“Play is the highest form of research.”
-- Albert Einstein
Happy early Pi day! The official date is March 14 – or 3.14 – hence the name Pi Day. In case you’ve forgotten, those are the first three digits of the irrational number Pi, that never-ending string of numbers that represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. If you feel cheated by the name, pie is the preferred dessert on 3.14 as well.
Over the years, we’ve used the occasion of Pi Day to talk about developing the next generation of innovators: Our youth (Pi Day, Robots and the Joy of Making Things), who someday will be writing the code for the vehicle whisking you from home to the grocery store.
In this spirit, I’m sharing a recent experience I had as one of several volunteer judges for the Kettering University Young Innovators Fair. Beginning in Minneapolis, the Young Innovators program has local, regional, and national competitions. The winner of the Kettering fair will move on to the Invention Convention Michigan at the Henry Ford--and then those winners will have a chance to compete in a pool of 500 students, kindergarten through 12th grade, at the Invention Convention U.S. Nationals. This year the entire event will be held virtually.
The actual judging took place on March 1 and 2, and reviewing the submissions was pure joy because of the creativity and enthusiasm that came through, even with a virtual format. Ideas ranged from voice-activated dog-treat dispensers to an augmented reality projection and input device that would make Tony Stark envious.
The evaluation was against about a dozen criteria in the broad categories of invention impact, inventing process, and inventor communications. The students, ours representing grades 3 through 8, could also upload images of the mock-ups of their inventions, their invention logbooks, or anything else they thought would help share their thinking. As I read one logbook with obscure references to Marvel comic characters, I couldn’t help but think of the kids who hang out together in the show “Stranger Things.” They were really into their project.
With Pi Day and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning as a backdrop, consider researching options to excite future generations to embrace careers in science and technology fields. I guarantee you will have fun along the way, especially if you incorporate a nice piece of lemon méringue pie. Think Spring.
What to do next:
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