30 May Jump starting technology education
Milwaukee, Wis. – He is fast becoming one of the most sought-after spokesmen on behalf of innovative technology education, and if he has his way chief information officers and others will have plenty of prospective employees to choose from when they move to fill IT staff openings.
Tim Jump, who will speak at a June 12 luncheon during the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference in Milwaukee, is a pre-engineering teacher by trade, and an advocate by accident.
He’s not just any pre-engineering teacher, but one that led a Minnesota high school team – from Benilde-St. Margaret’s of St. Louis Park – to victory in 2005 U.S. Open RoboCup, a robotics competition for graduate-level college students.
The team used robots to navigate a simulated disaster scene, collecting and analyzing data so that rescue teams could venture into the disaster area with minimal risk. It’s exactly the kind of problem that students in Jump’s Advanced Competitive Science program are presented with, and he trusts them to use newfound engineering knowledge to apply a solution.
Jump cited the example of Apollo 13, the aborted moon mission in which the objective quickly transitioned from a lunar landing to the safe return of three endangered astronauts. The Apollo crew and those in NASA’s mission control center had to creatively solve a number of problems, including the need to scrub out the CO2 that was developing inside the spacecraft.
“That’s my approach,” Jump said. “Create a problem that captivates their interest.”
For many, Jump’s engaging and interactive approach to instruction is just what American education needs to attract more students to the STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering, and math.
Nowhere is this need more profound than in the business community, where a declining number of U.S. students have pursued careers in these fields since the dotcom bust and the onset of offshoring.
One of the frequent complaints about public education is the unimaginative way in which the STEM disciplines are taught, and Jump’s example might make possible a new approach in Wisconsin classrooms.
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, has been inviting school district personnel, and perhaps State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elizabeth Burmaster, to the June 12 luncheon.
As Still notes, the effort to transform Milwaukee’s economy to more of a knowledge-based model is dependent on stepping up its production of STEM-oriented students to address a looming talent shortage.
Unless the Milwaukee area can produce and retain more students and workers in these disciplines, “its efforts to revitalize the region’s economy will fall short,” Still said.
Jump, an award-winning teacher, has presented his message at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, and other colleges. Outside of Minnesota, however, he has yet to penetrate the K-12 environment to any great extent.
He said learning to apply Newton’s Laws in a hands-on exercise, rather than simply relying on rote memorization, is the best way to reach a generation of kids that is more tech savvy and energized by electronic games.
It’s also the best way to interest a generation of students that increasingly comes from single-parent homes or latch-key situations, and may be more inclined to eschew a four-year university education in favor of an associate degree in computer-aided design.
“That kid,” Jump notes, “needs a different kind of stimulus.”
• Doyle urges support of higher education spending
• High schoolers to graduate from UW’s IT Academy
• Tom Still: Silver linings in the cloud: America’s dearth of STEM students
• James Carlini: H-1B jobs: Where is the shortage of skilled workers?
• Tom Still: What does business want from the schools? Some answers may be surprising