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Feb. 26, 2020

Full steam ahead

Feb. 26, 2020

Someone recently mentioned to me that most people have memories of boring textbooks and lectures when they think about their high school science classes. I guess I must be one of the lucky ones because I don’t remember a lot of memorization exercises, but instead, hands-on experiments and some outright fun.

We dropped eggs from the football bleachers in physics and built bridges out of toothpicks. In chemistry, we made Jiffy Pop popcorn on Bunsen burners and examined the chemical makeup of Twinkies. Tests were called “opportunities” and we competed for candy bars. My final exam in A.P. Chemistry consisted of being given a group of chemicals and heading to the lab to identify what they were. We learned a lot by doing.

But sadly, that’s not the experience for many kids in science, technology, engineering and math classes. Just when the world we live in requires incredible skills in STEM fields, too many students aren’t pursuing those fields because they find them boring.

That’s where Spartans come in. Everyone knows we have an incredible College of Education with programs ranked No. 1. So, it seems we’re the perfect group of educators to redefine and revolutionize how STEM is taught. Our researchers are finding ways to put the wonder back in science, spark imagination and teach tomorrow’s scientists. Check out the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Creating wonder, to learn more about their work and watch two short videos that take you inside some K-12 classrooms that are using the new methods.

We have thousands of tomorrow’s scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians right here on campus. Students like Julia O’Mara, who is studying mechanical engineering and is the steering lead on the MSU Solar Race Car Team. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Fail forward and embrace mistakes, to learn how she’s putting her skills to work in hands-on experience with the team.

Reinforcing the idea that K-12 science exposure and teaching can have long-term influence, Osten Eschedor credits her middle school experiences with 4-H and a Science Olympiad team for opening her up to pursuing a career in entomology. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Bugging out for science policy, to learn more about her and her opportunities on campus.

Associate professor Chris Wrede must have had some pretty inspiring science classes in his life since he chose physics and astronomy as his career field. He studies the role atomic nuclei play in the evolution of matter and is the former chairperson of the NSCL/FRIB outreach committee. Read his Faculty Voice: Nuclear physics at MSU, to learn more about his fascinating work.

Wrede says that in addition to science, he “also dabbled in philosophy, visual and conceptual art, and architecture before committing to nuclear physics as a career path when I entered graduate school.” In my opinion, the best thinkers and discoverers are those that add a little “art” into their STEM to really go full STEAM ahead in the world.

That’s the great thing about being a Spartan — you can study everything from accounting to zoology and everything in between. Sometimes, a blend of focus areas creates a perfect background for a student.

Gigi Ngcobo, who came to MSU from South Africa, is studying finance at the Broad College of Business and UX design in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. She’s also a member of the Honor’s College. Her varied experiences allowed her to create the inaugural MSU African Business Symposium last year. Read her STUDENT VIEW: Applied knowledge is power, to learn why she says that, “authentic influence comes from your ability to use the information learned to make an impact.”

Nwando Achebe, the Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor in the Department of History, award-winning oral historian, and author of six books, understands very well that knowledge is power. She sees herself as a “missionary in reverse,” introducing the Africa she knows to her American students. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Teaching, for good, to learn more about this inspiring Spartan.

Spartans are a well-rounded, wildly brilliant, incredible force for good. Across the globe and right here on campus, Spartans in every field are finding wonder, sparking imagination, solving problems, making discoveries and going full STEAM ahead to create a better future for us all. #SpartansWill.

 

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Kurt Stepnitz