Summer STEM Fun for Families – Technology

Summer is almost here.  It’s time to start thinking about how to extend STEM learning while the kids are out of school.  Studies have proven that the students who enter STEM careers tend to have parents who supported their interest at home.  Just a few statistics:

  • As of 2013, 83.8% of US families owned a computer (census.gov)
  • From the same study, 73% of US families owned a computer with broadband access (census.gov)
  • As of 2015, 68% of US adults own a smartphone (PEW Research)
  • From this same study, 73% of teens own or have daily access to a smartphone (PEW Research)
  • As of 2014, 70% of homes with children had tablets or iPads (RJI Mobile Media)

Unfortunately, most children are just using a computer, tablet, or smartphone for game playing, music, or video watching.  This type of use does not teach the technical skills necessary for a  STEM career. These pursuits are also solitary – for the most part they can only be enjoyed by one person at a time or, as is the case with video watching, don’t encourage interaction.  So how can you help your child learn these STEM skills?

How can you make learning technical skills a group (or parent/child) activity?  One way is to purchase a PicoCluster.  A 3-Node PicoCluster can be used by 3 different people at the same time, a 5-Node by 5 different people.  For the price of a lap top or iPad, you can have up to 5 people connected to the computer at the same time, all working and learning together.

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What technical skills can you learn or teach over the summer? 

Create a family website.  Include your children in the designing and content of the website.  You can have the website focus on your family or on something your family enjoys like camping, a favorite sport, or your pet.  There are many companies who offer free websites.  Two of my favorites are Weebly  and Wix.

Have your child start a blog.  The blog can be private and used for journaling about their private thoughts.  Or your child can blog about vacations, sports teams, cooking or other interests.  You can allow your child to send the blog link to family and close friends.  My favorite free blog sites are Weebly, Word Press, and Blogger.

Learn how to code.  A PicoCluster can be used to learn Python, Java, C/C++, Scratch, and other programming languages.  If your child is more advanced, you can also learn Big Data programs like HaDoop, SQL, Apache, and NoSQL.  Learn to make apps using Game Salad.

Use local resources.  Look for summer camps in your community where you kids can learn about robotics.  Lego isn’t the only kid on the block.  Look for underwater robotics by MATE or Sea Perch.  Bristle Brush robots are fun and easy to make, too.  If there are no camps available in your community, purchase a kit and build a robot together.

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The key to learning over the summer is to make it fun.  With these activities, your child will have fun and build their technology knowledge base.