Posted March 11th, 2013
On a recent Saturday afternoon, Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) hosted 400 students on its downtown Brooklyn campus. It's of course not unusual for a university to invite young people to its campus; only, these students were 9 to 14 year olds. They came with parents, teachers and other important adults in their lives. And robots: that they researched, designed, built and programmed.
It was the 'Brooklyn Qualifier' for FIRST Lego League. 42 teams competed to advance in this national robotics program, which NYU-Poly sponsors in New York City as one in a suite of programs designed to increase access to and the opportunity for high quality K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
In microcosm, many of the things we find effective in K-12 STEM education are evident here -- it's hands-on, activity based, promotes teamwork, involves mentors and allows young people to engage with STEM in ways as varied as building, programming and research. These elements are critical to high quality STEM education programs; it also points to one of several constructive roles for STEM institutions of higher education in advancing the causes of opportunity and access.