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JWST + STEM Education = Awesome!

The James Webb Space Telescope project is just entering its 3rd year of participation with the wonderful RealWorld-InWorld Engineering Design Challenge. It was originally created by teacher Sharon Bowers and it allows students to solve real world engineering design problems both in the classroom and in a virtual environment and is a valuable tool for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. We actually interviewed her about the program, which has grown every year. More than 400 middle and high school students from across the nation were involved in the RealWorld phase of RWIW for 2012-2011. This is a 400% increase over the 2010-2011 challenge. The JWST project is really proud to be involved again for the 2012-2013 school year.

Watch this video to learn more:

How can your children or students get involved? Check out the official RWIW website for more information and to sign up to participate:

When asked about RWIW, Ben Klamm, the Team Leader of last year’s winning team, described the challenge this way:

“The RealWorld-InWorld challenge represents a necessary step in the education of a true engineer. Project experience is invaluable, and the more experience one gains in an environment that allows risks to be taken and possible failure, the better one is, as an engineer, at effectively dealing with future problems where failure is often a very expensive, and sometimes deadly, outcome.

This challenge, specifically, honed my communication and leadership skills by forcing me to coordinate and delegate tasks completely by correspondence, over multiple time zones. Motivating team members by email is surprisingly difficult, and I gained valuable insight towards this ability.

My student team members garnered insight into the engineering process, including their first real taste of what professional engineers expect from themselves and their peers. During the challenge, critical thinking skills were tested, background research was required, analyses performed, teamwork was coordinated, and results were presented. These are most of the basic tenets that exist during a team project.”

Two of student team members from the winning team described their work in RWIW below:

Ryan Chew:

“The RWIW Challenge demands that you become focused and it became a part of my daily schedule. I am very glad that I participated, as this challenge exposed me to new concepts and experiences that I would not have encountered in my local school.

I would highly recommend RWIW to other students! This Challenge integrates teamwork, communication, math and science problem-solving skills, data analysis and 3D modeling all into a month-by-month project. You’re able to see and track your team’s progress–it’s a great and lively experience.

Throughout RWIW I gained valuable problem-solving and organizational skills. 3D modeling was also exciting to learn, as well as the whole “virtual world” building. The Challenge gave me insight as to how NASA takes on and solves many more difficult problems in the real world.”

Lauren Shum:

“I was attracted first to the RWIW Challenge by mere virtue of the fact that it was a challenge-I enjoy a good challenge. I was hooked in even more though when I realized I recognized the program that Challenge participants would be using if they progressed “in world.” I had used Activeworlds before to build virtual museum exhibits for the New York Hall of Science; I got excited when I saw it.

If you’re considering a STEM career, or perhaps if you’re just casually interested in STEM subjects, the RWIW Challenge is for you!” iI gets you to think like a scientist and build like an engineer… only, you’re building virtually!

This challenge has given me practice in thinking critically and solving problems. It has given me confidence in my abilities and my work. It has given me a glimpse-my first taste-of the engineering process and has thereby strengthened my desire to pursue an engineering career.”


1 Comment

  • Julie Brighton says:

    This is a fantastic program! I’m so excited to see how students can be involved and to experience how science can be part of their every day lives. Thank you!

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