WEEKEND EDITION

Google Brings STEM Education to the Streets with Geek Fair

| August 7, 2013 3:40 PMvideo

Last week, Google’s first Geek Street Fair turned Chelsea’s 14th Street Park into a veritable smorgasbord of technology, drawing hundreds of kids and summer campers to discover the joys and merits of learning about science, technology, engineering, and math – also known as the STEM fields.  The public event showcased interactive and innovative activities and products from the American Museum of Natural History, Liberty Science Center, MakerCamp, and Parsons the New School of Design, among others.

Google’s Director of Engineering, Craig Nevill-Manning, acted as the spokesman and Chief Geek for the event, wearing a Google lab coat and Google’s newest signature piece of tech, Google Glass.  ”Science and technology and math sometimes gets a bad rap.  It’s seen as kind of boring, it’s seen as a bunch of people sitting around in the dark, you know, writing code all day.  And we wanted to get the message out that technology is a lot of fun. We do this because we love it,” said Nevill-Manning.

Google, which opened what was its second-largest engineering office here in the city in 2007, is one of many players to recognize a growing need for tech talent across the US.  In 2017, Mayor Bloomberg’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative will help to bring Cornell NYC Tech’s new $2 billion engineering campus to Roosevelt Island.  The Geek Fair has been just one of several recent efforts to promote STEM education and engage New York City’s future tech entrepreneurs.  But many Geek Fair participants, including Maker Media’s Vice President, Sherry Huss, argue that engagement in STEM education needs to happen earlier.

“Science, technology, engineering, math – those things in schools being taught out of books are really not that exciting for a lot of kids,” Huss said.  At the MakerCamp Geek Fair booth, participants learned how to construct “LED Throwies,” simple circuits made up of a battery, an LED light and a magnet.

Nevill-Manning agreed, saying “[...] kids aren’t getting interested early enough. So we wanted to expose kids to all of this math, this computer science, this science and technology early on, so that they potentially choose to go into this field, and we can hire them later on to make amazing products for us.”

“It’s the future of our country.  It’s going to rely on us being really fantastic in science and mathematics and applying that to our everyday lives.  [...]  Getting kids involved in this technology, and thinking about what’s possible, is going to lead to the next generation of that technology,” said Nevill-Manning.

 

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