10 STEM research careers worth knowing about

We’ve heard about it all before – the importance of STEM, the urgent need for engineers and scientists, better paid job packages and secure jobs. But a choice of career is dictated by more than pay packages and economic policies. There has to be an element of passion, thrill, and exhilaration. After all, isn’t that what will ultimately propel you out of bed and get you to work?

 

And what about creativity? Is that only the domain of the arty types, while the sciences get tagged “brilliant”? Everyone wants a brilliant career or be brilliant at what they do but a career in STEM also requires commitment and passion.

 

Most kids grow up wanting to know how things worked or dreaming of astronauts; which is why a STEM-related field is just the ticket to make those dreams come true. Contrary to popular belief, a career in STEM isn’t all number chewing. There is plenty to be passionate about, and enough excitement to make you bolt out of bed and straight into work for a few hundred decades. There is even scope to show off your creativity.

 

Here’s a list of STEM-related careers and innovations that are changing the world right now:

 

Immune Engineering:

The story of Layla, a 12-month-old little girl in the UK, was made famous by most tabloids and newspapers. Layla suffered from Leukaemia and went into complete remission after receiving a trial treatment developed using immune engineering. The treatment called TALENs – a way of making cuts and fixes to DNA in living cells – consists of T cells that are stripped down and programmed to attack a certain type of blood cell that goes awry in Leukaemia. Layla’s recovery points to how advances in controlling and manipulating the immune system are leading to unexpected breakthroughs in cancer treatment. Further research into genetic and immune engineering could lead to new treatments for HIV and autoimmune diseases like arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

 

The time is not so far away when robots will become a part of our daily life, just like mobile phones and tablets. Tellex’s “Million Object Challenge” aims for research robots around the world to learn how to spot and handle simple items (from bowls to bananas), upload their data to the cloud, and allow other robots to analyse and use the information. This idea is just a step forward from an earlier project undertaken by the company called Robobrain, which demonstrated how one robot could learn from another’s experience.

 

Ultimately, this project will help robot manufacturers to develop better, more intelligent robots.

 

Hello, Universe!

LIGO, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, developed by MIT and Caltech, first ran a decade ago to detect gravitational waves – ripples in space time, some of which date back to the Big Bang. In 2016, an upgraded system called Advanced LIGO, which is much more sensitive, confirmed Einstein’s theory of relativity on its first run. Observing these waves lets scientists plot the history of the universe and spot events like supernovas.

 

DNA App Store

DNA plays a powerful role in treating several diseases from Cancer and Alzheimer’s to rarer and potentially more dangerous diseases. Our genomes hold information about our health risks, our physical traits and our family tree. Yet, aside from ancestry tests that provide a limited genetic snapshot, there’s not a mass market for DNA data. Enter Helix. The idea is simple: collect a spit sample from anyone who buys a DNA app, sequence and analyse the customers’ genes, and then digitise the findings so they can be accessed by software developers who want to sell other apps.

 

Helix calls the idea “sequence once, query often”. (The company says customers will find these apps on websites and possibly in the Android and Apple app stores.)

 

The app will generate and store this type of data for all customers, even if they initially make only one specific genetic query, such as whether they have the sweet tooth gene or a risk for a certain disease.

 

Carb Fix

Imagine capturing carbon from the atmosphere – wouldn’t that be an ideal solution to global warming? CarbFix– a system developed by Columbia and University of Iceland – currently being used at a power plant in Iceland – dissolves greenhouse gases in water, and then pumps them into nearby basalt-laden volcanic rock, where both convert into limestone within a few years. The ocean floor is rich in basalt, so the method could scale worldwide.

 

A Bio-Hybrid Stingray Robot Powered by Rat Muscle

Scientists at Harvard created the first truly hybrid robot animal. The nickel-size stingray has a gold skeleton covered in a stretchy polymer, to which rat muscle cells are attached. Pulsing light makes the ray swim. This tiny bio-bot, created by researchers at Harvard University’s Department of Bioengineering and Applied Sciences, has pushed the field forward with a complex propulsion mechanism triggered by light, which allows the bio-bot to be steered around obstacles. The idea behind it is to understand the heart muscles and how they respond to each other. This project aims to revolutionise organ transplant by learning how to build a heart that’s half-muscle, half-machine.

 

Brain Modems:

The US’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently successfully implanted its cortical modem in animals.

 

The cortical modem is a brain-computer interface that connects the visual cortices of people via direct neural interface (DNI) chip. The sensor, called a “stentrode”, a combination of the words “stent” and “electrode”, is the first step in the military’s desire to allow soldiers to control machinery with their minds. But the technology has other potential benefits. For example, it can be used to help people who have lost sensory function. It is also likely that the technology will eventually replace virtual reality and augmented reality devices, allowing quick and easy exchange of information between individuals.

 

World’s Fastest Computer:

Sequoia, developed by IBM for the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), set a world record in computing speed by breaking the 16 petaflop barrier. That represents an astounding 16,000 trillion calculations per second.

 

The supercomputer is capable of performing roughly the same number of operations per second as 10 million mobile phones put together.

 

Sequoia is set to be used to carry out simulations to help extend the life of aging nuclear weapons, avoiding the need for real-world underground tests. Scientists will be able to run a simulation of how the human heart reacts to new medicine in two days instead of two years.

 

Bli-TAB:

BLITAB is the first-ever Braille tablet, using an innovative liquid-based technology to create tactile relief, which outputs braille, graphics and maps for blind and partially sighted users. BLITAB converts any document into Braille text. The tablet surface raises little smart tactile dots called “tixels” (“tactile pixels”). Users can use this to read a full page of text at a time, but also listen to the text-to-speech voice.

 

Star Apartments for the Homeless:

Housing for the homeless is perhaps the foremost urban problem we are facing today. In most cities, this translates to transient shelters or warehouse­like abodes.

 

Star Apartments,a collaborative housing project in Los Angeles, designed by Michael Maltzan along with Skid Row Housing Trust, changed that by transforming an existing one-story commercial building into 102 prefabricated studios, which are staggered into four terraced stories. Star Apartments also offers a ground-floor medical clinic and, above that, a garden, outdoor running track and space for classrooms. The goal, according to Maltzan, is to make the residents of its 300-sq.-ft. units feel “like they’re part of a dynamic and intimate community”. This is a strategy that can help people, especially those struggling with homelessness and substance-abuse issues, re-establish stability in their lives.

 

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course. The possibilities are infinite. What’s important is that, as a STEM professional, there is scope to create more opportunities. How’s that for creativity?

The Importance of STEM

Any discussion of science today is incomplete without mentioning STEM, STEM education or STEM jobs. But what is STEM? And why is it so important?

 

STEM refers to the academic disciplines of science, maths, disciplines of science, maths, engineering, and technology.

 

So why is STEM important?

The world is changing at a rapid pace, and with this change come many challenges: climate control, poverty reduction, clean water, sustainable energy, food production, finding cures to deadly diseases, and economic growth, to name just a few. STEM fields play an integral part in finding the solution to all these problems.

 

But there is a problem: the STEM crisis

We are facing a critical shortage in the global STEM workforce. Studies show that the UK’s science and innovation system is hampered by weaknesses in its STEM talent base. As well as low basic skills (numeracy, literacy and ICT) and below-average management skills, the report highlights a problem of insufficient domestic human capital to exploit science and innovation, including deficits of domestic STEM talent. The European Schoolnet predicts that Europe will need1 million additional researchers by 2020, whereas in 2014, sub-Saharan Africa reportedly required 2.5 million new engineers and technicians to address the continent’s most pressing development problems. The US Department of Labor expects 1.2 million job openings in STEM-related fields by 2018, but predictions suggest that there won’t be enough qualified graduates to fill them.

 

So why is there such a discrepancy?

It looks as though we need to prepare more teachers in the STEM fields before tackling this gap between supply and demand. In a recent study by the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges innovation aptitude among young adults, 60% of young adults (aged 16–25) named at least one factor that prevented them from pursuing further education or work in the STEM fields. Of these, 34% said they didn’t know much about the fields, a third said they were too challenging, and 28% said they were not well prepared at school to seek further education in these areas.

 

We need to act now

Most students lose interest in STEM between middle and high school. Instilling a love for science early on can go a way to prevent this. Young children are naturally curious, and the best way to harness this curiosity in a healthy way is by integrating science into their lives. It isn’t too challenging – in fact, most children already interact with STEM in one way or another in their day-to-day life anyway. In her article on early STEM education, Erin MacPherson states: “Students become engrossed with the sand, some marbles, and rulers, and soon, with the help of a few guiding questions, they are learning principles of physical science.” Boosting a child’s interest in STEM can come from the simplest things, like helping them to explore the world around them and encouraging them to ask the right kind of questions. Innovative learning resources can help us do just that.

10 reasons to use video in the classroom

1.Visual learning

John Berger states in his book Ways of Seeing that “seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.” Videos work on the principle of visual learning – the most efficient method of learning. Studies conducted at MIT shows that the human brain can process entire images viewed in as little as 13 milliseconds. Words, on the other hand, are abstract at best. They take a longer time to process and often even confuse the reader. For example, the term “hot dog” can refer to a dog that is feeling overheated, or it can refer to the popular snack. Show a student a picture of the snack, however, and they immediately know your intended meaning.

 

2. Accessibility

The video has changed a lot since the time it was available as cassettes or disks. Video as we know it now is no longer restricted to a physical format, where both educators and teachers would have to wait in line in order to borrow or buy a copy. The contemporary video only requires a working Internet connection, which allows students and teachers to stream videos instantaneously anywhere via their phones, laptops or computers.

In some cases, the video can be accessed through a drive such as the Twig Box, which removes the need for an Internet connection altogether.

 

3.Cross-modal learning

The human brain processes information in myriad ways, which is why different people learn in different ways. Video uses cross-modal integration by combining visual and auditory stimuli that complement each other. This means it appeals to visual as well as auditory learners – the two most common types of learning styles.

 

4. Brevity

Duration is key. The theory of cognitive overload suggests that an individual can only process a limited amount of information at a given time, and a clear understanding of this is important in order to match the learning capacity of the individual. Reading long content tires the viewer out and reduces concentration. Videos, however, package information in small bursts, which stimulates sharper focus and interest.

 

5.Adaptability

Video allows the learner to control how he or she receives the information by being able to stop, rewind, fast-forward, and replay content as many times as needed. This allows students to learn at their own pace.

 

6.Versatility

The versatility of the video allows educators to adapt it to their own as well as their students’ needs. For example, teachers can assign videos as homework to flip the classroom, or they can use a video call to teach students overseas.

 

7.Engagement

Video bridges the gap between the outside world and the classroom through real-world footage, allowing students to understand how the two are connected. Students can engage with their lessons by actually watching them in action. They could watch the leaf frog jump enormous distances in the rainforest to learn what amphibians are capable of doing, or they could go on a virtual trip to the Supervolcano at Yellowstone. They could even observe a supernova in action to understand what stars are.

 

8.Popularity

Popularity of the video comes down to familiarity. Everywhere we look today, we are surrounded by video. YouTube alone has over a billion users. Combining the popular medium of video with education ensures it appeals to a generation that is labeled as one easily bored. Students’ ready familiarity with video also means that they don’t have to learn how to use the medium.

 

9. Special needs

Video is also an extremely effective learning tool to teach autistic children. “Autism” is the term used to collectively describe a group of complex disorders of brain development, characterized in varying degrees by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Most autistic children are visual learners. Teachers often use storytelling and pictures to help develop language and verbal skills, helping autistic children to focus and improving their attention. However, this is not entirely without drawbacks. In one instance, while teaching up-and-down movements, a teacher used the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to illustrate the action performed in climbing a rope. However, her students could not visualize Jack climbing up the rope, and couldn’t understand the action as a result. In this scenario, a video demonstrating the movement would have allowed the students to understand it.

 

10. Fun

Let’s not forget fun – no one pays attention when they are bored. And if there’s anything worse than being in a boring class, it’s having to teach one. There’s no reason for students not to enjoy themselves while they learn. Videos incorporate colour, visuals and a sense of wonder into the classroom. And they make excellent topics for discussion or icebreakers in a new or shy class.

These are, of course, only the core benefits of using video in learning. A medium as adaptable and versatile as the video can be used in several other ways to help aid further learning. And although much has been said about the pros and cons of using video – the Internet is rife with entries debating both ends of the argument – we cannot deny that the video is here to stay.

 

Visual learning: The science behind the film

Ever wondered why there is a sudden push for educational films? They have an ability to captivate students and they break the monotony of traditional teaching. There is a definite science behind the making of a Twig film. We’ve already shared the process of making our films with you. Now let’s talk about the science behind them. Each Twig film works on the concept of differentiated learning, which takes into account the fact that students in a class have various learning styles and abilities. It means that students don’t have to adapt to one standard teaching method.

 

1.Visuals: The human brain is a massive image processor that can process entire images incredibly quickly. In fact, studies show that moving images – or video – offer a complete model for generating a mental representation of motion, thereby reducing the level of abstraction. It allows the brain to grasp concepts really quickly. Images are also stored directly in the long-term memory, which means the brain retains visual information longer.

 

2.Audio: Twig films have a recorded voiceover that explains what’s happening on screen. This helps to reinforce the ideas already absorbed through the images.

 

3.Music: Heard the soundtrack in the background of every Twig film? Ever wondered why it’s there? Well, apart from helping you get your groove on, it helps to sharpen your focus. Studies suggest our brains are hardwired to connect music with long-term memory. This is why many students believe listening to music while studying helps them to focus.

 

4.Adaptability: As video combines various kinds of data (images, motion, sounds and text) in a complementary fashion, learning can be adjusted easily to suit the diverse range of learning styles. Video allows the learner to control how he or she receives the information by being able to stop, rewind, fast-forward and replay content as many times as needed. This means that video is an especially effective tool in teaching children with learning disabilities.

 

You may be familiar with the saying: “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” The aim of Twig videos is to provide a step forward for children, helping each to learn in his or her own way.

Finalists for the Education Resources Award 2017!

The race for the Education Resources Award 2017 has begun, and we are extremely honored to have a place amongst the finalists!

 

We have been nominated in the category of Free Educational Resource for our primary science news service Reach Out Reporter, and we’re also in the running for Supplier of the Year (£1–10million turnover)!

 

At Twig World we take great pride in what we do, and it is lovely to be recognized by receiving these prestigious finalist titles. As we wait with bated breaths for the results to be released, we would also like to acknowledge all the teachers, administrators, educators and students out there who provide us with our daily dose of inspiration and motivation to keep doing what we do best.

 

Keep watching this space for more information!

10 ways in which the best teachers use technology in the classroom

Teachers are constantly pushed towards new pedagogies in order to improve student performance. For most teachers, who are already overburdened and overworked, maneuvering the jungle of new buzzwords and learning theories can be an exhausting task.

 

Integrating technology into your teaching, however, isn’t so hard. In fact, research shows that teachers who use ICT to deliver lessons in the classroom work up to 4.6 hours fewer than those who don’t. If used efficiently, a film can save teachers several hours in lesson planning, while simultaneously relieving students of cognitive overload.

 

Here are 10 ways in which the best teachers use tech in the classroom:

 

1. Innovate or Compliment

Educational videos can be used to complement traditional teaching in the classroom or assigned as homework to reinforce classroom lessons. Twig videos (for example) are tailored to school curriculums across the world; you can find the topic you want to teach in a matter of seconds.

 

2. Flip the classroom

If you’re nervous about teaching a class or just plain tired, try flipping the classroom. Assign an educational video as homework for the students to view at home. Teachers can then use this assignment to open up a discussion in the classroom, facilitating student interaction. Flipping the classroom encourages students to understand and process knowledge independently, while allowing each student to learn at his or her own pace by pausing, rewinding, forwarding and replaying the video as many times as they like.

 

3. Experiment

Science teachers know only too well the complications of conducting science experiments. Not only is it a task to gather a large group of students in a lab to demonstrate a precipitate reaction or the dissection of a cow’s lung, but there is also the concern that a student might break a test tube or pass out at the smell of blood.

Video allows teachers to circumvent these problems by choosing to view videos of experiments that are too complicated or even impossible to conduct in a lab. Students benefit from watching the experiments being conducted without missing out on any of the practical knowledge.

 

4. Distance learning

Teachers can use video conferencing to teach distance learning programs. Or they can really go the distance, and contact other teachers around the globe to do a collaborative classroom project.

 

5. Digital storytelling

Digital storytelling combines traditional storytelling techniques with digital multimedia such as images, audio and video. Teachers can also use ready-made digital films or stories by companies like Twig as anticipatory sets to engage students at the beginning of the class. Research proves that the use of anticipatory sets at the beginning of a lesson helps engage students in the learning process, while also linking existing knowledge and new material.

 

6. Class trip!

School budget cuts giving the class trip the axe again? You can still take your students on a virtual class trip. Video allows educators to bring the real world into the four walls of their classroom. Teachers can take their class on impossible class trips through videos, whether to the Sahara desert to learn adaptation of the cactus, or to deepest outer space to see a nebula.

 

7. Skype call an expert

Teachers can use video conferencing to request programs from “content experts”.

This way, students get to learn something from an expert in the field; this also breaks up the routine of normal classroom hours. For example, New Market Elementary teachers participated in a video conference with Adora Svitak called “Personal Narrative Writing: Acing Your State Writing Assessment & Beyond” in order to help their students with their writing skills.

 

8. Game time

The myths around video games are now changing. More and more research shows how games, when implemented properly, are effective in helping children develop problem solving, spatial awareness and reasoning skills, along with good reflexes and lateral thinking. A lot of game developers are now developing educational games like the Angry Birds games to help young children think creatively. So go on – be everyone’s favourite teacher and assign a videogame as class activity or homework. They’ll love you for it.

 

9. Group activity

Let’s face it: some days, school is just hard for both teachers and students. These are the days when teachers can play a video and get the class to discuss what they saw afterwards. This sort of exercise is great for developing reasoning and thinking skills. It also helps students interact with each other, discuss and share ideas, and have fun doing it.

 

10. Fun

Video is an easy way to incorporate some fun into the learning process. It allows teachers to facilitate student participation in a particularly difficult or unresponsive class. Watching an educational video can also be a good icebreaker at the start of term, or even just to break the traditional teaching routine every so often. It makes learning fun and enjoyable for the students and, by extension, makes teaching fun and simpler for teachers.