I Dream of STEM Skills, Scorpions and Seahorses

By Linzee Craig, International Summer Camp Instructor

Sometimes in life you get the chance to truly follow your dreams. Not the dreams that fit simply into life, but the type of big dreams that are a little scary because you’re not sure if they will ever come true but you can’t really imagine a life without them.

Strangely enough my dreams involve eating things like deep fried scorpions and fish lungs. It also involves lugging a (prototype) custom made electronic audio looper around and teaching. That’s right, on top of the tarantulas, white ants and beatboxing my dream has a billion little kids from all the continents running around yelling, laughing, learning and making a big beautiful mess. It’s chaotic, it’s weird, it’s sometimes tiring and I’ve been working for years to make it a reality. It hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely taught me a lot and I have a lot of people to thank for it. This summer it took a turn that I didn’t expect. Like many surprises in life it was exactly what I didn’t know I really wanted. 

Educators around the world often build towards their version of this dream every day in small ways. Both for themselves and for their students. For many their free moments are spent hoping that a big opportunity will show up so that all their hard work during the school year pays off in the form of an amazing adventure.

Thanks to Build a Robot K12 and RoboRobo a handful of educators get that chance every summer. I’ve taught technology, electronics and programming for seventeen years and I thought my dream would continue along the same line; with capacitors, animation and coding variables. But just like everyone else chasing their dreams those big jumps (where we really test our wings for the first time) usually involve taking a chance to step outside of the comfort zone. For me that came in the form of teaching some new topics: Crime Scene Investigation and Vertical Farming.

I’m used to robots and video games in the classroom. Now, with new friends in Beijing and South Korea, my classrooms are filled with blood spatter and bullet trajectory analysis. The calmer classes involve making watering systems, planting ginger and garden gnomes. On the weekends I stuff myself silly with amazing Chinese and Korean food. The deep fried sea horses and geckos are met with mixed looks of admiration and revulsion from the locals and tourists alike. Everyone’s dream is a little different, what can I say?

Now that the students from Hongkong and South Korea have packed up I am spending time in South Korea doing exactly what I do in the United States and in Africa. I find myself working with truly wonderful people to make materials to teach kids about the stuff I find interesting. Stuff that might not just get them a job, but stuff they (amazingly!) also find it interesting. 

So where to next? Back to Africa of course. But this time I’ll be working with my Ugandan friends to (hopefully) build CNC routers for an orphanage and bring sensor technology to a music festival at the source of the Nile. It’s not where I thought my dream was headed when I first went to Africa. But it does make me wonder where I will be and what I will be helping to build in five years with my new Asian friends.

– Linzee Craig, Technologist, Educator, Artist –

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