasise the foundational math and science rather than hands-on design. Fortunately, design is interesting and engaging, and when kids get a chance to build something with their hands, that can give them the confidence and motivation to pursue the academic side. Solving problems by building with LEGO Bricks at a Bricks 4 Kidz workshop is one powerfully simple way to accomplish this.
Engineers themselves use models for the simple fact that it’s very difficult for the brain to reason through all the layers present in one design. Children should also use models to help them learn abstract concepts. This can come in many forms: graphs, diagrams, mathematical equations, prototypes. These tools lessen the “cognitive overload” of thinking though abstract concepts and make them clearer. Lighten the load and connect the dots.
Great design is redesign
Consider an invention that you use every day. Take the microwave oven. It would be easy to tally up an impressive list of differences between your modern model and the original countertop model that went to market in the late 1960s. Yours is cheaper, lighter, uses less energy, is easier to open and use, and is simply more reliable. Now we’re starting to see models with smart features that can respond to commands from our smart phones. That’s because, from the beginning, engineers were put to work to improve the design. An invention is never finished. That’s a principle in engineering that is seldom applied in school, but you can cultivate this at home. Encourage kids to take a look at something in their design and come up with ideas to improve it — and then do it!