The Perot Museum of Nature and Science TECH truck, powered by Dell, debuted in Dallas this week and will hit the streets this fall to give the area’s youth more access to science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) learning in their own communities.
(left to right) Mona Charif, Vice President of Marketing & Communications at Dell Services, Estevan Rodriguez and I’Kira Toldson from Village Tech Schools of Cedar Hill, Texas, and Colleen Walker, CEO of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science at the TECH truck ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The mobile innovation truck will roll up to local schools, libraries and community centers in underserved neighborhoods with free, out-of-school educational and interactive programs, including drop-in sessions and workshops. Youth will learn through no- and low-tech activities as well as high-tech experiences that are funded by a $1.13 million, three-year grant from Dell.
The super-cool, custom-outfitted van has been nicknamed TECH truck, an acronym based on the program’s mission to inspire youth to “Tinker, Engineer, Create, and Hack.”
Admittedly, I initially had a little trouble with the term “hack” until my teenagers explained that, in their world, the term isn’t negative. Rather, it’s a new and innovative way to solve a problem. And that’s exactly what the TECH truck will be – an innovative way to address the problem of the STEAM skills gap.
Specially trained Perot Museum educators will work on a full-time basis to instruct children to solve design challenges through hands-on making, tinkering and creative problem solving. The curriculum may involve “no technology” (such as the paper stomp rocket design challenge or creating rubber stamps), “low technology” (as in soldering and squishy circuits) or “high technology” (including 3D printing, computer coding and laser cutting) using equipment provided by Dell and others.
Here are few statistics that explain why this is super cool and important:
- There are 26 million science, technology, engineering and math related jobs in the U.S. today – one-fifth of all jobs in the U.S. And there’s already a skills gap.*
- Fourteen percent of U.S. companies weren’t able to hire due to lack of STEAM skills in 2010. By 2013, the same skills gap kept 40 percent of U.S. companies from hiring the people they needed.**
- By 2022, there will be 9 million more STEAM-related jobs.***
Supply simply isn’t keeping up with the demand – and won’t unless we do something innovative about it.
At Dell, we believe that technology is the great equalizer and I believe the TECH truck will be an equalizing tool. The TECH truck will make STEAM accessible to approximately 20,000 kids per year who might not ever step foot in the downtown Dallas Perot Museum.
Programs will be a mix of one-time drop-in sessions where there is no prerequisite attendance along with multiple-session mini-camps that dive more deeply into design thinking, processes and higher-order skills such as coding and programming. One-time sessions will correlate thematically and encourage further participation in mini-camps, providing transition from curious experimenter to engaged participant.
By taking STEAM to the streets, the TECH truck is “hacking” the skills gap and will help kids tinker, engineer, create and hack their way to the STEAM jobs of the future.
If you missed the Dallas event, be sure to see the TECH truck at Dell World, on Wednesday, October, 21 from 8:00 – 8:45 a.m. outside the Austin Convention Center.
** STEM Education Coalition
***U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics