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Hands-on or virtual experience, what do kids need more?

Hands-on or virtual experience-Plasti-Block™

We are subconsciously taught engineering from a very early age - we learn it without even realizing it. In fairy tales, we learn about the 3 little pigs and their civil engineering challenge to build a house able to survive hurricane-like winds. In Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks encounters furniture engineering ergonomics during her unexpected visit with the three bears. In many of the video games our children play, physics engines are used to enhance the gameplay.

Scientists, inventors, and engineers are vital to our economy and society. Kids shouldn’t wait until undergrad to start exploring engineering as a career path as it is very important to develop these skills as early as possible.

Today, most high schools have eliminated classes in automotive, electronics, electrical, carpentry, metalworking, and welding. Young children dream of becoming scientists (it’s one of the top 10 choices young children would like to be when they grow up), Top 15 Dream Jobs for Kids.


But our schools no longer provide the "hands-on real-world skills" in electronics, automotive maintenance, wood or metal shop that provide an intuitive understanding of science and engineering, and foster creativity. It seems that we are becoming less practical and more theoretical in our approach to science and engineering. Historically, many creative people who have changed our world had a trades-based education and life experience rather than a formal university degree. Some people are "hands-on practical learners" who do not thrive in a purely academic setting and we are failing to properly educate those kids. When I was growing up (around age 6 or 7), the thought of growing up to be a scientist or an engineer was cool and exciting. When I was young, many people around me were scientists, engineers, electrical, electronics, and mechanical technicians and I had a clear intuitive understanding of how science and engineering work. This is not the case for kids today. When Christine Cunningham, an education researcher and vice president at the Museum of Science in Boston prompts elementary school students to draw an engineer at work, the perception of such for many thousands of students appear to be consistently inaccurate.

Hands-on or virtual experience-Plasti-Block™

In this “Screen Age”, it is more important than ever to have hands-on experience. While it is theoretically interesting than anything you want to know is available through a YouTube video, how is it possible to truly appreciate the experience and know that it is done right without ever having physically experienced it? Great scientists and engineers throughout history have been masters of observation in experiments and real-world phenomena. Without practical hands-on skills and an intuitive understanding of science and engineering, such breakthrough observations are not possible. Hands-on experiences create a crucial foundation to nurture creativity and innovation through design.

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