In the last few years, a lack of highly skilled workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields has resulted in a push for an increased focus on education in those subject areas. STEM subjects, however, can often be fairly dry and have long been seen by some students as "too hard," or perhaps even "boring." To address that issue and put things into perspective, a number of companies are now producing resources that make STEM learning more fun and engaging while focusing on practical applications.
From 3D design tech to Web-based satellite experimentation, these are five of our favorite STEM resources for K-12 and higher education.
1. Dassault Systèmes' SolidWorks
Dassault's SolidWorks 3D design software allows users to create designs and simulate the real-world conditions they'll operate in. An education edition is available containing the premium, simulation, motion, flow simulation, plastics, and sustainability CAD software, as well as a complete curriculum, interactive projects, and more. Additionally, the student edition contains the premium, simulation, motion, flow simulation, plastics, and eDrawings software.
Among higher ed institutions using SolidWorks is Dartmouth College, where the Thayer School of Engineering announced this week that it would expand the integration of the software into its core curriculum. In addition to majors having access, non-major freshmen and sophomores in introductory courses can now use SolidWorks, as well. It is also being used for non-invasive research into brain disorders in Dartmouth's Multimodal Neuroimaging Laboratory.
The zSpace STEM Lab workstation has applications for both K-12 and higher ed classrooms. All together, it includes a special monitor, a stylus, and special glasses (or clip-on lenses). Teachers' stations using the system also have an arm that collects an augmented reality experience for display on a projector, showing 3D objects from the teacher's workstation seemingly floating in front of them on the screen. The Newton's Park application allows students to test physics with a variety of simulations using ramps, balls, and other objects, while Franklin's Lab lets them virtually construct and deconstruct everything from circuits to robots. The Cyber Science 3D application, on the other hand, allows biology students to perform virtual dissections of animals ranging from frogs and tarantulas to dinosaurs, complete with annotations. You can even explore complex pieces of the human anatomy, like the circulatory system and the inner workings of the heart.
A blueprint management app, PlanGrid is also a great resource for students going into construction-related fields. The app boasts over 9 million drawings stored securely in its cloud, with over 40,000 blueprints are uploaded each day, and there's no limit on the number of drawings, blueprints, specifications, information requests, schedules, and other documents a user can upload. Basically, it makes sharing and collaborating that much easier. Among the schools currently using this tool: Stanford, UC-Berkeley, Texas A&M, and Auburn University.
4. The 3D Classroom by Sensavis
With The 3D Classroom, Sweden's Sensavis set out to simplify complex subjects through the use of 3D. With a Standard option offering Flat 3D or a Premium option offering both Flat and Stereoscopic 3D, current content includes Geography (the Solar System, climate, precipitation), Mathematics (geometry), Biology (the human anatomy, photosynthesis, cells), Chemistry (the water molecule), and Physics (forces and parallel forces). Planned content includes a journey to the Earth's center, space diagonals and derivatives, chemical reactions, DNA, light refraction, and engineering topics like levers and structures.
ArduSat aims to put outer space within reach of K-12 students by making it possible for them to create their own satellite experiments and collect real data. In late August, the company announced the launch of a platform that lets students control small satellites and track solar storms and flares. Accompanying curriculum is free to teachers. Available beginning this school year, the first classes to use the Web-based platform are spread across the U.S., Brazil, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, and Israel, and a lucky 15 classes could win the opportunity to perform an experiment with the Association of Space Explorers via the AstroSat Challenge.