By MEAGHAN ZIEMBA, Associated Editor, Product Design & Development (PD&D)
A recent editorial we posted discussing the FIRST competitions, by BWC President Pamela Kan, caused me to go home and ask my daughter the question we all answered at some point during our childhood, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I believe my answers were a rock star and the tooth fairy.
“A dancer and a swim teacher,” she replied as she watched Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place while eating a hotdog and cheddar Sunchips. I looked at her a bit confused because I don’t ever recall hearing someone claim that they wanted to be a swim teacher. Most parents want to hear the standard answers, such as a doctor, lawyer, nurse, engineer, etc.; or the fantasy answers: princess, robot, superhero and tooth fairy; or the famous: racecar driver, movie or rock star or singer.
Not my daughter. She wants to be a swim teacher, and though I was shocked by her answer, I didn’t ridicule or tell her it was impossible or irrational. I told her to keep practicing so she can become a stronger swimmer/dancer and pass her skills on to those that follow. Since our conversation, she has pushed herself harder in her swim classes and has become quite the fish.
Getting back to Pamela Kan’s column, she states that “FIRST is devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, engineering, technology and math.” She continues describing the FIRST competitions and the different levels that they have for students who compete.
“It is an experience that is hard to actually put into words. To see an arena full of kids cheering each other on and having a great time building something, using their minds to solve problems and learning how to operate within a team is mind blowing. The energy generated by these kids could power a city if it was possible to harness it all,” explains Kan.
Her amazement and appreciation reminded me of another organization, Nerd Girls, which is dedicated to boosting women’s confidence and self-esteem, and pursuing careers in science and math.
Both organizations recognized decreasing student interest in various technological fields. Whether it’s due to intimidation, lack of self-confidence and esteem, or shyness; both organizations attempt to address the issue, by offering hands-on opportunities to create and solve problems by simply applying imagination and the knowledge they have gained throughout their short lives.
Encouragement and support are two main components for the success of these organizations. Students need to know that mistakes lead to success, imagination leads to creation and anything is possible with the right amount of confidence.
So, while I was shocked by my daughter’s response, I supported her imagination because I know it’s what children need to feel invincible towards those who say, “No, you can’t do it;” and give her the confidence to respond, “Yes, I can.”
What other organizations are out there to help motivate younger generations to apply themselves to more challenging tasks? What other tactics can be pursued to get kids more interested in the technological fields? Share your thoughts and comments below or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org.