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University Students Become Superheroes To Teach STEM Education

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the able-to-explain-complex-theories-in-a-single-class dept.

Education 55

New submitter sjdupont writes "A trio of University of South Florida (USF) engineering graduate students have decided to make a change in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in an unusual and exciting way: by creating their own superhero personas and dressing in costumes as members of the Scientific League of Superheroes. Focused on elementary education, they have created a unique education program called the Superhero Training Network, a curriculum-based video series designed for the classroom which focuses on teaching STEM topics while engaging students in a fun way. Fifth grade classrooms in Hillsborough County (Florida) pilot tested the series during the 2011-2012 school year and enjoyed visits from the scientific superheroes to experience scientific demonstrations and participate in hands-on activities."

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Ooh, you know what else they should do? (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390349)

They should do a series of rap songs, too. That rap is hip these days and the kids really like it. Nothing reaches young people like adults dressing up like characters and rapping! This won't turn young people off out of sheer repulsion at being patronized at all!

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (5, Funny)

seepho (1959226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390479)

Don't laugh. Rap convinced me to stop copying floppies.

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390591)

Yo, this be DJ-TAG, here to tell you that life don't come with no BSP, so I'm the one you want at your back...

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390835)

I hate rap in general, but I've watched this video several times: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM [youtube.com]

It has amazing sticking power:
The LHC-b sees where the antimatter's gone,
Alice looks at collisions of lead ions,
The CMS and Atlas are two of a kind,
They're looking for whatever particles they can find.
...

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40407757)

The problem with these videos is they are all lame. "Got Rice" was cool because they weren't afraid to use the words B**** and N****.

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390919)

Oh yeah, and put up some YouTube videos of it!

Re:Ooh, you know what else they should do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391313)

or maybe some Rock, SchoolHouse style.

Which one will become.... (4, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390381)

..."Never Gets Laid Man"....?

j/k

:)

Re:Which one will become.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390677)

Strangely enough, one of them is an average-looking female.

Re:Which one will become.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390759)

Strangely enough, one of them is an average-looking female.

Oh, you must be a business major.

Re:Which one will become.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390971)

Sweet, I want some "hands on education".

Re:Which one will become.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40407123)

I have a big crush on one of them.... :)

THAT will make STEM seem cool... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390413)

It will. We swear.

Does anyone else automatically cringe (4, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390427)

When they read "engaging students in a fun way."

You don't need gimmicks, people! You need interesting experiments that kids can connect with.

It's hands-on science experiments. Let the kids blow stuff up, get dirty, smash something, or shock each other and they'll be interested. The gimmicks don't matter.

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390451)

But getting hurt isn't cool... is it?

(Yes, it is)

And also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390559)

you need JOBS that PAY. Anyone thinking about raising a family would be very wise to stay as far away from STEM as possible when choosing what to study. Fix THAT and the issue of getting kids interested will resolve itself naturally.

It's not always about jobs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391119)

A populace who knows a thing or two more about biology and evolution than this one is more likely to be interested in actual issues rather than in politicians who proclaim a belief in imaginary sky friends.

(Or so would be my hope.)

At this level (K-12), we really should be considering that.

Re:And also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391179)

STEM jobs seem to pay reasonably well. You may not be earning rock star wages, but you will be at the very least firmly in middle class.

Re:And also (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392405)

Firmly in lower middle class, with lots of competition, a mountain of debt to pay off, and any prospects of promotion to a higher salary grade being laughable (until you switch careers to something like management, which you could have done without the expensive STEM degree or the decade of lower-middle-class wages).

Re:And also (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40415283)

I think STEM is broad enough that it's difficult to make general statements.

CS is generally considered STEM. My wife and I had no problems finding jobs to put us in the top 10% of our area and pay off the college debt in a couple years. We're doing much better at this point in time than our friends with medical degrees (although I'm sure they will catch up).

Re:And also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394553)

This is going to sound xenophobic sadly but American STEM professionals (White, Black, Asian, Native, etc) will always lose out to foreign applicants since they can and will work for less. Why hire John Q. Murrikan at $55k to see him live in a studio apartment and drag ass around the lab all day because all he eats is ramen or Fast food because every pay check for the next 15 years will be sucked up by Sallie Mae when you can hire Habib A. Hardworker for $35k and he has zero baggage outside of maybe a family (if you call that baggage)? I've watched more and more post grads/engineers quit the field to persue teaching or something unrelated because there are no decent paying jobs anymore.

My brother at Dow Chem. was just offered a promotion but no pay increase and a DECREASE in benefits since he is now debt free. He didn't take it and is now looking for a new job because the axe will surely drop now...

Re:And also (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40415329)

Nearly every study I've seen shows STEM fields as some of the most consistent returns on investment for a college degree. Essentially only MBA's, Lawyers, and Doctors do better, and those are either a much higher up front cost, or are a strong tournament system (with the top people making out, and lots of people failing at the bottom).

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390837)

No, you need actual job prospects for these STEM graduate students
"What do the career prospects of a STEM Ph.D. look like? The typical career path is increasingly two post-docs following a Ph.D. before entering the labor market. That is, following a bachelor's degree and another four or five years of intensive study and low-wage labor in a professor's lab, the typical STEM Ph.D. can look forward to yet another six or eight years working at an average salary of $50,000 before they can compete for a regular job in a flooded labor market. For some, a deep and abiding love of science and engineering and willingness to play the job lottery keeps them in the game. For many others, these dim prospects push them to go elsewhere." US News & World report http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-foreign-stem-graduates-get-green-cards/no-shortage-of-qualified-american-stem-grads

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391117)

What part of what you just said is not "engaging students in an fun way"?

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (1)

Z1NG (953122) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391443)

Why would you cringe? Your suggestion is still a way to make it fun, just a different way. I think if it actually gets students interested it is the opposite of a gimmick. Sure sometimes you can look at practical applications, but whats wrong with talking about a zombie apocalypse to get students more interested in exponential modeling for example? Or having Darth Vader teach them the Pythagorean Theorem?

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#40415257)

Because every time I hear that buzzword, I expect to see a middle aged man in a bad super-hero costume trying to rap about particle physics...

Re:Does anyone else automatically cringe (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391651)

Health-and-safety prohibits blowing stuff up in any entertaining manner, and the parents would be horrified if the kids went home dirty.

Interesting gimick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390435)

...lets hope it works.

Re:Interesting gimick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390727)

I feel sleepy.

Wrong approach (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390549)

Basically, the way to get kids to remember stuff and want to learn stuff is to make it relevant to their real life. For example, to teach algebra, focus on personal finance, because most kids who are bored to death by "let's study exponential growth" are far more interested in "here's how to make more money". To teach physics or chemistry, a few controlled and safe explosions go a long way towards making kids interested.

Wrong explosion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40390817)

Teach them how to be safe crackers.

Re:Wrong explosion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40394577)

A shop teacher at my High School was suspended for showing kids how to lock pick as an example of applying knowledge of the mechanics of everyday items. It wasn't on door knobs or use the lame "bump keys" but how to pick cheap masterlock knockoffs and combination locks. When one of his students discussed it at a church pot luck the wheels of rage set in motion (supposedly they had wanted him gone for a long time for writing an Atheist blog under a pseudonym that one of he kids figured out).

Re:Wrong approach (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393079)

"Exponential growth" sounds more like a sex ed topic than math...

Back story flaw? (5, Insightful)

UninformedCoward (1738488) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390567)

A lab accident that transformed them from normal scientists to super-powered members of The Scientific League of Superheroes.

Super heroes: We're here to teach you about lab safety!
Students: How did you become super heroes?!
Super heroes: A lab accident...
Students: ...

Re:Back story flaw? (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390955)

Hey kids, want to hear how Cancer Man got bitten by a radioactive spider?

I like their nemesis (3, Interesting)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390571)

They battle the evil Dr. Entropy...

Smart money is on the evil Dr. Entropy. :-)

It's a bird! It's a plane! (2)

paiute (550198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390581)

No! It's Underemployed Man!

"Would you like fries with that, citizen?"

Re:It's a bird! It's a plane! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390967)

It super college loan man.

PAY UP OR I BRAKE your legs!

Re:It's a bird! It's a plane! (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391121)

PAY UP OR I BRAKE your legs!

You're going to make them run a little slower?

Re:It's a bird! It's a plane! (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#40391969)

that what a cast does and don't get them wet

Re:It's a bird! It's a plane! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40393329)

Hay the mob enforcers may not be that smart but they can kick your college boy ass.

Wrong audience (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390621)

The kids who are into comic books are most likely already interested in science.

Re:Wrong audience (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#40390847)

The kids who are into comic books are most likely already interested in science.

My experience is that the converse might be (mostly) true, but this direction isn't true...

Headline Misinterpretation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391027)

From the headline, I expected to read about some rogue grad students injecting themselves with stem cells to give them heightened senses.

The Equalizer (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391207)

There was a show by this name [wikipedia.org] , which I never watched. But I imagined a superhero swooping in to help struggling math students.

Re:The Equalizer (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393069)

I thought it was about a sound engineer for concerts?

Outrage (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | more than 2 years ago | (#40391285)

I wonder how long it'll be before we get confused stories about scientists injecting students with stem cells in experiments to give super powers popping up on various anti-science sites along with a call to arms to stop to such horrific and unnatural practices.

Hasn't this concept been tried before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391427)

Space Science Ninja Team Gatchaman - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_Ninja_Team_Gatchaman

Not sure it worked back then either...

How about getting to the root of the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40391435)

Just cut off third world immigration to this once strong country.
kids from Mexico, Jamaica, India...will fail in droves in STEM no matter how tight your leotards are.
These countries are third world exactly because their natives aren't good at STEM.

"These videos are designed for evaluation..." (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 2 years ago | (#40391959)

"These videos are designed for evaluation purposes. Duplication and distribution of these videos is not permitted."

Because, you know, someone might get educated for free or something, and then where would we be?

Still voting for http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org] ...

-- Terry

Finally! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40392237)

Finally, someone found a way to make science and math interesting to nerds!

i have a similar program (2)

madsci1016 (1111233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393033)

I do the same kind of thing through my navy job... http://www.sciencebrothers.org/ [sciencebrothers.org] Whacky Scientists though, not super heroes. I feel its kind of cheap to present STEM in a "fiction" way. Conflict of messages maybe?

Back in the day... (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#40393061)

I had someone that did something quite similar when I was in K-12, but we didn't call him a "superhero", we called them teachers, and they taught me many principles of science, in areas like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Earth Science.

What the hell are teachers doing in the classroom that someone coming in and essentially doing their job for them is considered "newsworthy"?

Jesus is the only REAL super-hero! (1)

FilmedInNoir (1392323) | more than 2 years ago | (#40397475)

Yes, I'm trolling.
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