Our youth are in for a wake-up call when they grow up. Gone will be blue-collar work. Gone will be factory and manual labor jobs. Gone will be construction and mechanical jobs. The fact is, machinery, robotics, and computer programming are replacing all of this, in favor of devices average families can buy and set up in their living rooms. It is so important that we get these skillsets to our youth so we can survive as a society as my generation retires and our kids take over.
For long-time followers of this blog, you are well aware of my passion for 3D printing, and predictions for the disruption of modern manufacturing within just years from where we now stand. Within 5 years, it will be very possible for entire, room (or larger) sized manufacturing processes to be taken over by a simple machine in your office through 3D printing. It’s already happening in fact. I call this “The Personal Manufacturing Era”, because it’s the closest disruption we have in modern times to the Personal Computing Era and what it did to the mainframe.
Of course, all youth are affected by this, but there’s one group I want to address more than any, and I think they have the greatest potential to make a difference in this new era of manufacturing – it’s the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts of America (of course, I’m talking to mostly a US audience here, but you likely have equivalents in your country). Both groups are missing out on a HUGE opportunity here to prepare their youth for the future.
Currently my wife and I volunteer for the Cub and Boy Scout organizations in our area. Each year there is an annual competition – usually it’s the Pinewood Derby. Some times it’s the Space Derby, or Raingutter Regatta. The thing is I’ve always hated these competitions because they focus on skillsets (woodwork, mostly) that are hardly valuable to the boys as they get to be our age. Not to mention that the dads do most of the valuable work for them anyways.
I propose that these boys, and in equivalent activities for the Girls in Girl Scouts (I’m mostly familiar with the boys organizations because most of my service has been there, but girls need it even more than the boys), be exposed to more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related activities. True, Pinewood Derby does have some engineering that applies. But how much better would it be if the ENTIRE activity was centered around logic and engineering? How about a computer programming competition? Or what about a robotics competition? Kits could be provided to give boys a basic start, and understanding of these, and a fair base to start on.
My concern today is that we’re perfectly okay asking boys and dads/moms (and girls and dads/moms) to build a car they can race from scratch, many of those dads/moms not having previous woodworking experience (I’m one of those), but when we propose that we do a “computer programming competition” or “robotics competition”, two activities that really aren’t much harder to do if a kit is provided to show them how to do it, people say, “It’s too hard.”
We need to get away from this notion of woodworking being seen as a “manly” thing to do and computer programming and robotics being seen as “too geeky” or “too nerdy”. The fact is, our childrens’ futures depend on it! Every “too geeky” statement you make hurts your children and the future of this country, and the world in general.
I’m very worried about the future of our children, and the future of this nation. Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts of America all have a HUGE opportunity here to fix this. They are making steps with new computer programming merit badges, and computer safety programs. I’m concerned they’re not moving fast enough though. To change, these programs need a complete overhaul of the system, one focused on STEM as a main, core component of each program, and outdoor activities to balance it all. Right now it’s much, much too heavily balanced toward the latter.
If you have kids. Take a stand. Reach out to your local Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, or Girl Scouts organizations (to have the most effect you really need to do this at the district or council level), and let them know you share this concern. Am I alone in this? Are our youth missing out?