Monday, April 29, 2013

White House Science Fair and other STEM education news

The featured story for this week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (White House Science Fair) on Daily Kos came from the Washington Post with video from Discovery News on YouTube.

Whiz Kid Inventors Invade The White House

Trace joins President Obama in Washington DC for the 3rd Annual White House Science Fair. Watch as young inventors show off everything from portable windmills to underwater robots!
Robots, biofuel, whiz kids at the White House Science Fair
By Lyndsey Layton
Published: April 22
In his dark blue business suit, President Obama climbed onto a bicycle anchored to the ground outside the White House. He pedaled in his polished dress shoes, generating electricity to run a water sanitation system built by a group of Florida teenagers.

He peered into a flask of green liquid containing a new breed of algae that was created by a 17-year-old Colorado girl who wants to solve the country’s energy problems.

And he shook hands with three small boys from Georgia who dreamed up a system to automatically cool down and hydrate sweating athletes.

“Keep in mind, they’re in third, fourth grade, and they’ve already got this idea,” Obama said. “If you’re inventing stuff in the third grade, what are you going to do by the time you get to college?”
I hope the answer is use science and technology to help with our environmental issues.

Follow over the jump for more stories aabout STEM education from Daily Kos.

LiveScience: What Does the Average American Know About Science?
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 22 April 2013 Time: 06:03 PM ET
Can you identify the gas that makes up most of Earth's atmosphere? If yes, you may be surprised to be among the minority in the United States. (Hint: It's not oxygen.) But if you know which kind of radiation that sunscreen protects against, you're in good company.

The American public's knowledge of basic science and technology varies widely, according to the results of a 13-question survey by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine.

About 78 percent of the public know red blood cells carry oxygen to the body, whereas 83 percent know sunscreen protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, the poll found. Most know the Earth isn't such a static place, with 77 percent choosing "True" over "False" when told that the continents have been moving for millions of years and will keep moving in the future.
LiveScience: "Just a Theory": 7 Misused Science Words
Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Date: 01 April 2013 Time: 05:52 PM ET
Hypothesis. Theory. Law. These scientific words get bandied about regularly, yet the general public usually gets their meaning wrong.

Now, one scientist is arguing that people should do away with these misunderstood words altogether and replace them with the word "model." But those aren't the only science words that cause trouble, and simply replacing the words with others will just lead to new, widely misunderstood terms, several other scientists said.

"A word like 'theory' is a technical scientific term," said Michael Fayer, a chemist at Stanford University. "The fact that many people understand its scientific meaning incorrectly does not mean we should stop using it. It means we need better scientific education."
Scientific American: To Attract More Girls to STEM, Bring More Storytelling to Science
By Anna Kuchment
April 16, 2013
Women and girls are historically underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields and much has been written lately about why girls in school seem disinterested in these areas.  As STEM becomes more important in our increasingly interconnected global society, it becomes even more imperative that educators find ways to encourage girls to participate in these fields.

A few weeks ago, researchers at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Michigan released the results of a study that reflected many girls’ antipathy toward all things STEM.  The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, tracked about 1500 college-bound students over a decade and found that more women had the highest scores on both the math and the verbal portion of the SAT test than their male counterparts.  These women were more likely to pursue non-STEM careers after graduation even though they excelled in those fields in school. As the principal researcher of the study, Ming-Te Wang, summarizes, “This highlights the need for educators and policy makers to shift the focus away from trying to strengthen girls’ STEM-related abilities and instead tap the potential of these girls who are highly skilled in both the math and verbal domains to go into STEM fields.”  We couldn’t agree more.

As educators in a STEM-focused high school, we come in contact with intellectually gifted female scientists every day–albeit young ones.  We also know there aren’t enough of them.   As a school, we struggle to attract young women who want to attend an engineering-focused high school in the first place.  In our time here, we’ve never had more girls than boys in any given class. Too often, our gender ratio is lopsided.  We know that this is not a result of ability.  As the Pittsburg-Michigan study showed, and what we experience every day in our classrooms, is that there is no shortage of girls who could successfully pursue anything they wanted.  The girls in our school are brilliant and many do pursue careers in STEM-related fields.  However, some choose not to, and other smart girls never even make it through our front door. Why not?
Science News for Kids: Teens seek invention protection
Increasingly, young researchers seek patents to defend their innovations against theft
By Kellyn Betts
March 20, 2013
Naomi Chetan Shah didn’t think much about the air inside her Portland, Ore., home until she was 11. Then the sixth grader began to wonder why her father and brother always had watery eyes and runny noses. They suffered all year. That seemed to rule out seasonal allergies often caused by the pollen from blooming flowers, trees, grasses and weeds.

It took Naomi until high school to sleuth out what caused her family’s health problems. She even invented a computer program to help others diagnose similar problems. Her project earned her a spot as a finalist in this year’s Intel Science Talent Search (STS). This premier research competition is for students in their last year of high school. The Society for Science & the Public (which also publishes Science News for Kids) developed and runs the prestigious science competition.

While Naomi, now 17, hopes her computer program can help others, she doesn’t want anyone to steal her invention either. So she’s seeking to patent it. Governments offer patents for new inventions. These can include new processes, devices, substances or even plant varieties. Anyone who develops such a novelty can submit an application to the government.
Scientific American: North Carolina Citizens Are Not the Problem
By Scott Huler
March 8, 2013
I’ve complained a lot in this space about North Carolina’s state legislature and governor fighting against science, and unless something drastically changes I probably will continue to do so. But a new survey makes an excellent counterpoint, and something North Carolina’s citizenry should be screaming as often as possible:

We are not the problem!
That's good news.   Too bad that North Carolina's politicians think they're King Canute.

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