It doesn't seem like much time goes by before I find another cool thing that MIT has to offer the community. Last night, I stumbled across the MIT App Inventor, which is free open source software. It is designed to encourage all people, especially young people, to become creators of technology through the use of drag and drop programming. The website offers a Getting Started Guide, Tutorials, curriculum and teaching resources for teachers, and active community forums.
I watched the Ball Bounce Tutorial and created my first app! So, what are you waiting for? Why not get started today? Create something really cool and maybe you will be featured on the website's App of the Month!
This is a true love story where the love continues to grow stronger. The story goes back to the beginning of time, or at least my time. In the 1960s, down the halls of the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) campus there was a young woman that caught the fancy of a young man. My mother had been working as a secretary in the admissions office and my father also worked on campus. They fell in love and soon married and had two beautiful daughters.
Fast forward about 40 years to 2012, MIT came into our lives when my niece was accepted into their freshman class. This coincided with my oldest son reaching his middle school years. We learned about the SPARK program; this is where the love story really begins. SPARK is a program where middle school kids get to spend the weekend at the MIT campus taking classes on anything and everything. The kids that attend SPARK are made of the same cloth, they are excited to be there because they love being challenged and they love learning.
After MIT SPARK came MIT Junction, which is a summer program for select, advanced, self-driven high school students held on the MIT campus for two weeks. Students submit a proposal for an independent study project and those whom are selected are invited to the MIT campus to carry out their project with the support of a knowledgeable student mentor. The students are also able to take college-level hands-on seminars on a variety of topics. My son was lucky enough to be able to participate in this opportunity in 2015.
SCRATCH, is part of the curriculum in both my son’s schools, one in elementary and one in high school. It is a free programming language, developed at MIT, where students can build and share stories, games and animations. It can be used as an introduction to programming and logic and can be used at higher levels for more advanced projects.
When students are in high school, they are able to attend SPLASH, which is held the weekend before Thanksgiving on the MIT Campus. The program is two days of classes on just about everything. Students, not parents, pick the classes that interest them such as Parody Song Writing, Knitting, Cyberespionage, and Introduction to Ancient Greek. The vibe of the campus is almost electric where you can feel the energy and creativity. It is an incubator of ideas. Oh, if you have a friend, or cousin in our case, that attends MIT stay in the dorms for the full college experience.
There are many more reasons we love MIT, but those will be for another post….
STEM Saturdays are another way to get some great exposure to different areas in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math fields. There are many free programs offered at local area libraries and colleges (some do charge a fee as well).
Last weekend, we enjoyed a wonderful presentation at MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington. Welcome to the Jungle was a presentation on life in the Jungle with a focus on Chimpanzees. The presentation included real life experiences of a biologist whom studies Chimpanzees in their natural habitat. We learned how to make a hoot calls, how to identify chimpanzees from each other, the similarities with humans, the jungle environment, and that you need be careful when using a machete to cut a path because the if you cut the wrong branch a cobra might just drop on you! The STEM Saturday programs at Lincoln Laboratories are free and are open to those ages 5-17, though I find the presentations we have been to seem to be geared towards elementary and early middle school. The program is run every two months during the school year and pre-registration is required.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester offers a STEM Saturdays program for middle school students which is held once a month from November - April. The classes are half day and there is a cost of $180. Parents are required to attend and there are programs geared towards them while their students work on hands-on projects. I previously attended presentations on admissions, financial aid, engineering and speaker sessions.
If you're luck enough to live in one of the towns (Boston, Cambridge or Lawrence) that are supported by MIT's SEED Academy they offer a great opportunity for 7th through 10th graders. This free program offers an opportunity to explore engineering fields.
Don't forget to check out your local libraries as many also offer STEM programs as well!
Fall in New England means the cool crisp air, the vibrant colors of the leaves, pumpkins and the smell of apple pie. For us, fall is a busy time, it's time for SPLASH! No sleeping in late on the weekends, from mid-October through November we are up early, hopping in the car or on a train to get to one of the New England colleges that offer SPLASH (they are offered all over the country).
Why do we do this? My son loves it! SPLASH programs are run by university students to engage middle and high school students in the learning process. Several of the programs are free, the rest are low cost and most of the ones that charge a fee also offer financial aid in order to make the programs accessible to anyone interested. There are so many classes to choose from and they are on anything and everything! Want to Learn the History of Video Games, the Morality of Fictional Characters, Fractal Geometry through Tree Sculptures, Economics Makes Cents or even how to solve a Rubic’s Cube? SPLASH programs offer opportunities to get exposure to topics students may not otherwise have the opportunity. Student may even get an unexpected surprise, such as my son did when he realized Hacking the Mind Through Medication isn’t a computer science class (oops!).
Unfortunately, due to the short season, many of the colleges have SPLASH programs on the same day. This year we struggled since Amherst College and Yale University both were offering their program on November 5th. (You can see a calendar of events on my web page) We have been to both programs before and they were excellent. My son needed to compare their course catalogs to review this fall’s offerings and pick one of them (parents are not allowed to select courses for their student as the goal is student engagement). Again, for November 13th he had to choose between Clark University and Boston College. Luckily, most schools offer SPLASH each year, in both the fall and the spring, so the ones he didn’t make it to this time he can participate in the spring.
What is a parent to do while their kids spend the day in classes? Several of the colleges offer parent programs where you can take a sample SPLASH class (regular SPLASH classes are only for students), learn about the college admissions process or get educated on the financial aid process (scary for many of us). You can take a college campus tour (you may want to pre-register for these). Several of the colleges have interesting things to do around them. When visiting Yale, you can explore Yale Museum (free admission) and the schools beautiful architecture (if you’re a photographer you probably want to bring a camera). Northeastern is next to the Museum of Fine arts and Fenway Park. If you’re at MIT, you can walk or take the T over to Faneuil Hall and take a free tour offered through the National Park Service or explore Kendall Square or Newbury Street. Fall festivals may be happening when you’re visiting Amherst College. If you’re not adventurous, there are always places to sit down with a good book or work on your computer.
If you haven’t tried SPLASH I encourage you to do so!
“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” – Karen Ravn
Debbi - Proud mom of two beautiful boys and an IT Professional.