Monday, May 9, 2016

Shell Eco-Marathon encourages Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with Young People

Special thanks to Shell for partnering with FREEISMYLIFE to inform everyone about this year's Shell Eco-Marathon in beautiful Downtown Detroit ...

Let's Encourage our Kids to be the Next Generation of STEM advancers...

Imagination is a powerful tool. When imagination is combined with education, it brings the impossible into the everyday.

Just nine years old, the iPhone and the iPad did not exist and now smart devices are a staple of our everyday lives.

Smart device apps like Facetime, Skype, Periscope and SnapChat allow friends and family to connect in realtime in ways that were impossible just 10 years ago.

When I was I kid, The Jetsons animated TV program showed an automated world that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. Now I turn up the heat in my home remotely using my smart thermostat and my Smart Lights use geofencing to turn on the lights in my home right before I turn my car into the driveway. And both smart devices help to lower the energy bills on my home.

The newest cars sport sensors that can keep me safer by knowing if other vehicles are too close, breaking before I know trouble is ahead, and safely parallel parking without my help.

It's a brave new world out there and we will need the next generation of imaginative young people to take STEM advances to the next level.

But the problem with imagination is that we tend to lose it as we grow up. As we age, we tend to accept the barriers instead of looking for the solutions.

My son and I checking out the exhibits...
So how do we encourage our kids to keep imagination alive??

Last month, my son and I attended the 10th annual Shell Eco-Marathon Americas in Downtown Detroit.  This event is an innovation challenge for future automotive engineers and scientists to push the limits of energy efficiency. More than 1,000 high school and college students from across the Americas came to Detroit to see who can design and build ultra-energy efficient vehicles that go the farthest distance using the least amount of energy.

This is the second year that the event has been held in Metro Detroit and also the second year that I and my son have attended. Last year, my son did not want to go. He thought it all sounded kind of boring and too much like a school assignment and he assumed he would not have a good time. But after he got to the event and had hands-on exposure with all the cool technology, he had a blast and was actually looking forward to going again this year.

This year's event was held again at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit and included many FREE technology focused activities for the entire family.

The Shell Eco-Marathon Americas event showcased many activities that stimulated my son's interest in STEM and is helping to keep his imaginative juices flowing.

Fuel Efficient Vehicle Designs are Imaginative and Fun to watch...

The purpose of the Shell Eco-Marathon is to challenge teams of high school and college kids to come up with ultra fuel efficient vehicles that they design by hand.

Some of the vehicles resemble something that you might see on the street.  But most are not only eye catching but down right daring.  In this competition, kids are only limited only by their imaginations and that is pretty fun for everyone to watch.

After watching the designs race on the streets of Detroit, the parents and kids in attendance got to try out building a vehicle too, just on a smaller scale. Shell supplied FREE salt water powered car kits that took about 30 minutes to assemble and then let the kids race them on a model car sized track.  It was a great activity that let kids see on a smaller scale what efficient vehicle design is all about and encourage them to one day enter the Shell Eco-Marathon challenge with imaginative vehicles of their own design.

My son trying out the Virtual Reality headset...
Virtual Reality has kids dragging parents to try it out...

Shell Eco-Marathon brought Virtual Reality home by allowing kids and adults to strap on a VR headset and experience how green hydrogen can be produced from water for use as an alternative fuel source to power vehicles and also heat homes and businesses.  This virtual reality experience had kids dragging their parents to stand in line and not the other way round.

Robots on the move...

One of the more surprising experiences at the Shell Eco-Marathon involved Robotics.  Imagine walking in Cobo Hall and coming upon a roaming robot on wheels named TARA who is programmed to stop, have a conversation with you and your family, and then politely move on her way.  I wonder if TARA can be further trained to cook and clean like the robot Rosie on The Jetsons ???  Now that would be my kind of a STEM advance :)

STEM is alive and well in Metro Detroit....

All of the wonderful experiences at the 10th annual Shell Eco-Marathon brought home the importance of encouraging STEM with our kids. And as families left the event, they were asked to write on a sticky what they got out of the event and attach the sticky to a massive wall.

As I read the many comments, I realized that STEM is alive and well in Metro Detroit.  And another generation of young people are well on their way to using their imaginations to change the world.

So I cannot wait to see what high school and college teams will imagine into reality at the 11th annual Shell Eco-Marathon when it makes its way back to Detroit in 2017.


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