USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Next Generation Learning with the Kavli “Science in Fiction” Video Contest.

By Stacy Jannis

2014_Kavli_Science_Video_Contest_Science_in_FictionConnecting bright young minds with the tools and techniques they need today is the first step towards developing our work force tomorrow. Businesses and government have issued a challenge to educators to help this next generation acquire the creative high-performance STEM skills they need to better transform the world. The evolution of learning technologies, combined with new frameworks for learning standards, will help equip and propel our students forward towards this goal.

So how could our “Science in Fiction” video contest help students practice and refine these much needed “next generation” 21st century skills?
First, we challenge students to think about science in a fresh way from a very unusual angle. The video competition gives students a unique opportunity to exercise their “4C’s” , a set of gold standard 21st century skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  Say a student  or a class team wants to investigate the science of bionics, a sci-fi staple from the old tv series “Six Million Dollar Man” , the movie “BladeRunner” or the brand new TV series “Almost Human”. The student(s) then investigate the whole range of bionics, from mechanical, electrical devices, to artificial or biological material that more closely mimics natural tissues and functions. In short order, they will be researching and learning about amazing advances in biomedicine, including sensors, implants, chips, and computer-brain interfaces.
Another student or team may choose to investigate the extra-terrestrial life forms found in the game “Halo” , the television series “Star Trek”, or any number of popular sci-fi movies.  They will likely dive straight into NASA’s research, SETI, and along the way discover the rubrics for how planets might be candidates for carbon life forms, as well as uncover theories regarding hypothetical non-carbon life  and non-carbon biochemistry. They will likely research astrobiology, exobiology as well as the history of life on earth , such as the evolution of methane bacteria.  The student(s) might develop something of a hypothesis, such as a statement regarding what conditions might be needed for life to exist, or perhaps what transportation innovations (hello– interstellar space travel physics!) will need to be invented for us to discover other life forms.
Great Mills High School  USA Science & Engineering Festival X-STEM School

Great Mills High School
USA Science & Engineering Festival X-STEM School

Armed with data, students also evaluate the scientific innovations they have discovered, to see what is being funded, tested, prototyped, etc. We want students to learn more about how scientific discoveries become the products that help transform society, and be able to weigh the significance and potential impact of the scientific information they find.  Information, media, and literacy skills are yet another gold standard 21st century skill set , and the “Science in Fiction” contest provides an excellent opportunity in which to exercise them.
Our competition is guaranteed to open up some eyes and blow some minds! Students, parents, teachers, and everyone who views the entry videos will be inspired by amazing advances being made every day by scientists and engineers all over the world. Many of these astonishing inventions are unheralded and under reported by today’s mass media.  President Barack Obama said that “Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models.”  As we head into the future, we not only need more scientists and engineers, we also need more science and engineering communicators, advocates, and funders than ever before. What better way to communicate amazing scientific advances than with a STEM video competition that celebrates the spirit of scientific innovation and the soaring promise of creative imagination?
The Kavli “Science in Fiction” video contest challenges students to examine the science in video games, movies, and television shows. The competition is now open to Grades 6-12 students and closes on March 21, 2014. Please check out our contest website for more information by clicking here. 
To learn more about 21st century skills like the 4C’s,  check out P21, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a coalition of forward thinking educators, schools, corporations, associations, and partners.
Written by Stacy Jannis
Contact Stacy at Stacy@usasciencefestival.org