You might think that robot Olympics or science challenge is just another fun activity for your daughter or son. But those types of activities help strengthen our economy while encouraging students to excel in science and technology.

These events challenge and motivate students to find their own inspiration in math and science, and pursue it in multiple areas of their life at all life stages. This can start as early as elementary school.

As our global society becomes ever more information- and technology-driven, so does the importance of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education grow. Careers in this area are growing at 17% (twice as fast as all other industries) and require critical thinking, innovation and a passion for discovery.

While the STEM job outlook is promising, there is a significant lack of qualified workers pursuing those kinds of careers. Professional recruiting agency Adecco found that this “source gap” derives not from a lack of education or competitive wages, but instead, graduates taking their talents to other fields. Only 10% of students with a STEM bachelor’s degree go on to work in STEM post-college.

As the school bell rings for the end of the day—or for the summer—try these unique STEM opportunities with your kids:

OPPORTUNITY #1: This one time, at STEM camp…
One roadblock for maintaining STEM interest is finding a topic or experience kids care about. Hundreds of K-12 camps across the country have structured curriculums for in-school field trips, weekend programs and full-on summer camps. Engineering for Kids (6 locations in Michigan) is one such ahead-of-the-curve program with classes in electronic game design, alternative energy, robotics and chemical reactions, among others. Hands-on camps like these are designed to accommodate all learning speeds, and connect what children learn in their math and science classes to areas of interest in their own lives.

OPPORTUNITY #2: A bit of healthy competition
We’ve always known playing a sport helps young people teamwork. The same is true for STEM. A collaborative environment is key for solving complex problems; STEM competitions are an exciting way to build crucial teamwork skills and get recognized for one’s work. The Junior FIRST® LEGO® League uses America’s favorite toy to introduce STEM concepts to kids ages 6-10, having them build moving models and showing off their projects at a number of expos. eCybermission, free for students, invites middle school teams to provide solutions to real community problems like public safety and school nutrition.

OPPORTUNITY #3: Out in the elements
There’s nothing like putting practice to the pavement. Engaging with nature, may that be on guided nature walks or just getting hands and knees in the dirt, helps kids test theories about the world around them. No matter what they do, asking kids to record their observations help them keep track of what they saw, heard and questioned in their own creative way, and go back to learn from that later—a key scientific skill. Check out Pure Michigan’s handy guide to the great outdoors for some inspiration.

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