Engineer, astronaut, athlete, politician or fashion designer. While these may seem like unrelated career paths, young people may be surprised to know that the fundamental skills needed to design their own fashion line are more similar than they might think to those needed to traverse the outer regions of the solar system.
Whether it’s running for political office or pitching the perfect game, a program called Broadcom Presents: Design_CODE_Build encourages middle school students to explore their own passions through the lens of science technology, engineering, math (STEM). Students engage in hands-on activities that require collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and communication—skills that are crucial in academic study, the workplace and all aspects of life.
To develop these skills, Kate McGregor, education programs consultant, community programs, at the Computer History Museum, developed a day-long curriculum designed to help students think differently about classes and careers in math and computer science. Broadcom Presents: Design_CODE_Build, developed by the Broadcom Foundation and Computer History Museum introduces more than 100 under-served Bay Area middle schoolers to the ins and outs of computer coding – in a fun way.
Last month, middle school students from all walks of life in Silicon Valley met a real-life female tech rock star – Celine Geiger, a reliability engineer at Tesla. She designs innovative and unique parts in the popular electric car, such as the mechanical door handle that recedes into the door as a streamlining, energy saving feature. Geiger says that she “grew up breaking things” and now uses this skill at her job.
“When things break, I work to understand how and why, then test and retest them until they don’t break,” Geiger said. She urged the audience “learn from failure and don’t give up.”
Watch Geiger’s talk at the Computer History Museum:
The ability to persevere to solve problems and to create, is an essential 21st Century Skill along with critical thinking, collaboration and communication. These skills were put to the test when students were tasked with navigating a life-sized maze by coding and working in teams. Students read a code to their partner and then, without speaking and using only simple directional signs, debug their code to successfully walk through the maze.
Throughout the day, students explored exhibitions and learned computing history and historic methods of programming, the benefits of being at the Computer History Museum. The ability to learn from the past as we “design, code and build” the future, is a powerful tool.
Another activity featured students working in groups of three to assemble and program a Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized computer powered with a Broadcom chip.
With help from volunteers, including Broadcom Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales Michael Hurlston and Associate Technical Director David Garrett, instructors guided the students to type simple commands on the Raspberry Pi to achieve a result – in this case, to play a tune, a fun way to learn the basics of computer coding. The students used coding loops and random numbers to play songs on Sonic Pi, a free live coding synth that also works on Mac OS X and Windows.
“Coding is really about math and communication, and can be a lot of fun once you get the hang of it,” Broadcom’s Garrett said. They also helped students understand the career possibilities if they continue with these subjects in school.
Watch Garrett get students excited for the day:
From fashion design to reliability engineering, “it is almost impossible to find a career that doesn’t require knowledge of STEM in some way these days,” McGregor said.