Superheroes are a huge part of the popular culture. Originally the fodder of comic book geeks and sci-fi obsessed teenagers, their fan base has grown substantially, capturing the imaginations of millions who watch cinematic blockbuster after blockbuster of these comic book characters brought to life on the big screen, as they save people from dangerous situations, and planets from Armageddon using their special or superhuman powers.
A question about superheroes that has crossed the minds of many is: Are the powers of superheroes in the realm of fantasy and science fiction, or do the thousands of characters created by comic book publishers and movie makers have some grounding in reality? We’d like to believe that they do.
What does all of this have to do with STEAM learning at Nord Anglia Education schools? The answer is everything! This year’s theme for the MIT Challenges is STEAM Superheroes! At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) elements of heroism can be found all across their campus, in the areas of high-tech gadgets and wearables at the aeronautics and astronautics department, to animal-inspired improvements at the mechanical engineering department and life-saving technologies at the biological engineering department. These three areas highlight advancements that were once the stuff of fantasy or science-fiction. Today, these wearables and technological developments each represent the on-going work of an MIT professor, and gives a snapshot into the superhero stuff they’re working on. Now, NAE students can grab a piece of the action and connect to the teaching and learning culture of MIT rooted in the research of MIT faculty.
“The opportunity to do challenges with MIT in school is really about helping our students to work on current, latest research that’s happening right now at MIT”, says Mark Orrow-Whiting, Director of Curriculum and Student Performance at Nord Anglia Education.
Linking the heroic, cutting-edge research work happening at MIT to superheroes in today’s popular culture is a fun and unique entry point into STEAM learning, enabling them to pick up some of the 21st century skills NAE schools have been working hard to promote, says Orrow-Whiting.
Last year’s MIT Challenges were centred around similar ideas, under the theme Navigating Tomorrow. Students explored the needs of the future of transportation, including driver-less cars, sustainable fuel sources and how air travel (including aircraft design) could change to lessen its carbon footprint on the environment.
“MIT is really all about interdisciplinary, project-based, collaborative, student-led learning. That’s what they do with their students. The collaboration with Nord Anglia is about helping our teachers, and through our teachers, our students experience those same things.”