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Just Three Days Left for the SparkFun Kickstarter

We are in the final stretch for the SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter

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The SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter is now in its final days. If you're not familiar with it, we've been running a campaign for the last month or so in the hopes of funding a SparkFun National Tour. On this tour, we will travel across the United States, teaching educators how to make electronics part of their classrooms, libraries, and after-school programs.

For us folks here at SparkFun, this tour is to be a means of sharing our passion for electronics with youth across the country. We believe education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) is more important than ever, and we want to show kids across America that electronics are not only educational, but can also be genuinely fun.

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In the last few weeks, we have seen an incredible outpouring of contributions from all over the country. In fact, all 50 states are now represented. We have even had several contributions of over $2,500. One of those generous contributions came from Coppell High School in Dallas, TX. I recently spoke with Mike Yakubovky, Coordinator of Coppell High's School of Engineering (yes, some high schools have engineering specific programs now. Awesome!). Here is what he had to say about his program, their goals, and how the SparkFun Kickstarter fits their mission:

Can you tell us a little bit about Coppell High School and its engineering program?

Coppell High School is a suburban public high school just north of Dallas. We have developed a pre-college engineering program for learners that is a part of our STEM Academy. The Academy has 130 learners currently enrolled and is growing. The learners participate in projects that teach them about engineering, and have the opportunity to participate in a number of after-school projects, including FIRST Robotics and the Solar Car Challenge.

What is the importance of educating today's students in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics?

It is important that learners not only learn about STEM fields, but just how important it is to their daily lives. We live in a world of constant change and accelerating complexity. While not all people will work directly in STEM fields, their lives will be impacted directly by STEM.

How do you think companies like SparkFun and schools like CHS can work together to help make education programs stronger?

Schools by themselves cannot keep up with the increasing pace of technological innovation. By partnering with companies like SparkFun, schools will be able to offer fun and engaging ways of learning about STEM, while also keeping up with current technology. Decreasing budgets and increasing workloads make it almost impossible for educators to keep up with new technologies. It is not uncommon to find 10 or 20-year-old technology being taught to students, if it is being taught at all. SparkFun has the ability to stay current with their technological area and help teachers keep up. With partnerships like this, learners win.

What is your background in engineering and how did you first get started with engineering/electronics?

I started in engineering and science in high school and college. Along the way, I ended up in restaurant management. Later, I went back to school and started teaching science. Coppell HS wanted to put in an engineering program and asked me to take on the challenge. Over the years, we built our program and worked to include a number of opportunities for learners to discover engineering and technology and how it plays in their lives. Electronics are an integral part of our world. Learners have to have a working knowledge of it to be successful. As a program, our first foray into electronics was to build a model rocket launch control system.  Then we started our solar car team. The team designs and builds full-size electric vehicles that are recharged by solar power. 

Why do you feel people should support the SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter?

The SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter offers schools a great opportunity to share electronics and engineering with more people. Most educators do not do much with electronics and engineering because it is not something they are comfortable with. This program offers them a way to learn about it in a safe, fun environment and then be able to bring it to the classroom. Learning on SparkFun kits and the knowing that they can use these same kits in the classroom makes it a more enjoyable experience, and opens up new avenues to engage learners like never before.

Programs like the one at Coppell High School are incredible inspirations. We want to help others establish similar programs by increasing interest in the STEAM fields and we believe the SparkFun National Tour is a nice step in the right direction. Support our National Tour today!

Comments 9 comments

  • rebelzach / about 10 years ago * / 6

    I am fully in support of this effort. I think everyone who is a part of the SparkFun community will agree that they get great joy out of creating and discovering through electronics. I remember when I was 10 and I made my first blinking LED with a 555 timer. My father was a ham operator and passed on his love for electronics to me. He introduced me to new electronic projects and helped me understand the basics. I became part of an exciting universe that allowed me to create and explore well beyond the rudimentary art and music classes at school.

    I think its easy to see that the need for new avenues in education is paramount. SparkFun could be starting something that becomes contagious throughout the world. I think its worth the whole community contributing a few dollars to help enable exciting new possibilities for our nation's youth.

  • Isdale / about 10 years ago / 4

    I fully support this effort - and to kick things up... I upped my pledge to the full $2500 to try and get SparkFun to come to Hawaii... officially. I challenge any and all contributors to match that. Otherwise I dont have to pay... And just have to keep supporting the errant SparkFundies couch surfing when then come visit Maui.

    SparkFun has been highly supportive of the Education end of things. I have been following their education department since meeting Linz and others at Maker Faire a couple years back. I love what they (and Adafruit, and MAKE) are doing to promote electronics and general STEAM project based education. It is very inspirational to be part of this community.

    • Miskatonic / about 10 years ago * / 1

      Thanks Isdale,

      We trust Theo and Dave will be in good hands( or couch). I look forward to seeing whats going on in paradise. We appreciate your support!

  • AD8BC / about 10 years ago / 2

    I think the natural evolution of this would end up as Sparkfun creating an electronics curriculum for the high-school level and sell it as a reasonably-priced text-and-lab package. When I was in high school (1988-1993) I witnessed the tail-end of the once-common industrial arts program -- our school had a great program until cost-cutting got in the way. Available were: auto shop, wood shop, metal shop, graphic arts (complete with offset presses), manual drafting and AutoCAD.

    I can only attest to the elecronics curriculum, but our lab equipment was deteriorating, and though our parts closets were relatively well stocked, there was always that "one part" that we ran out of. And, of course, all of the 74LS series ICs that were used and put back in the bins, often with a fried logic gate or two.

    In reality, electronics parts tend to be dirt cheap, especially when purchased in bulk. Imagine, if you will, a curriculum and lab package designed to last a semester, in increasing levels. Then an instructor package including a fair amount of spare parts, ready-to-go. For example:

    Electronics 1-Basics: Ohms law, watts law, series, parallel, resistors, capacitors, batteries, LEDs, transistors, diodes. Includes a cheap – but well fused – multimeter, breadboard, battery holder, and parts.

    Electronics 2-Digitals: Build a 5V power supply, then: The 555, Logic gates (TTL so there are fewer burned out parts), culminating in building your own digital clock using power line 60Hz timebase (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/clocks-watches/digital-clock4.htm). Includes breadboard, power supply kit, TTL logic kit, and other parts.

    Electronics 3-Micros: Arduino programming (using thru-hole Uno-type, easily replaceable). Includes Arduino, protoshield, etc.

    Then go on and create more – Robotics, Communications, etc.

    Think you can't create a curriculum for high school: Dave Ramsey did -- "Foundations of Personal Finance" (http://www.daveramsey.com/school/foundations/)

    This could also be offered individually for students who are taking an "independent study" class.

    And the best part: We could all have a hand in creating and improving the curriculum.

  • jakkjakk / about 10 years ago / 2

    I'm sorry I just can't get behind this. It seems just like a way for you to advertise sparkfun by educating people. It's cool you want to do that and I'm all for it, but pay for it yourself. You've made 20 million over the years or something like that? You can't spare 150k? please....

    • neurdy / about 10 years ago * / 6

      We certainly understand how you feel though the Kickstarter campaign is a way to engage the community in bringing electronics education to learning centers across the country. While a large portion of the people have chosen not to receive the backing packages associated with the donations, our hope was that everyone donating to the cause would receive something to further inspire them to build, hack, or teach someone else! SparkFun is very grateful for our success and to be part of such an amazing community. More than likely we will find a way to self-fund a version of this tour if the Kickstarter does not succeed. However, sending out teams of trained instructors in RVs across the nation is not a small endeavor - even for a successful company. The tour will likely not be profitable, but we certainly believe it is well worth everyone's investment to give students the opportunity to engage with science and technology in an affordable and relevant manner.

      • thrytis / about 10 years ago / 2

        Would $150k even cover the cost of the tour after the rewards and kickstarter fees? I would imagine that SparkFun had planned on some costs above and beyond what was raised by kickstarter unless the $150k level was exceeded quite a bit.

        • neurdy / about 10 years ago / 2

          You're spot on - we did quite a bit of math to get to the $150k and that still left much to be funded by SparkFun. The number came out of some simple equations designed to tell us what it would take to get us to one stop in all fifty states - even then we would be well into the red. We're just excited about the opportunity to work with educators and students and thought it would be fun for the community to be able to participate in the fundraising and planning for the national tour.

    • sgrace / about 10 years ago / 2

      Let's say Sparkfun pays for all of it. Now, what to do? Would traveling to Alaska and Hawaii for 3 days offer the same amount of education to Texas or California in the same 3 days? Who knows, it all depends on the interest, and the only way to get an idea of where a the most benefit would occur is based upon where the interest comes from. So how would someone determine interest of a geographical area of STEM being taught? A survey could help, but you always have a large error based upon who takes it (statistics 101). You could call up schools and school districts around the nation, but they have more oppressing matters to deal with (they can't afford to pay a teacher to go a SFE class to learn STEM when there is no budget for it).

      This is a fundamental issue of RoI (Return on Investment). SFE knows it has business all over the world, but what would be the return if they put 150k into teaching teachers/students in STEM? A company, even employee owned, always strives to gain a profit. Throwing a 150k to sending ~10 employees all over the country to teach, what is the return? Schools have a tight budget to play with, and having a dedicated STEM program is an expensive investment, especially to stay with current techology. So, where is the RoI for a school/teacher/district? Where is the RoI from hackerspaces/makerspaces that already have invested money in STEM?

      As I have said in a comment earlier this year, you need to get a community involved in the education of the children. To do this, you need to develop interest, and what better way than to do a KS.

      If you ask me, the KS is spot on. What better way to gauge interest of a nation in struggle than to see who is willing to dig into whatever money they have to have SFE come and teach. Whether SFE has a successful KS or not doesn't matter anymore. They have the contacts of people who gave money, now they can work individually with those people to get a plan together.

      To conclude my rant, the KS doesn't align well for a lot of people, I get it, but it is a good idea to see where the areas SFE can do good (products/services) and help our kids out.

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