EP 149: STEM Preparation at Home with Creation Crate

There’s no doubt that a rapidly expanding technology industry poses a threat to millions of workers due to the automation of their jobs. But David Hehman, co-founder of Creation Crate, is working to change the misconception that the road ends there. In fact, automation and technology open up a whole new world of potential, one that will go largely unmet — by 2020, nearly one and a half million jobs will be left vacant because our education system is unable to keep up with the demand for computer specialists and programmers.

David and his colleagues at Creation Crate have set themselves a goal of filling 250,000 of those job vacancies through their subscription-based education model that aims to increase digital literacy and computer proficiency. Relying on parents and teachers to provide STEM education is not always successful, as many of them are part of generations that don’t have the same exposure to technology as we do today. So Creation Crate fills this gap and helps educate a new generation of computer scientists to become the innovators of tomorrow — or even today, as many of their subscribers are adults seeking to increase their own technological literacy.

Their curriculum is based on a twelve-month subscription box that emphasizes hands-on, real-world learning. Each month, subscribers receive a new Arduino project that gets slightly more difficult each time, complete with step-by-step instructions for how to complete the project. By the time all twelve projects are complete, they “will have more hands-on programming experience than 99% of current college-level computer science students.” Projects range from building a mood lamp (the first month) to creating an audio visualizer display (the eighth month). But regardless of the specific task, they all share the same trait of firsthand experience in pursuit of a tangible goal rather than mindless coding.

Launched in early 2016, Creation Crate has taken off quickly with over 3,000 subscription boxes purchased already. Recently, the company introduced several new features, including an augmented reality that allows students to interact with a digital teacher, Facebook Messenger tokens that provide access to tutorial videos, a free online classroom available to the entire public, and an “Ultimate Maker Kit” that combines all 12 boxes into one, designed specially for teachers and classrooms. All of these features are an effort to popularize Creation Crate and ensure that it’s keeping up with advancing technology so that it can continue to educate youth and adults that are suffering from a lack of sufficient STEM education.

So no, we are not losing more jobs than we are replacing. The problem is that we don’t have enough digitally literate people to fill all the new jobs that are being created because they simply aren’t being educated quickly enough to keep up with demand. But Creation Crate is beginning to chip away at that barrier — and they’ll continue to do so until technological innovation is not feared for the jobs it will replace, but for the ones, it will create.

To learn more about Creation Crate (or even get a subscription yourself), visit www.creationcrate.com. To get the full scoop about Creation Crate, listen to the full interview with co-founder David Hehman.

Article Credit: Alicia Abramson

EP 148: Variant - A 3D Video Game to Teach Calculus

The executives at Electronic Arts said it would never work. These gaming experts posited that kids would only want video games with exciting plot lines built around battles, conflict, and domination. Game players interested in fantasy worlds yearned for quests of glory littered with treasures and magical potions. Who in their right mind would choose to purchase a video game that taught... calculus? Although Andre Thomas still thought he could make a game to teach calculus in an engaging and effective way, he quickly recognized that the major video game manufacturers would never play ball. So, like most gutsy entrepreneurs with a vision, he decided to build it himself.

While working as the Director of the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University, Andre Thomas founded Triseum, a game development company aimed at building education video games. Andre is the perfect candidate to tackle the arduous task of building an educational video game as he is no newbie in the entertainment industry. He has in depth experience across the board, possessing over 20 years in CGI production. Additionally, “he has worked around the [globe] on legendary video games, live action feature films and gripping commercials. He served as Head of Graphics for EA Sports Football and is also credited with creating graphics for such notable films as Men in Black, Con Air, Independence Day, Valiant, Ant Bully and Tomorrow Never Dies.” In sum, Andre Thomas is a seasoned professional, the perfect person to build a trendsetting video game in the education sphere. But he didn’t simply want to build a new way to teach calculus digitally; he wanted to make a real 3D game comparable to the likes of Zelda and Final Fantasy, replete with breathtaking graphics and vivid characters. The result of his team’s exhaustive efforts is Variant: Limits, the first ever video game of its caliber designed to teach calculus.

For those of you who agree that math is important, you might be asking the following question: why calculus? Why not build a game around a more commonly tackled subject like algebra or geometry? According to Andre, calculus is at the heart of STEM degrees and pursuits. Moreover, it is reported that nearly 38% of students fail Calculus I, a staggering figure considering that this course is often a prerequisite for most engineering majors. Andre wanted to ensure that students had the best chance possible to pursue a STEM career of their choice, and sought to develop an exciting mechanism by which to teach calculus to anyone. The results thus far have been phenomenal. Not only has Trisesum earned a litany of awards from EdTech Digest and SXSW, but they have also managed to garner a great deal of attention from schools across Europe.

To learn more about this revolutionary company, go to https://triseum.com/. To hear the entire interview with Andre Thomas, check out the full podcast interview.