Iridescent's mission, vision, values and people are simply fantastic. We at Cummins Inc. (a fortune 200 company) partnered with them in June 2015 to implement their Curiosity Machine (CM) program in our local community - Columbus, IN. First, we piloted the program at three Columbus parks. After the success of the pilot, we implemented the CM program at a title-1 school, Schmitt Elementary where ~400 students (3rd-6th graders) completed ~700 design challenges during 2015 - 2016 on the Curiosity Machine platform. Seeing students thrive in the program and connect with their Cummins' mentors, the school decided to integrate it into their regular curriculum.
The most awesome part about the platform is that the design challenges are structured in the format of the engineering design process - a process that we not only use at Cummins in our day-day work, but also in our day-day lives. Hence, as children follow this process while doing the design challenges, they get a first-hand experience of how it is like to be an engineer - a problem solver. Additionally, the platform helps students develop their curiosity, creativity, and persistence to experiment and find solutions despite failures.
Here at Cummins we have worked with several non-profits but the amount of enthusiasm that the CM program generated and the widespread impact it has had in just one year make's Iridescent the best STEM non-profit out there. Kudos to the whole Iridescent team for actually making a difference in people's lives.
The leaders of Iridescent are very professional. The Engineers as Teachers program is an excellent idea. Not only do the students get to meet and work with aspiring engineers but the engineering students have an opportunity to talk about their plans to the students. They students who came to our school were so well matched for our students. Tara and Kara prepared the engineering students. They brought everything they needed. In one instance, we only needed to provide water. The students remained engaged throughout the 4 weeks they were on campus. Students looked forward to their visits. As a former teacher, I remember the first day I stepped in front of students for the first time. I could not have asked for a better way to get students to realize that engineers are people, too, and that there are so many different avenues they can follow if they choose to be engineers. I cannot recommend Iridescent and the Engineers as Teachers program enough. An excellent way to get role models into the schools. Who knows - some may become teachers, I hope. Just what we need, excellent, passionate teachers to instruct our future engineers and scientists.
An amazing nonprofit! The organization focuses on teaching local elementary, middle, and sometimes high school students about science and engineering. They have weekly in-school sessions, which take place in the classroom, as well as "Family Science", which is a 2-hour session with the kids and their families. But what sets Iridescent apart is their dedication to hands on activities, where students are actively involved in both the design and build phases. In addition, they recruit engineering students from the neighboring universities and provide extensive training on how to be an effective teacher. The experience challenges the university students to accurately simplify difficult concepts, while the kids get to apply their creativity to engineering. At the conclusion of the 4-week session, Iridescent quantitatively assesses the improvement of the kids and the teaching quality of the students. They provide feedback so that each session gets better and better. At a time when the number of American students going into science and engineering is declining, programs like these are critical to inspiring upcoming generations and keeping the US science and technology-oriented.
I started my involvement with Iridescent about a year ago by helping out a friend as she taught a Family Science Session to elementary school students. I had a great time and was able to get involved in my Fall semester, taking a course at USC, AME 490 - Engineers as Teachers. I taught an optics course for 7th Grader that I developed with the help of Kara and Tara. For many of the students, I was one of the first engineers that they had ever met. I was able to communicate scientific and engineering principles to them while participating in hands on science lessons. I just recently taught Iridescent's Animal Locomotion lessons to 3rd through 5th grade students. Tara and Kara, who run the operations, are great. They are super fun and animated. They also answers email super fast.