Toshiba Kicks Off Science & Technology Education Initiative
Toshiba Corp. launched its year-long STEMpowerment Project on Tuesday with its DREAM, CREATE, GO! Roadshow, the first in a series of free events across the country designed to inspire and energize teachers, parents and students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The event was tied to the 20th Anniversary of the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision Awards, the largest K-12 science and technology competition in the world, and one of the central pillars of Toshiba’s science education initiative.
More than one hundred people, primarily local teachers, attended the show at Toshiba’s Irvine, California offices.
Media personality and technology advocate Mario Armstrong led the discussion, which highlighted the “5 Points to STEM Excitement”, including tying technology to student passions, using role models and popular technology to make concepts relatable to kids, harnessing online tools and encouraging students to participate in awards programs such as Toshiba’s ExploraVision.
“Getting kids to first find their passion, and then seek out the technology behind it,” is the key to steering students towards exciting careers in science and technology, Mr. Armstrong said.
For example, a student’s interest in sports, gaming, music, movies and other areas can be translated into great technology careers, he said.
“Don’t talk nano-technology, talk fashion,” he said, referring to inventions such as “smart shirts” that utilize nano-technology to recharge devices.
Mr. Armstrong said he wanted kids to begin seeing engineers and scientists as “the new rock stars”, and highlighted several contemporary STEM role models that inspire kids, along with some of the more interesting academic and career opportunities in science and technology.
Armstrong praised the teachers for attending the event, and emphasized the vital role they play in helping kids experience the critical “A-Ha!” moment of discovery and inspiration.
“It’s all about showing up, and you teachers showed up,” he said.
Two of the teachers won a Toshiba tablet computer – one the winner of a raffle, the other for being the first to name a STEM role model (RAIKU, for 3D).
A central theme of the show was encouraging educators to use Toshiba’s ExploraVision competition to help motivate students to excel in science and technology.
The contest challenges teams of two to four students to research scientific principles and current technologies to envision future technologies that could make the world a better place.
Students on the four first-place winning teams will each receive a $10,000 U.S. Series EE Savings Bond valued at maturity, while students on the four second-place teams will each receive a $5,000 bond valued at maturity. Canadian winners receive Canada bonds purchased for the equivalent issue price in Canadian dollars.
The eight teams will also receive an all-expenses-paid trip with their families, mentor and coach to Washington, D.C., for an ExploraVision gala awards weekend next June. Activities will include a visit to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, a Science Showcase during which students will demonstrate their winning ideas, and sightseeing.
The highlight of the weekend includes an awards banquet and ceremony where students will be formally recognized for their accomplishments.
Each of the 24 regional winning teams will receive a Toshiba laptop for their school, and each member of the regional winning teams will receive a Toshiba HD Camcorder.
For the first time in ExploraVision’s 20-year history, teachers will also be eligible to win awards, with the educator who submits the most student projects receiving a Toshiba tablet computer.
Mark Simons, President and Chief Executive Officer of Toshiba America Information Systems (TAIS), thanked the teachers for their commitment to STEM education, and reiterated his company’s focus on helping motivate students to pursue technology careers.
“We fundamentally believe that technology is what changed the world,” he said.
“We believe that we get involved at the core of that technology…of solving problems that people have.”
“We search for those solutions each and everyday, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars…we spend hundreds of millions of hours of people’s lives” towards that goal, he said, adding that Toshiba invests about 5 percent of its revenue back into research and development.
“But for us, it really is about what you see in the (ExploraVision) projects, it really is about kids stretching their minds.”
“How do they communicate? How do we give them the information they need? How do we entertain them? How do they share? A lot of the fundamental things we talk about on a daily basis really come back to these projects,” he said.
“They are our future leaders, I hope they are the employees of Toshiba someday,” he said.
Simons cited a team of ExploraVision students from a school in New York that submitted a project 2 years ago with the goal of helping one of their classmates with diabetes. The child had to periodically leave the classroom to get a needle stick, but the ExploraVision team came up with a watch that would allow the child to monitor his blood sugar and inject insulin without having to go to a separate room.
“I’m amazed each and every year that I get a chance to go to DC and look a kid in the eyes and say ‘tell me about your project’, and their chest kind of puffs up a little bit and their eyes get real big, and they are so proud to tell me how they came up with their idea, how they worked on the project together, what they believe is the outcome that’s going to change the problem they were trying to solve,” Simons said.
When asked about the impact of teachers, Simons gave an analogy to his experience in the corporate world.
“Part of what we try to do as a company is to find differentiation – that little something different about our product versus a competitor. In this particular product, it’s the teacher every time. It’s the passion, that passion drives the group, it makes a difference,” he said.
Speaking with RedOrbit after the event, Simons said he was pleased at how the ExploraVision program had progressed in recent years, particularly the growing emphasis among many student participants on emerging green technologies.
The next stop on Toshiba’s DREAM, CREATE, GO! Roadshow is in Houston, TX, on October 4th. Educators, students and parents interested in attending the free event can sign up at http://toshibainnovation.eventbrite.com/.
Applications for this year’s ExploraVision competition are available at http://www.exploravision.org/, and are due by February 1, 2012.