Skyrock Projects aims to inspire action and initiative in technology and the arts.
Emerging technologies are already reshaping the world, and the pace of change is increasing, with everything from Artificial Intelligence, workplace automation, financial technology, autonomous vehicles, and advanced material science impacting home and work.
Today’s learners will need to be educated to take advantage of the opportunities and solve the problems presented by emerging technologies. Yet, many experts see mainstream education failing to keep pace with speed of change, and in many regards, failing to adequately prepare their students to achieve their full potential.
“Mainstream education is very slow to catch on to the demands of the economy or the demands of technology, and is very slow to adopt emerging technologies,” observes Simon Thomas, a science and mathematics teacher from the United Kingdom who has taught at the Taipei European School (TES) for the past few years.
Thomas, along with fellow UK citizen and TES teacher Tony Cornes, has launched a startup, Skyrock Projects, which promises to bridge the gap between emerging technologies and conventional education systems.
“We want to encourage students and educators alike to embrace interdisciplinary learning and emerging technologies as classroom tools and guides,” he says.
Skyrock Projects is inspired by the STEAM approach to interdisciplinary education, with its heavy emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and even Arts, which has become popular in modern school systems.
A quality STEAM education program integrates in-depth knowledge of math and science and deploys that knowledge to real world problem solving. Because they are real-world oriented, quality STEAM programs are more engaging for students, thereby advancing initiative and creativity, as well as critical thinking and problem solving.
“How to create original solutions to novel problems – that’s the massive skill needed by students and society alike,” observes Thomas. “The question is, in which subjects do you get taught that? There’s no textbook for that.”
Initiative and creativity are the buzz words of the modern world, but Thomas cautions that “employing initiative and showing creativity is impossible without inspiration.”
“If you want your kids to do well with math and sciences you need to inspire them,” says Thomas. “If you want to have creativity, you need to inspire creative work – that’s what we do.”
To this purpose, Skyrock Projects has created a series of programs that are aimed at not just advancing learning in technology, but putting that learning towards fun, enriching projects that inspire students to find their own interests and capabilities.
Skyrock Projects has three main sections of learning: Skyrock Mini for junior high school aged students, Skyrock+ for high school students, and Skyrock++ for university age and above. Within these broad sections, Skyrock offers a number of courses, each consisting of 30 hours of classroom experience, with classes held for two hours per week for 15 weeks. The programs are divided into six hours of instruction in the basics of the technologies or systems, which the students then apply to two separate projects of 12 hours each.
Skyrock Mini offers classes on 3D modeling and creative prototyping, and a recent visit to the school found students busy scanning their heads, and then using the 3D computer models to shape and manipulate the form before eventually printing out the model on 3D printers. This program allows students to gain experience in the use of CAD (computer assisted design) software and technologies and to learn the science behind 3D printers. Other Mini programs include wearable technologies, autonomous vehicles, and App development.
“You need to do stuff that shows that learning can be fun and engaging. It needs to resonate with them,” notes Cornes. “In my experience as a high school teacher, there aren’t enough experiences that are done just for the sake of inspiration.”
Skyrock++ meanwhile is aimed at college students/graduates preparing for their dream master’s program or job application, as well as professionals in need of a skills top-up, or simply anyone with a desire to learn something new and to challenge themselves both technically and creatively.
The partners at Skyrock Projects applaud the quality education in Math and Science available in Taiwan, and note that they are augmenting this education with fun, engaging, and creative learning programs.
“The teachers in conventional education do a bang-up job delivering the basic chemistry and physics curriculum,” says Thomas. “Our role is getting students engaged in the first place.”