A serious issue currently facing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is that students learn each subject in isolation. In a world of work where cross-disciplinary and cross-organisational team skills are valued this is an obvious disadvantage to job seekers and employers. That makes it increasingly important to partner with educators at all levels from primary to university and beyond to overcome this problem.
One solution involves international teams of STEM students bringing their different disciplines together in real time on the same projects. This is supported by the use of data-rich ‘intelligent’ 3D digital cloud hosted models as a shared and unifying resource to collaborate around. Working in cross-disciplinary teams this way means communicating, sharing and combining experiences and skills. Learning like this makes students more employable because their educational experience more closely matches their eventual work environment.
There are lessons to be learnt from France where 11,000 school children from 400 schools enter ‘Course en Cours’ every year. They have to invent, design and build a remote controlled racing car powered by an electric motor. This teaches them a range of skills including, mathematics, physics, research, engineering and design as well as marketing, logistics, and communications. They even design team logos, booths and race kit as well as promoting their team and raising funds for the challenge. Much of the project involves using 3D simulations.
Jean Agulhon, Human Resources Director, France with the Renault Group and former President of “Course en Cours” said, “Every year, more than 11,000 secondary school students get involved in a fun project that demands team spirit, creativity and excellence. In this way, we hope to inspire career choices and encourage students to undertake scientific and technical studies, maybe even in the automotive industry at a later stage.”
Ministries in African countries that we work with are rapidly innovating education systems because schools cannot be built and staffed fast enough for their growing populations. In many African countries 50% of the population is under the age of 15. These factors have lead to a new paradigm being developed. This results in students going to the school campus less often but making good use of the internet. The idea is to transform MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) from a static one-way medium into immersive, interactive virtual environments where 3D models with full logic illustrate what is being taught.
In an extension to this, it is feasible to have remotely located ‘farms” of connected physical devices supporting the work of interdisciplinary and international teams using 3D digital technology. Arduino (open source electronics hardware) cards, robot arms and 3D printing can be introduced to complement the learning experience. This merging of virtual 3D digital and physical worlds means students can learn together off campus often leapfrogging some of their contemporaries in other countries.
New education and certification services based on the use of interactive 3D technology are emerging around the world. In the next 5 years 50% of engineers in the US, France, Germany and the UK will retire. With a shortage of engineering skills in every country employers are attracting students into new STEM education formats and creating business opportunities as a result.
Throughout history technology has always impacted education by affecting teaching methods and people’s learning experiences. If students can leave education and go straight into jobs, equipped with skills that employers need, they are in a win-win situation.