Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Manufacturing and STEM

Manufacturing skills--designing and creating the materials, parts, and products that we use every day--are a sometimes-overlooked outcome of a solid STEM background. Last week, President Obama announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a coalition of government, universities, and private enterprise to invest in and support manufacturing in the United States. According to Science Insider, such a partnership was a recommendation of a recent PCAST (Presidents' Council of Advisors on Science and Technology) report. A key component of the report included a National Science Foundation solicitation for a National Robotics Initiative to "accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people."

Manufacturing brings to mind dim factories, assembly lines, and cookie-cutter products. But modern manufacturing can have quite a different definition. Sophisticated technological components have to be designed and assembled with great skill and precision. Creating new materials that make products more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly can involve developing new manufacturing processes. And the development of robotic technology is being increasingly applied to improving the lives of people around the world, from individuals with disabilities to possibly improving agricultural sustainability.

Project-based STEM learning--a strength of afterschool programs--can lead to a promising career in manufacturing, giving students a potential edge in the global economy and the opportunity to be a driving force in the development of new technologies. Robotics programs in particular offer students the opportunity to develop technological as well as creative skills, and there are many opportunities for doing robotics in afterschool--a recent search in the National After School Science Directory found over 200 robotics teams and robotics-related summer camps across the country. 

Do you have an opportunity for K-12 or college students to develop their STEM skills in out-of-school time? Share it in the Directory! You can also find opportunities in your area in the the Connectory.

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