Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Design Your Future with the STEM Career Lab!

Do you want to explore STEM careers and find out which one you think is for you? Then this is the resource for you! Stemcareerlab.org was designed to help high school students explore future STEM career fields.

Today's STEM professionals create virtual worlds, design amazing machines, invent new materials, construct earth-friendly buildings and engineer cutting-edge air vehicles. And that's just to name a few! Through the collection of videos on stemcareerlab.org, students can hear from STEM professionals about their educational pathway, what it is they love about their jobs, and how they really do use the science and math they learned in high school. 

Professions on the website include advanced manufacturing and materials, aerospace engineering, agricultural engineering, architecture, biomechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, construction management, electrical engineering, human performance, systems engineering, virtual reality design, and water resource management. 

Check out a video today and start planning your STEM future!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Can TV Characters Boost STEM Learning?

That's right: TV characters. I'm talking Dora the Explorer and Big Bird reincarnate in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) loving form. Can relationships with characters like these really help young children learn STEM skills? 

A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, Northwestern University, and Georgetown University seem to think so and are gearing up to formally answer that question in a five-year project funded by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. 

Rebekah Richert, associate professor of psychology at UC Riverside and principal investigator on the project will team up with Ellen Wartella, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al- Thani Professor of Communication, professor of pyschology and professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University; and Sandra Calvert, director of the Children's Digital Media Center and professor of psychology at Georgetown University. 

In a series of studies with children ages 18 months to six years, the trio will examine how toddlers and preschoolers learn from educational media and how that can support STEM education.

Richert, who's known for her previous research on how children transfer what they see on television and in books to real life, and how they distinguish between fantasy and reality is interested in answering questions like, "How can we promote early STEM learning with high-quality media?" and, "How can we develop better avatars and promote diversity in STEM fields?" 

Superheroes and fictional characters that endorse various subject matter and embrace educational material, projecting it onto young audiences isn't a new concept. Nonetheless, the NSF-funded project will look to answer what kind of character could best be used to stimulate STEM learning. Is it a character like Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer or Sesame Street's Big Bird, or something different all together?

The psychologists will kick things off by conducting a workshop at Northwestern in the spring of 2014 involving experts in science education, computer-game design, and television learning for children to consider how best to direct future research.

Read more about the project and see what Richert had to say on UCR Today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

CSI: Forensic Nurses on the Scene

Who said nurses could only find jobs in hospitals? Now, more than ever before, forensic nurses are playing significant roles in coroner and medical examiner's offices.

As Stacy Miller reports on the Advance Healthcare Network website, it was Jennifer Schindell, BSN, RN, F-ABMDI, who after working in hospitals in Alaska, Idaho and Orgeon, found it extremely strange that more investigators didn't come to the hospital to delve deeper into cases involving trauma, abuse or neglect.

While there, officers could have collected evidence from the patient's clothing and other belongings while gathering information on injuries and collecting patient statements. Schindell explained that having law enforcement officials who were present at the crime scene would also have been helpful in treating her patients, because she would be able to ask questions about what happened to her patient before they were brought in.

So Schindell got to work at bridging the gap herself. With experience working in med/surg, critical care, neuro/trauma, flight nursing and some time caring for inmates in a jail, Schindell got to work training to become a forensic nurse. Her hard work paid off: Today she is the deputy chief medical examiner and forensic nurse for Linn and Benton counties in Western Oregon. She is also a board certified medicolegal death investigator and is currently working on her master's in medical anthropology at Oregon State University - she will graduate next year.

To read more of Schindell's story including what it's like to work in a medical examiner's office, what it means to be a nurse coroner and what the classes are like, check out Miller's entire article.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Science Behind New Year's Resolutions

Almost half of Americans set a new year's resolution each year, however just a mere 10 percent of them are actually successful. Not surprisingly, at the top of the list of popular resolutions are lose weight, quit smoking, get out of debt and spend more time with family. Possibly a bit more surprising, here are some scientifically supported techniques to increase your chances of success this year!

1. Don't keep too many resolutions at once.
  • In an experiment performed at Stanford, one group of students was given a two-digit number to memorize, while the other group was given a seven-digit number to remember. Then, each student was asked to walk down a hallway while keeping their respective number in mind. Once they got to the end, each student was given the opportunity to eat a piece of cake or fruit salad. The study found that the seven-digit memorizers were practically twice as likely to choose the slice of cake (like memorizing the extra numbers took up "good decision making" space in their brain). That being said, pick one or two key goals for 2014 and you'll be much more likely to achieve them.
2. Set Specific Goals (really specific).
  • In health behavior change and maintenance studies, the effects of setting specific, difficult goals leads to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, unmeasurable goals like, "do your best."  So, here's how you can apply this rule: The harder the goal, the more imperative it is that be specific and set measurable goals and write them down. For example, if it's losing weight you're trying to do, set a realistic and specific goal of how much weight you want to lose (i.e. 10 pounds) by what a certain date (i.e. April).
3. Focus on the carrot, not the stick.
  • A review by faculty members at the University of Chicago Booth School of business concludes that, for people who are new to certain goals, receiving positive feedback causes them to be more likely to adhere to a new task. Since you're not an expert at your newly declared resolution, don't underestimate the power of being positive and encouraging yourself about your progress. Instead of dreading an extra monthly payment on a loan, think about how much quicker the balance on the loan is shrinking and all the things you'll be able to do when the loan is paid off.
4. Tell Some Friends and Family.
  • An experiment conducted on the effects of social support at the workplace found that weak social support often leads to elevated levels of heart rate cortisol, which are indicators of anxiety and stress. It goes unsaid that having the support of others is really important when trying to accomplish a goal, though many people forget about this. Increase your chances of success by telling a few supportive individuals in your life about your resolution - they won't only be your cheering section, they'll be there to celebrate when you achieve what you set out to do.
Now that you have some scientifically based rules for accomplishing your resolution, go out and put them to use.  Good luck!

Friday, January 3, 2014

San Antonio Scores $1.5 Million STEM Grant

Thanks to a $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant, minority students at Alamo Colleges in San Antonio will get the help they need to excel in science, technology, engineering and math fields beginning in 2014.

As mySA.com reported, just last month, Alamo Colleges announced that St. Phillip's College will head-up the implementation of the three-year grant, called the CIMA Alliance, which will benefit all five area community colleges. 

Cima means summit in Spanish. For a city rich with Hispanic culture and traditions, the name couldn't be more appropriate. 

Even more impressive, the grant was one of only two funded by the science foundation's Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Bridge to Baccalaureate Alliances program. 

CIMA hopes to involve 900 misrepresented minority STEM majors in activities such as undergraduate research and peer and faculty mentorship. The grant also aims to up minority STEM enrollment by 10 percent and boost transfers to STEM majors at four-year schools by 20 percent. 

The grant will enable the district to create STEM study centers at three campuses as well as fund tutoring efforts, STEM student clubs and professional development for faculty, among other activities. 

Read the entire mySA report here.