Beyond STEM: A New "STEAM" Challenge for Teens

2012-08-14-ChandaGonzales.jpgBy Chanda Gonzales
Chanda is a Director of Education at XPRIZE.

There is a lot of discussion in the education arena around STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Technology is advancing at a rapid speed and we know that STEM plays a crucial role in a student's education. The challenge is that many students who don't particularly like the subject of math or have difficulty understanding technical language can be apprehensive about getting involved in a project that is labeled as STEM. This notion is critical in how we as teachers, business leaders, and non-profit educators develop projects in which young people can get involved. I believe it is not STEM, but rather "STEAM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), that will move us forward. We have to create projects that involve the arts so that students will be inspired to work on technical projects because it also makes use of their imaginations.


The XPRIZE After Earth Challenge embraces this very notion, offering a fun, engaging way for kids to exercise their creative and technical skills in a team environment. In Phase One of the Challenge, teens (13-17 years old) work with their friends and make a short YouTube video about promoting environmental sustainability in their community.

Ten teams will move onto Phase Two of the Challenge, where they will work over their summer break on creating a unique playfield environment based on the film After Earth. Teams will be provided with a robotics kit that they will use to build and program a rover to move around their playfield as part of the competition. At the culmination, the teams will send in a video showing what they have learned, what they have created and most of all... the FUN that they had. The grand prize winner will have their experience documented on the After Earth DVD.

The contest is free to enter and open to 13-17 year olds from around the world, and is accepting submissions until June 7th. Hopefully, all of the students who are a part of this one-of-a-kind challenge will fall in love with STEAM projects, be inspired and encourage other students in their communities to make more sustainable life choices.

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