Summer STEM program gives creative mix of fun, learning

Summer fun evokes images of swimming pools, vacations and cookouts. Cummins Inc. engineers said they think learning can be just as entertaining during summer break and are offering children a way to do both.

It’s called the Curiosity Machine, and it has a chance to build interest in STEM vocations (science, technology, engineering and math) at an early age in Columbus, especially among girls and children from low-income families.

That’s important because the STEM workforce is traditionally composed of white males, and underprivileged children may not otherwise have the same level of access to STEM activities. Also, Columbus has a great need for employees with STEM skills because of its concentration of manufacturing companies.

Expanding opportunities for children, exposing them to possible carer fields and doing so in a fun way is a winning combination.

The Curiosity Machine stems from a partnership between Cummins and the Columbus Park Foundation, and has been added to the parks department’s summer Come Out and Play program.

Cummins wanted a way to bring science and technology to young children. It found one offered by Iridescent, an educational group that teaches STEM subjects to underprivileged kids and young girls, and uses design challenges to build their curiosity, creativity and persistence.

Curiosity Machine is a website that has more than 75 design challenges — some of which look as if they might be part of a craft-making class. The hands-on learning and making process engages and educates children in a creative, fun way.

The program is another example of community organizations and employers trying to boost STEM learning locally and close a skills gap that leaves jobs unfilled. Kudos to Cummins for covering the cost of the program to make it free, its engineers who are helping the children and to the parks department and foundation for adding Curiosity Machine to its summer programming.

The good thing for children and parents is that the seven-week program is still offered for six more weeks and no registration is required. All children need to do is show up for the sessions, conducted from 3 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, at Morningside Park and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Pence Street and Ninth Street parks.

Curiosity Machine is worth giving a try at least once. Who knows? Maybe a fun time this summer might lead to a fun career in the future.

If you go

Students can participate in a free summer program that will teach STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math.

Schedule: Mondays and Wednesdays for the next six weeks, 3 to 4 p.m. at Morningside Park or 2:30-3:30 p.m. at Pence Street and Ninth Street parks.

Open to all children ages 6-12. No registration required.