Sunday, March 28, 2010

Science in High Schools

The Times had a nice article about the high school robotics competition that happened over the weekend at Key Arena. That is if you can get past the first two paragraphs:

It takes a special kid to get excited about engineering.

Even if their hearts cry out for angles and gears, their peers often call out "nerd" and "geek," and the thrill dies.

For Pete's sake, enough with the belief that any kid interested in math or science is a nerd or geek. It's just pathetic and by writing these same old tired beliefs, journalists keep them alive.

For all the mohawks and plastic gladiator caps, there was learning going on at Seattle's FIRST Robotics Competition. It is the event's second year in Seattle, after one year in Tacoma.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a New Hampshire nonprofit that organizes techie competitions to encourage kids to major in engineering and other sciences.

The robotics competition entry fee is $6,000 and includes basic parts for a robot. Teams line up their own corporate sponsors and throw fundraisers.

Many teams spend considerably more spiffing up their machines and promoting themselves with T-shirts, Web sites and other gewgaws. Selling their product is part of the competition, just like in the business world.

Boeing project engineer Darin Gee laments that schools do not financially back the program like they do football, baseball and basketball — endeavors few students will do professionally.

I thought that last line was interesting because over in Bellevue at their budget forums, the district laid out losing wrestling, swimming and tennis but what about the biggest cost football? (Yes, I know boosters pay for a lot but it is not cost-free.) Maybe we should encourage kids to be interested in activities that add to what they are learning. (Not discounting arts or sports but kids are in school for academics.)

This from the comments:

On the other side of the Sound, 342 students showed off their science and engineering projects in Bremerton Friday & Saturday at the Washington State Science and Engineering Fair.


SolvayGirl said...

Melissa. I agree with your assessment until the end. I think visual art is fast becoming an "academic" endeavor. Journalism is now a multi-media profession (my alma mater offers a degree in journalism that includes web design, photography and visual art), and many business people are responsible for developing reports with visuals, etc. Graphic design and publishing (as you know) are viable fields, and drawing (aka illustration) is also a marketable skill. So I would not discount art as something that shouldn't be supported by schools—at least I wouldn't put it in the same league as sports. Yes, some kids may go on to become sports stars, and sports can get kids college scholarships, but I'll bet there are a lot more working artists than there are football players.

Maureen said...

For Pete's sake, enough with the belief that any kid interested in math or science is a nerd or geek. It's just pathetic and by writing these same old tired beliefs, journalists keep them alive.


Obviously, journalists are insecure.

Unknown said...

I agree with Maureen. The term Nerd and Geek are being taken up with pride by large sections of young adult and youth society. It is nerdy to love robots and it's geeky to learn how to build them. What the article doesn't mention is that when you take your Nerdiness and add some Geek credentials that equates to a whole lot of AWESOME!

hschinske said...

It's one thing if people claim the words nerd and geek proudly. It's quite another to throw them around on the *assumption* that kids who are interested in science will be nerdy or geeky. For one thing, those words heavily imply that there is a "type" who is interested in science -- a "type" that, among other things, conveniently happens not to include a whole lot of poor kids or kids of color, and is pretty short on girls.

We're losing scientists to such stereotypes, and, almost more important, we're losing science literacy.

Helen Schinske

Lloyd from OfficeDeskReviews said...

I totally agree with Maureen. Neither does an interest imply a full dedication, nor does it state a fixation.