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NAE STEAM Week @ MIT 2018

It was the week they had been waiting for! 4 students from BIS HCMC flew all the way to Boston to join 25 other Nord Anglia Education students for STEAM Week @ MIT - a unique, five-day long event packed with STEAM-related challenges, learning and adventure at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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  • NAE STEAM Week @ MIT

The event took place from 29th April – 5th May and was designed by MIT and Nord Anglia Education exclusively for NAE students to form a key part of our collaboration with the world-renowned university to enhance STEAM curricula in our schools.

STEAM Week @ MIT gave our students an opportunity to work with the university’s professors, researchers and students in a series of hands-on workshops covering robotics, coding, gaming, music production, biology, medicine, product design and more. We had called it ‘the opportunity of a lifetime’, but in reality this trip was much more than that for our 4 STEAM enthusiasts; Anya, David, Naomi and Matheo, as explained by Head of Primary ICT & DT, Mr Luke Dyer…

Multidisciplinary interactive workshops

Every day began with breakfast just after 7am which was followed by a whirlwind of lectures, activities, workshops, lessons, performances and visits running through to 9pm each evening. Activities were run by doctoral candidates, postgraduate students, MIT alumni and even MIT professors who ran modifications of the courses they teach.

Workshops happened nearly every day and were multidisciplinary and hands on:

  • Toy Bending involved dismantling electronic preschool toys and then through the use of crocodile clips and potentiometers the students would try and hack the toys to do something that they were not made to do.
  • MMMMaven saw the children learn the basics of being a DJ. They got to spin twin decks and try and match music in a way that was pleasing on the ears as well as kept the beat.
  • An afternoon session run by the MIT Toy Lab began with the students unwrapping toys, playing with them, assessing their playability and target audiences for the toys.
  • STEMGem was a workshop run by two doctoral students. The STEMGem was in fact their doctorate research project which should be on the shelves by the end of the year. It was a kit with sensors and circuit boards that the students connected, coded, plotted in an app and then transformed into a piece of wearable technology similar to a FitBit or Apple Watch.
Using passion to drive learning

Lectures and Q&A sessions were how we started and finished our days. This provided our students with the opportunity to listen to the research that MIT students were undertaking and then ask them a range of questions encouraging enquiry and critical thinking.

MIT believes that students shouldn’t just focus on academics but they should use their passions in life as a method of driving their learning. We heard from inspirational members of the MIT community including one doctorate candidate who shared a virtual reality app that she had created called 'The Enemy'. This app allowed the user to put on a VR Headset and watch a soldier from Palestine and Israel have a discussion. Another session allowed us to hear from a student who was determined to do something different so in her spare time outside of lectures she drives the campus ambulance. This message goes hand-in-hand with the approach we take here at the British International School; to provide an all-round, holistic education personalised to each student’s passions.

I loved all the workshops that we did but my favourite was the STEMGem. I liked this workshop because it gave me the clearest picture on the things that people do at MIT. It was also really cool because I made a smartwatch that actually works and I got to decorate it to make it look nice. I put the movement sensor on my watch so if you go to the watch app website you can see the chart of your movement. Making the watch challenged me to figure out how to do certain things on the website by myself and experiment with new codes to develop my watch and make it more advanced. - Anya Chakrabarty, Year 7

Making every MIT moment count

Activities in the evenings made sure that we made the most of every moment of the trip:

  • Boda Borg was an escape room type activity where students were tasked with solving mental or physical problems in order to progress to the next room.
  • The ‘Women who Mapped the Stars’ was a play that taught us about the women on the Harvard Observatory who were underpaid and undervalued, yet they made many discoveries that changed the way we look at the world today.
  • We also had a tour of Boston on an amphibious vehicle, visited the Museum of Science, MIT Museum and had a guided tour of Harvard, a University older than the United States of America.
Creating and producing real life toys

One of the most popular courses at MIT is 2.009 Product Engineering Process. On the Wednesday we spent the entire day participating in an abridged version of the course that was run by the MIT course facilitator - Professor David Wallace. To focus the event, we looked specifically at the Toy Design process. In a gym the size of three basketball courts students had access to tools, technology, tape and many more creative resources.

The students split into different coloured teams, brainstormed ideas and then created models of two of their ideas. CEOs of different companies were then brought in and the students had to share their models, were asked tricky questions about the product and then had to choose one of the two, redesign and then spent the afternoon making a working product. With this product they had to create a design pitch that they delivered to an audience of over 140 people!

I definitely enjoyed making the toys the most, because it was really fun, and in a way challenging, because we had to make a toy that was interesting, durable and fun for a large audience. It did push me to work harder, because I had to make sure that the toy worked and that people would like it. - Naomi Tran, Year 6

Over the week that was NAE STEAM Week @ MIT Anya, David, Naomi and Matheo were inspired and challenged. They’ve developed transferrable skills such as creativity, curiosity, resilience, resourcefulness and confidence to help pave the way to a wide open future.

There is a saying that ‘Learning at MIT is like drinking from a firehose’, well we all drank from the firehose and we are thirsty for more.

Luke Dyer, Head of Primary ICT & DT

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