Earlier this month we celebrated Women’s Day and the launch of our #MAKEWHATSNEXT campaign, designed to empower women and girls in science and technology to achieve more. A recent study conducted by Microsoft revealed that most girls become interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) at the age of 11-and-a-half, but interest cools around the age of 15. The opportunity for immersive learning through simulations and gaming is humbling, but Microsoft Education isn’t alone in working to ensure that STEM is available to everyone, and to enable every student to reach their full potential. We want to celebrate just some of our inspirational partners who support us in our aim:
Many people have played with LEGO® bricks, but they may not be aware of how they’re being used in classrooms around the world. LEGO® Education offers playful learning experiences and teaching solutions, based on the LEGO® system of bricks, in curriculum-relevant material, as well as physical and digital resources for preschool, elementary, middle school and after school. FIRST® LEGO® League, created in collaboration with the non-profit organization FIRST®, is one of their programs that introduces students ages 9 to 16 to the fun and excitement of STEM subjects. FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. helps capture the curiosity of younger students, ages 6 to 10, who design, build, program, test and present a LEGO® model based on LEGO® Education WeDo 2.0. (WeDo was specifically designed to cater to girls and there also happens to be an app for Windows 10.)
On the subject of gamification in our classrooms: Luke Doyle, a teacher in the UK, learned that “over 85 percent of all characters in games are male.” To address this, Luke launched SwopBots, a game revolving around two children who have been raised by robots, now finding themselves stranded on an alien planet .
The children, named Loop and Switch, can overcome any challenge thrown at them by working together and using their knowledge of electronics, coding and engineering. By combining storytelling through both books and games, and by featuring a strong and intelligent female character in Switch, Swopbots hopes to connect with those students, especially girls, who have not yet been attracted to the world of computer science.
But it’s not only teachers who are seeing challenges around students wanting to focus on STEM. Siobhan Mullen, an entrepreneur with a successful career in the space industry and supported by her background in high-energy physics and optical engineering, was concerned by the lack of STEM graduates. She took a hiatus from her space career to become part of the solution.
Siobhan’s company, SAS Games, Inc., created TiViTz, a math and strategy game that sharpens math skills, encourages critical thinking and remains fun at the same time. Working with game creator Steve Scully, the team started TiViTz as a board game, but it has since evolved into an app with strong Microsoft Office 365 Education integration. Students can play against the computer or challenge an opponent anywhere in the world.
With the current skills shortage in the workplace, educational institutions around the world are starting STEM programs early. Tynker, a coding program that reaches students as young as kindergarten age, offers gamified courses and activities that introduce coding through puzzles, interactive lessons, and open-ended projects. And with Office 365 Single Sign On (SSO) coming soon, Tynker will become even easier to use in the classroom.
Tynker also runs a Featured Maker program, which recognizes their makers’ hard work and lets them share their stories and motivation. Participants are selected based on their coding projects, so it is especially exciting to learn that, to date, more girls than boys have been featured purely due to their creativity and their love of logic and technology.
In the Maker community, creativity and the do-it-yourself culture intersect with technology and the hacker culture. In 2014, Microsoft rolled out the Windows Developer program for IoT, embracing the principle of openness that is core to the Maker movement. Raspberry Pi, one of the Maker community’s favorite platforms, is now part of Microsoft Azure IoT Starter Kits for Windows 10, incorporating Microsoft development tools, services, and resources.
Finally, we’ll touch on a great role model for the STEM industry: Limor Fried, also known as Ladyada, Founder and CEO of Adafruit Industries. Fried’s mission is to “to show everybody in the world how fun and creative it is to be an engineer.” Adafruit creates unique and fun do-it-yourself electronics and kits which drive to this aspiration.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, Microsoft and Adafruit all partnered to create a Raspberry Pi kit for Windows 10, which includes compatible components, sensors and parts, and provides starter projects that help users understand the basics of different IoT technologies.
Working together with our partners, we want to ensure that our children know a world where any girl can aspire to be an engineer, and where every student is free to achieve their full potential.