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STEM Education Solution Provider – Makeblock

As a provider of materials for STEAM and STEM education, Makeblock supports every initiative to involve as many students as possible to this multi-faceted approach to learning – ARS Education is one of those initiatives. Based in Sydney, Australia, ARS was founded by a PhD graduate of one of the Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science from the University of Sydney.

To further raise awareness about the benefits of involving STEM education practices into education, Makeblock is sharing an edited, condensed version of Dr. Matthew Pang’s paper, ‘STEM Education: A Proper Approach to Inspire the Next Generation’s Innovation and Intelligence Development’. The full whitepaper is available for download here.

ARS Education’s core objective is to focus on skills and technology that are critical for 21st century learners, including communication, collaboration, critical thinking, complex problem solving and creativity.

During 2017, ARS Education classes expanded from 3 to 13 per weekend, fostering over 500 primary and secondary school students in Sydney.

  • The top selective high school in NSW approached ARS for potential collaboration.
  • The ARS event “Makers Got Talent Coversazione” received sponsorship from the Australian Federal Government.

The secret to successfully running a STEM program will be outlined in this article.

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What aspects of STEM should education focus on?

Not all STEM education aimed programs are necessarily interesting. For example, creating a simple water filter out of a water bottle satisfies the Science outcomes and, as such, can be said to belong to STEM. However, such an activity is straightforward but not challenging. Therefore, it does not engage students. STEM skills are required for a wide range of contexts in the digital economy and should involve technologies at the forefront of the industry, solving real-world problems, ensuring that children acquire strong skills.

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How did ARS deliver the STEM education concepts and develop related skills in class?

a) Build an authentic learning environment

Topics should originate from daily life, bringing genuine life practices and processes into learning situations in a structured manner. Children who have limitations to perform real-life tasks due to their age or other restrictions can be engaged by imaginative tasks. Reverse parking, ambulance simulations, and bar code scanning are some examples of the projects designed for our students.

b) Topics are based on a leveling system design

Students with basic knowledge, experience and skills are able to learn new skills within 10 minutes of joining our class. An immediate reward reinforces their desire for continuous learning. Topics within class levels become more difficult at each step. It takes more than 2 classes (90 minutes each) to complete one project. Our students slowly adapt to and accept greater effort required to finish topics with increased complexity.

c) Brainstorming session to boost students’ confidence

The teacher first provides background knowledge of the topics. Following this, teachers encourage students to suggest various solutions – and even to come up with new problems. There is no single approach and no “right and wrong”. All suggestions are considered for class discussion in order to reach an optimum solution. The quick, real-time feedback from the robot immediately boosts their self-confidence and motivates them to continue learning. Positive feedback is the spirit of our course design and encourages students to achieve better outcomes.

d) Review

Each lesson’s project is based on previous knowledge. This reinforces students’ knowledge and allows them to apply it to new topics. In addition, our review sessions encourage group work and discussion to enhance skills in collaboration.

e) Align content with the Australian curriculum

Our programs are designed to link with the Australian Curriculum with retaining our individual objectives. The four disciplines of STEM are integrated and cohesive – based on real-world applications.

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What are the criteria for delivering STEM programs?

1. Follow the children’s nature to discover knowledge

We believe the best way of learning should be through first-hand experience. Developing children’s curiosity to learn is a critical component. The junior ‘Frog Parade’ project builds an understanding of how the ultrasonic sensor detects objects ahead. Robots are prepared to simulate a frog jumping and stopping. If instructions aren’t followed precisely, the frog always hits the front one – creating a lot of fun in class and prompting students to realise it’s necessary to apply the ultrasonic sensor in this project.

Integrate the digital informational experience with physical world interactions

We consider how to make new information have immediate value and connect with reality. The best way to learn coding is through human machine interface (HMI) technology. Students learn how to set the speed of motors, light up LEDs and how to use sensors in their programs. Students must consider the practical realities of connecting the real and virtual worlds.

2. Establishing logical thought is at the core of the learning process

Learning how to think in a logical way is more important than merely teaching a programming language. We adopt a robot as a our teaching platform and use coding as a tool to help students develop deeper thinking processes.

3. Technology based course design and potential commercialisation

The course covers relevant digital technology knowledge according to the various projects. From the embedded Infra-Red communication function, security topics are introduced to cover the basic understanding of the Internet communication protocol, the principles of network security and data encryption algorithms etc. Students need to research as a group based on the assigned topics, such as encryption and decryption, and present their work in class. Projects are able to develop skills across disciplines, encourage critical thinking and utilise digital technologies – this may set the students on a suitable pathway to a future career.

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STEM education is based on the idea of educating students in an interdisciplinary approach, which actively creates better opportunities for integrating different subjects and themes. If the course can be developed with the existing curriculum carefully, and with teachers equipped with the necessary skills and enthusiasm, this approach is able to provide an enjoyable and effective learning environment for the students and lead them to a significant shift in results.

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