STEM Roundup: Nonprofit Gives STEM Toys to Kids

A roundup of recent science, technology, engineering and mathematics news.

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Manufacturing Nonprofit Gives STEM-Themed Gifts to Detroit Kids

DEARBORN, Mich. — Addressing a critical shortage of workers in the STEM fields, SME, a nonprofit organization that advances manufacturing, has handed out nearly 600 educational toys to children in the Detroit area this holiday season, according to the Dearborn Press and Guide. In a national survey of scientists and graduate students studying chemistry and physics, 70 percent of respondents said they’d become interested in science before high school, yet other statistics show children become less interested in math and science as they advance in school. “We need to engage children sooner and in more robust ways. We cannot count on school alone,” said Dennis Bray, SME 2013 president. “Playtime, in fact, offers an ideal opportunity to encourage kids to have fun with concepts related to STEM. Promoting early connections is vital to later educational and vocational interest in the manufacturing field.”

Ohio Lawmaker Considers Tax Breaks For STEM Grads Who Stay

NEWARK, Ohio — The age-old classroom question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has Ohio officials worried: too few of the kids who answer, they say, name jobs in STEM field, and lawmakers believe the Buckeye State isn’t producing enough graduates ready to enter the lucrative tech workforce. To correct that, the Newark Advocate reports, state Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) has co-sponsored legislation that would give income tax credits for students who earn college degrees in STEM fields and who stay in Ohio for at least five years after graduation. An associate degree would mean a $5,000 tax credit, a bachelor’s degree would be worth a $20,000 credit and a master’s degree or doctorate could earn a $30,000 credit. The credits would be paid 10 percent a year over the course of 10 years. Students who leave Ohio before the five years is up — unless they leave for more STEM education — would have to pay back any credit received up to that point.

Scientists: Two Was Magic Number For Binary Polynesians

No one knows when the binary number system - the two-digit foundation for computer codes - was invented, but it is generally considered a Western innovation. But an article in the online edition of Science News makes the case for crediting the residents of a tiny Polynesian island with invention of binary calculations centuries before it was described by Gottfried Leibniz, the co-inventor of calculus, in 1703. Leibniz may have been scooped centuries earlier by the people of Mangareva, a tiny island about 5,000 kilometers south of Hawaii. While studying their language and culture, Andrea Bender and Sieghard Beller, anthropologists at the University of Bergen in Norway, were astonished to find a mathematical system that seems to mix base-10 and base-2. “I was so thrilled that I couldn't sleep that night,” Bender says. It could be not only the first new indigenous arithmetic system discovered in decades, but also the first known example of binary arithmetic developed outside Eurasia.

U. Wisconsin Researchers Think Role-Playing Games Could Replace Tests

MADISON, Wis. -- Forget No. 2 pencils, or even the new computer-based common-core exams that have schools across the country scrambling. Education Week reports that researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are convinced the tests of the future will look like Crystals of Kaydor, a role-playing video game about aliens. Designed to measure children’s learning in real time while rewiring their brains to help them be more empathetic, Crystals offers a potentially transformative response to two cutting-edge questions now being debated in the world of testing: whether digital games can effectively blur the line between instruction and assessment and how educators can better gauge children’s social and emotional skills.

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