With our ever-increasing dependence on gadgets and software and high-tech solutions, the more we need engineers and scientists and inventors and fixers, and one way to help boost those numbers is through effective and engaging STEM programs in education. That may mean stronger traditional academic approaches, but it also may happen through hands-on experiential learning and mentoring, which can be an entry point to STEM education for non-traditional and at-risk students.
One such initiative, MindDrive, which works with students in the urban areas of Kansas City (in both MO and KS), has been using electric car design as one of their focus topics, and students have built several electric vehicles, including ultra-efficient aerodynamic models built on an Indy car chassis. But their latest project is a '67 Karmann Ghia that has been converted to an electric drive model, which will then serve as the beta version of their prototype project, which will eventually be put into production as a kit and targeted to the urban market.
Right now, though, MindDrive is using the Project Karmann Ghia as an awareness-raising exercise for the importance of experiential learning in education, and they're using social media to provide the fuel.
OK, so the car doesn't literally get powered by social media. But as part of the project, the car will only move toward D.C. through social activity that gets generated by it. By sharing the initiative with Tweets, Likes, Posts, or Shares, the car gains "social fuel", which lets it use energy in proportion to that amount of social fuel, and in the process, helps to boost the visibility of programs like this.
If you'd like to give these kids a hand in their mission, use the hashtag #MindDrive in your Tweets, or share their website or video to Facebook. You can also help by signing this petition to "Help incubate and support not-for-profit, experiential learning organizations, like MINDDRIVE, to integrate with US K-12" at WhiteHouse.gov.
"Through highly collaborative environments and one-to-one mentoring, experiential education effectively teaches STEM principles of math, science and technology to students, especially to those who struggle in the classroom but excel through a hands-on approach. Given our nation's rapidly changing employment landscape, now is the time to promote “learning through doing” opportunities that reignite and complement K-12 education.
We propose the federal government validate and support the proliferation of nonprofit experiential education programs that utilize projects with community mentors to help students address socially relevant issues."