STEAM Village pushes student innovation


ArtPrize’s STEAM Village, featuring Albert Yu-Min Lin, places a heavy emphasis on technology and students. Courtesy Planet3

This year, ArtPrize is focusing more on how art can change education.

Last week, the ArtPrize STEAM Village hosted Albert Yu-Min Lin as a keynote speaker for “The Art of Science.” Lin is a scientist and National Geographic Explorer — who is known for his discovery of what might have been Genghis Khan’s tomb in Mongolia — but also is a co-founder and chief science officer of Planet3, one of the main pieces of the STEAM Village.

ArtPrize is one of the initial unveilings of Planet3 to start a year-long beta test of the interactive digital platform for classrooms to help students make connections between the science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) subjects.

Planet3 is one of the integral pieces of STEAM Village, as one of its main funders is Rob Roy, the founder and CEO of Switch, which is the sponsor of the exhibit at the ArtPrize Hub, 41 Sheldon Blvd. SE.

Lin said the creation of Planet3 is meant to help inspire students, as he recited a W.B. Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a flame.”

“It’s not a new idea, but somehow, it was lost a little bit over the years,” Lin said following a presentation to middle school students. “The structure of our most recent education is really defined by the Industrial Revolution, and there was a different set of goals. Our connectivity, our data and knowledge accessibility, it requires every individual to start thinking as an innovator.”

During his presentation to the students, he told them they are part of the most important generation in thousands of years, and the next 50 years will define the next 10,000 years because of the various scientific tipping points the world has reached.

He said it’s important to have students learn how to become individual innovators, but more than ever, each individual can have more power because of the ease of connectivity due to technology.

Lin described his crowd sourcing of satellite images to see what others saw on the maps, which ultimately led him and a team to find what would become Genghis Khan’s tomb at a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The things these students can take on together, it can be so powerful, and we have no idea what their limits are,” Lin said. “If we can turn them to an area they feel engaged, inspired and have an urgency at an early age, then I feel these grand challenges we face as a planet might be doable. It’s not doom and gloom; we might have hope, and that’s exciting for me.”

Planet3 was founded by Lin and former National Geographic Society President Tim Kelly.

The team received funding, when the leadership from Switch saw a presentation similar to the one Lin gave at ArtPrize last week. Lin said the transformation Switch had on his endeavor is inspiring and transformational.

Together, they’ve tried to tie together the best talent in education and entertainment to come up with a program to help shape education of the future.

Lin said he was at a large education summit where a keynote speaker said, “Hollywood needs to be in classrooms,” and he took the message to heart.

“We think about how much time and creativity is spent on things not related to the classroom, when that’s a place people spend a lot of time in a content setting,” he said. “It’s where you get information and learn how to be a functioning agent of change. Why don’t we take that level of attention people give to Netflix and HBO and Hulu and bring that into a structure that teachers can use?”

The year-long beta test mostly will take place in Nevada, as multiple school systems will test it and act as “co-developers” with Lin and the Planet3 team to help figure out the best way to use the program in schools.

He said it was fitting to have one of the first demonstrations at ArtPrize, however, because of how important art is to the learning and innovation process.

“There is a moment now that we look at engineering and art and call it design thinking,” Lin said. “When you look at the impact of design thinking and its impact on industry, I was just at Google X, they’re designing the future, they’re imaging and manifesting the future.

“You have to be rooted in a functional knowledge of how things work, but you also have to imagine it. You have to be able to be creative and imagine the future to be an innovator and be in front of the rest of the industry.”

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