Robotics professor inspires next gen with stories

07-Aug-2017 12:02 PM

If a picture tells a thousand words then an illustrated storybook designed for young children may inspire a new generation of scientists.

That’s the driving determination of QUT Robotics Professor Michael Milford, creator the STEM Storybook – a collection of 12 picture books covering topics ranging from statistics to robotics, including a new take on Three Billy Goats Gruff along with other titles such as Critters Eat Cake and How Does It Speed Up?

Key points:

  • Starting STEM early is critical
  • 75 percent of all future jobs require STEM skills
  • STEM skills are transferable across occupations and industries
  • Make it fun to learn

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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and is now considered to be one of the critical skillsets required for the future by organisations ranging from the National Science Foundation to national and state government organizations.

Professor Michael Milford

“I wanted to create a series of storybooks that I could read with my young son and daughter that exposed them to key STEM concepts,” said Professor Milford (pictured above with children Ethan and Rachel).

“I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill already out there, so I went ahead and created them myself.”

Another motivation came from Professor Milford’s 17 years of experience teaching maths and robotics to teenage and university students.

“We know from many studies and personal teaching experience that much of a person’s success in education is determined by what happens at an early age,” he said.

“If we can get young kids familiar and excited about STEM concepts early on, the rest of their education and careers will be that much easier.”

goats_reading

Professor Milford wants the project to build on his previous work to boost knowledge of the STEM fields in education.

Supported by the AMP Foundation, he sent nearly 2000 copies of math novels and study guides to more than 180 schools around Australia.

“We’ve already been working with school kids through the novels and workshops, and with adults through initiatives like Hollywood movie science reviews in The Conversation and workshops at World Science Festival. Now we’re expanding our scope to early childhood,” he said.

“It would be amazing if we could grow this initiative to the point where every child in Australia had cheap access to a range of STEM-filled, entertaining picture books,” he said.

The STEM Storybook has just launched as a project on Kickstarter and has a funding goal of $5000 to cover costs including print production, distribution of printed copies and print licenses.

Professor Milford said if the kickstarter campaign just passes its target, it is likely the campaign will make a loss but he would use his own funds.

He also said if the target was surpassed by a large margin then the offset printing becomes feasible and cost of printing drops and backers would receive extra bonuses.

More details about the project can be viewed here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1740916372/stem-storybook
 

Media contacts:
Debra Nowland, QUT Media, 07 3138 1150 (Mon/Wed/Thurs) or media@qut.edu.au
After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901
 
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