The Case for Invention Education

January 25, 2018

Case for Invention Education, and the Beginning of an Invention Education Movement

By Danny Briere, CEO of The STEMIE Coalition

Danny Briere

2018 will be a breakout year for the Invention Education movement. Invention Education is not new – in fact, some programs such as the Connecticut Invention Convention program, have been around for more than 30 years. It’s also not niche – hundreds of thousands of students each year take part in more than 600 Invention Education events across the U.S., and many more globally. And it’s not even a new concept – much of Invention Education uses proven student-center pedagogies, such as project-based learning and incorporates the engineering design cycle process to improve students’ problem-solving capacities.

What is new is the consolidation of these different players and programs under one effort – the Invention Education Movement, which is championed by The STEMIE Coalition, The Smithsonian Museum, MIT, The Lemelson Foundation, The Henry Ford, United Technologies Corporation, Stanley Black & Decker, and CA Technologies.  The Invention Ed Movement joins other major education efforts – Making, Coding, Robotics, Entrepreneurship – in bringing integral elements into the K-16 curriculum.

The Workforce’s Problem with the Lack of Problem Solving

The U.S. has a significant and growing need for innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial workforce talent – capable of not only carrying out instructions but able to identify problems and find creative solutions. According to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), only 43% of students score “proficient or above” when tested on their capacity to apply engineering to real-world situations. Of equal importance, the STEM and innovation ecosystem lacks robust participation female, minority, and underserved populations. For students who self-identify as African American, students scoring proficient or higher on their capacity to apply STEM skills to real-life scenarios dropped to 18%[1].

Further, the U.S. workforce requires an emphasis on early learning, particularly as it relates to “soft” and “non-quantifiable” skill development, like passion, confidence, and courage. Opportunities to practice these skills are missing and employers are taking notice; according to research by the USAID, demand for workplace soft skills has increased considerably over the past 20 years, and a gap is noted by “many employers around the world. [2]” And, new research from Google shows that critical thinking and problem-solving skills are more valuable than actual STEM skills (computer programming, etc.) among top employees at tech companies.[3]

Solving the Problem Using Invention Education Curriculum

The National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE), and its founding non-profit, The STEMIE Coalition, work to support invention and entrepreneurship learning opportunities to address workforce concerns. Project-based programs for young people to work on problem-solving skills in their context – using STEM skills and learning about patent and product commercialization at the same time are shown to improve learning and gives students more confidence and motivation to continue learning. Phillis C. Blemenfeld et al., in research published in Educational Psychologist, suggest that, in fact, not only does project-based learning help students learn, but when combined with technology education, it helps ensure “motivation and thought are sustained. [4]” Invention Education model support this learning.

Moreover, Invention Education develops inventive thinking and self-confidence through the process of identifying real problems, and applying empathy, creativity, and design skills to create new solutions. It is a student-centered approach to learning, beginning with students self-selecting an authentic problem to solve. Invention Education gives students their own personal context and application for science, technology, engineering, math and design knowledge.

Studies and research demonstrate how Invention Education has profound effects on students’ future studies and success. Research led by Dr. Roxanne A. Moore, G. W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Center for Education Integrating Mathematics, Science, and Computing (CEISMC) at Georgia Institute of Technology research engineer and STEMIE’s steering committee member, shows the link between invention education and students’ increased enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, innovation, and engineering; capacity for teamwork; and basic business acumen. [5] This research indicates that STEMIE’s Invention Education program, Invention Convention, has an extraordinary ability to support a diverse pipeline into future STEM workforce.

STEMIE Coalition and NICEE Expansion Rationale

Invention Education thrives when the education, business, government, and philanthropic sectors are invested. Before NICEE, there was no K-12 event dedicated to inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs across the nation. Before the STEMIE Coalition, there was no coordinated effort to bring together K-12 STEM and Entrepreneurship programs. There was no coordination of the 100,000+ students going through Invention Convention programs annually – nor a force coordinating the development of Invention Convention programs in states where they do not exist. Currently, The STEMIE Coalition and invention education has been brought to 18 states and over 200,000 students, and reached three dozen states and an estimated 500,000 students.

Unfortunately, opportunities to partake in K-12 invention and entrepreneurship programming spanning the STEMIE spectrum are still too few. Many rural, urban, and otherwise economically underserved communities are not offered the same STEM educational opportunities as suburban communities. Oftentimes, STEM programs require resources that are not available or accessible to underserved districts. Invention Education provides a low-cost opportunity to level this playing field. Invention Convention’s organic and exceedingly diverse participation rates are demonstrative of this fact.  At NICEE, whose sample population represents Invention Convention demographics nationally, 57% of inventors were female, 26% of inventors were minority, and 33% of inventors came from financially underserved communities.

Invention Education offers all students the educational opportunities they deserve, setting them up to lead creative and inventive lives, with the confidence to make informed choices on whatever path they choose.

Linking STEM and Entrepreneurship

Invention Education fulfills a critical role in linking STEM skills development and training on the one hand, and the effort to create more entrepreneurial and self-deterministic students on the other hand. STEM+Invention+Entrepreneurship – STEMIE – is the complete equation for today’s STEM world. By linking all three concepts programmatically, and bridging the K-12 environment with the 13-16 college experience, STEMIE creates a much stronger return on investment (ROI) for each of the elements and build a strong spectrum of continuous learning that yields a diverse, inclusive, and well trained workforce for tomorrow’s economic growth.

About The STEMIE Coalition

The STEMIE Coalition is a global consortium of invention education stakeholders whose aim is to formalize project-based invention and entrepreneurship education in primary and secondary schools worldwide, with a near-term emphasis on the U.S. and a 2018-onwards vision to globalize across the world. STEMIE currently has statewide programs in 18 states, invention convention presence in 46 states, and will be active in all 50 states plus Washington D.C. Puerto Rico under its programs within the next three years. STEMIE’s national U.S. goal is that 10 million students will be annually being taught invention and entrepreneurship education through STEMIE programming across America’s K-12 landscape. STEMIE seeks to maintain its 50/50 balance of male/female participants and continue to encourage and activate young minority and underserved community inventors. More about STEMIE is found at www.stemie.org.

[1] “The Condition of Education 2017,” National Center for Education Statistics

[2] “Key Soft Skills that Foster Youth Workforce Success: Toward a Consensus Across Fields,” Laura H. Lippman et al., USAID, 2015

[3] “The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students” Valerie Strauss with Cathy N. Davidson, Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2017”

[4] “Motivating Project-Based Learning: Sustaining the Doing, Supporting the Learning,” Educational Psychologist, Volume 26, 21 November 2011

[5] “The K-12 InVenture Challenge: Inspiring Future Innovators and Entrepreneurs,” Dr. Roxanne Moore et al., American Society for Engineering Education

 


INVENTING THEIR FUTURE

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