Career In STEM’s New Partner – NEXT.cc!

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Wonder how design fits into STEM? Look no further! Career In STEM’s latest partner, NEXT.cc focuses on how designing is a necessary component for many STEAM careers!

Founded in 2004 by professors and students in architecture, NEXT.cc introduces design and STEAM as integral to many careers. Offering placed-based project curriculum consulting, NEXT.cc offers student and teacher workshops primarily along the Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, but has a global reach across fifty states and over two hundred countries! NEXT.cc has users in cities ranging from San Francisco and New York City to Istanbul, Turkey, Pune, India and Sydney, Australia!

Professors Linda and Mark Keane co-founded NEXT.cc after hosting inner city kids at Young Architecture clubs; they shared their professions in Career Day at their kid’s public school, sharing activities for landscape, civil engineering, structural engineering, interiors, architecture and urban design careers. After spending the afternoon designing skyscrapers, bridges, landscapes, and cities, Linda knew that it would sadly be the first, last and only time these kids learned about design and STEM careers in K12 – as design is typically taught only in college. She knew that if students were to foster an interest is STEM and design, the info needed to be accessible to all throughout their years in school. The idea of a free-to-use website with a plethora of information and resources came to mind. As Linda says, “21st century access to everything known… asks for a more elegant fit between the world we live in and the world we can envision”.

Mark and Linda researched design programs in the US and internationally. Launching NEXT.cc, the NEXT.cc Team strives to not only educate the public, but to “diversify the STEM literate population” and show people jobs that they might not at first associate with STEM.

NEXT.cc introduces what design is, what design does and why design is important across journeys in nine connected scales: nano, pattern, objects, space, architecture, neighborhood, cities, regions, and world. They do this by not only providing virtual tools and classroom activities, but by organizing real-world design challenge workshops, too.

Their workshops provide  group activities for elementary, middle and high school participants  to learn different skills and gain new perspectives by doing design challenges. Green Cities encourage kids to collaborate and work together to design sustainable urban areas of the future; this all girl workshop is mentored by architects, civil engineers, landscape architects and architects. Other groups have fun folding, forming, and flying paper ‘taking something ordinary and making something extraordinary!’ Sustainability Design Hack workshops analyze energy use in spaces; participants learn about sustainability and alternative energy careers. Green School Workshops support school communities in greening their buildings, campuses and curriculum!

The children that attend the workshops leave more knowledgeable of STEM integration and the role design plays in connecting science, technology, engineering and math to respond to economic, societal, and environmental needs. They gain a deeper understanding of how design affects everyday life and gain more confidence in their intelligence and abilities to create and communicate. They share the NEXT.cc resources with their peers, parents, and teachers. For example, NEXT.cc’s 2015 Green Cities workshops gives girls a new confidence in their STEM and building smarts: “What makes our city special] is it has lots of transportation”. Another student reports that she now knows how many STEM careers are involved in building a city and that collaborating in imagining a city of the future with her classmates was the most fun part of the workshop.

In addition to the workshops that NEXT.cc offers, the site’s many online resources vary from summaries analyzing how design is incorporated into STEM to video interviews with STEM workers, and Phet Simulations, TED and Khan academy lessons. The interviews allow professionals to explain in their own words how design plays a part in their career. Visuals such as these truly help students wrap their minds around what goes into a design-influenced STEM career.

NEXT.cc has been hosting workshops for eleven years, with some being held in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and Los Angeles. NEXT.cc staff of advisory board and outreach board members also present at conferences and events around the world, such as the 2011 Tokyo World Congress, the 2014 International Teacher Education Conference in Dubai, the 2015 3rd International LEARNXDesign Conference in Chicago, the 2016 National Environmental Education Conference in Madison, WI, the 2017 Wisconsin Technology Education Conference in Wisconsin Dells, and the 2018 Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture in Denver, CO.

As Linda says about these events, “Reaching hundreds of art, science, environmental, engineering and technology teachers in one event is tremendously exciting as teachers return to schools and introduce NEXT.cc to their students as a research resource. Teachers and students then contribute links to NEXT.cc’s journeys and upload work to the Gallery to share with other schools.

From the beginning, NEXT.cc partners with organizations such as The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, Earth Day Educators, HIVE Chicago, Ingenuity Artlook, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. These partnerships allow NEXT.cc to connect more information for its users and reach even more students and educators worldwide. In addition, NEXT.cc is a student resource of the ACE Mentor Program and Scientists for Tomorrow!

At the end of the day, NEXT.cc is an incredible organization that strives to empower youth voice in connecting STEM and design together in everyday life.

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