Crowdfunding campaigns have taken off in the past few years. On Kickstarter alone, 9.7 million people have backed over 94,000 successful projects in exchange for various rewards. Even Bill Nye (@BillNye) used crowdfunding to successfully fund his new science documentary.
As crowdfunding continues to gain popularity, more and more uses for this platform are evolving. One is funding STEM education. People have used crowdfunding to provide STEM education for disadvantaged students, fund STEM classrooms, and create new STEM education technology.
Crowdfunding is a great way to fund advances in STEM education and get the public involved. Eduprenuers can get funding for their ideas without the fuss of bank loans. Parents and educators can contribute to STEM education projects they believe in. Young people then reap the benefits from a wealth of creativity and inspiration.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 active or recently-funded Kickstarter campaigns, focusing on edtech projects that inspire and educate youth in STEM:
Jewelbots (@jewlbots) are fashionable friendship bracelets designed to get girls excited about coding and teach them how to code. After a brief introduction to the technology, girls can program the bracelets to do all kinds of cool things. They can communicate with friends, send alerts to parents, and even fly a drone, all from a smartphone app. Because Jewelbots uses open-source technology, the possibilities are limitless!
The awesome thing about this project is it is geared specifically toward pre-teen and teen girls. This is important because girls are significantly less likely to enter STEM fields than boys. Also, the teenage years are often when girls’ focus shifts toward friends and fashion. Jewelbots combines these with technology! Jewelbots are something girly-girls can get behind. As one creator says, “Being girly doesn’t mean you can’t also like science and technology.” The Kickstarter campaign is over, but you can check out Jewelbots at their website!
2. Backyard Brains
Backyard Brains (@backyardbrains) provides neuroscience kits that allow children to learn all about the brain. Their tagline is “neuroscience for everyone.” The kits take advantage of scientific marvels available in our own backyard, insects. One kit, the Roboroach, allows children to make their own remote-controlled cockroach they can influence using a smartphone. The first kit developed by Backyard Brains, the Spikerbox, records from neurons in an insect. These kits teach kids about neural systems and brain stimulation, which is used to treat many diseases. If you’re not keen on insects, Backyard Brains has many other kits to encourage hands-on discovery at home or in the classroom at a low cost. See their website for more information.
The Othermill (@othermachine) is a portable, accessible CNC (computer numerical control) machine. This machine has a lot of great uses for STEM education, especially in the classroom. Students can learn to create custom circuit boards that can power a simple light or control a smart device they design. There are endless possibilities for integrating the Othermill and concepts of engineering and physics.
This machine can also be used to engrave, mill 3D shapes for jewelry, or make molds. It can be used with metal, wood, plastic, and wax. Students learn how to use a simple computer program to create whatever object they dream up. Check out Othermill’s original Kickstarter page or their website where you can buy one!
Simply put, Marbleocity is a build-it-yourself wooden marble machine. In many ways, it’s more than that. Children learn physics and engineering concepts through a comic with a cast of characters called the Tinkineers. They then build a working system with many parts based on the concepts learned in the comic. This is an interactive way to show children that STEM is more than just learning concepts. These concepts can be applied to build really cool machines and toys. The creators of Marbelocity separated learning into easy to digest blocks, so children will not be overwhelmed by the complexity. This tool is great because it can be used at home with parents or in the classroom. This Kickstarter is ending soon (and has far surpassed its goal of $14,000 by raising over $75,000), so if you like the idea, think about contributing!
Recently, Dr. Jackie Gerstein wrote about how to engage elementary school students in STEM (STEM for Elementary School Students – How to Instill a Lifelong Love of Science). This Kickstarter project seeks to offer a solution to the problem of engaging young students in STEM. STEMbrainy (@stembrainy) is a storybook kit that encourages young children to think critically and develop STEM skills. It is a great tool for home or the classroom. The book involves a storyline designed to draw the attention of children. Each book includes a problem children must solve by creating their own solution. They build prototypes and go through steps of the design process (ask, imagine, design, create, re-design), just like real engineers do! If their idea doesn’t work, they are encouraged and inspired to try again, a skill necessary in STEM fields.
The first book uses a character named Susie Stem. The creators used a female character because they noticed a lack of them in existing STEM toys. The Susie Stem figurine is designed to be used during the prototype testing process, so children are able to connect the skills they develop to this character. This is great because in the real world, STEM affects people. If this product peaks your interest, visit the Kickstarter page.
6. Pixel Pals
The newest Pixel Pal, Buzz, is a toy children can build and program. It was built with the goal of incorporating STEAM skill development. This technology is suitable for all skill levels, even beginners. In constructing Buzz, children learn soldering skills. Once created, Buzz teaches kids about computer programming. Children are able to make Buzz’s eyes light up or instruct him to make noise through the programming skills they develop. This technology is a fun way to get kids excited about computer science. This Kickstarter isn’t over yet, so check out their page!
7. Making History
The storyline of Making History (@backerkit) involves time travelers that invent or discover important historical breakthroughs using project-based learning methods. Students are challenged to answer the question “how can we create this same breakthrough using only our knowledge and the resources that were available at that time?” This encourages critical thinking skills important in STEM. Due to the involvement of this project, it is geared toward middle school children.
This project is unique because one lesson encompasses many different subjects and skills. STEM learning is incorporated with history and language arts. Each unite includes a 1-2 week project for: science, math history, language arts, and maker/DIY. The story sets up the driving question “how can we create this same breakthrough using only our knowledge and the resources that were available at that time?” Teachers can use one project or many in their lessons. With this integrative approach, children learn that one event has many different angles, which is useful in STEM. Not only has this project far exceeded its goal of $1,000 by raising over $6,000, it was a featured Kickstarter Staff Pick.
8. Microduino mCookie
The Microduino mCookie (the smallest electronic modules on LEGO) is a small, programmable module that can be used to create many cool projects. Build a robot, music box, weather station, and more. It inspires creativity and builds STEM skills. It has many features that appeals to children. It is stackable, color-coded, easy to program, and connects to Legos. The possibilities for this technology are endless and have the potential to inspire a new generation of innovators. Children can know the same technology they playing with can be used to make objects that change the world! Check out the Kickstarter page for this cool product (which, by the way, raised over $165,000!).
9. Smarty Box (created by parents!)
The Smarty Box makes it easy for kids 7-12 years old to explore science anywhere. It was created by science-loving parents who originally wanted to promote STEM education at their children’s birthday parties. The Smarty Box (which incorporates arts with science education – STEAM) includes 12 different science experiments (costing under $10 each) that focus on physics, chemistry, and vision science. The activities in this kit are designed to be done at parties, playdates, or at school! These activities can be done in groups or individually. The kits include all supplies necessary to complete the experiments and are portable, so you can use them at home or on the go. They, unfortunately didn’t make their Kickstarter goal of $20,000, but these determined, STEM-loving parents aren’t giving up! On their page, the share their future plans for Smarty Box:
“Post-Kickstarter, we are kicking around a number of ways to direct the business, should it be a success. We intend to create an educator package for select experiments. Packages that can go into a classroom or after-school educational programs, used by home-schoolers, or group activities like scouting. These would be designed with the help of educators to ensure we provide the background and educational support necessary to incorporate the lesson into a curriculum. Additional experiments to explore other disciplines like geology, optics, magnetism, biology, and art are also on the horizon.” — Smarty Box Team
Head over to their Kickstarter to show your support.
“Will you hijack your rivals’ research or carefully construct your way to Chemical success in the volatile lab of Molecular?“
The call to action is irresistible. Molecular (@backerkit) is a board game designed to make chemistry fun! This strategic tabletop game allows kids 11 years or older to engineer their own chemical molecules. It’s this type of engagement and fun learning that is helping to change students’ perception of chemistry as boring and difficult (Chemistry Get Its Groove Back – Thanks to Project-Based, Active Learning). Children play together and compete to make the best molecule. They learn useful chemistry skills like how to identify various chemical functional groups. This game models real-life science, including the woes and triumphs scientists deal with regularly. It is a fun way for kids to experience the excitement of research and may help develop a lasting interest in STEM. Take a look at their Kickstarter page to learn more and to preorder the game.
Crowdfunding has produced a wealth of inspiring STEM technologies that can be used in the classroom or at home to inspire and teach the STEM thinkers of tomorrow. With many technologies and kits mentioned in this list, the possibilities are as endless as a child’s imagination. They can provide hours of STEM learning in classrooms and STEM play at home.
There are many more crowdfunded STEM technologies out there. Which are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
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