Charles Darwin University Lecturer in Exercise and Sport Science, Dr Jim Lee has been researching the use of wearable technologies in STEM education, using students’ own performance data to engage them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes.
Together with Jeff Parker and Associate Professor Danny James, Dr Lee has delivered the final report to the Northern Territory Department of Education Innovation Fund for School Improvement. The report demonstrates the potential of STEMfit technology in classrooms.
STEMfit is a wearable device used to capture performance data. Successfully used by elite athletes, the challenge was to translate the technology from elite athletes to school kids. Dr Lee trialled the technology at four schools – Clyde Fenton Primary School and Timber Creek, Bulla Camp and Amanbidji schools.
“We wanted to include rural and remote schools who often get left out, to give something back,” he said.
“We wanted to engage kids in a positive learning experience, doing something they are good at and can be proud of.”
The aim of the STEMfit is to deliver to schools a program that teachers could plug in and run without any need for additional software or training.
Students performed a series of actions (running, walking and jumping) and used their own data to calculate various maths problems.
“We showed them their running speed compared with school children in Japan and their average speed was faster,” Dr Lee said.
“They quickly engaged with the subject because they could relate to it.”
Interestingly, primary school students understood concepts such as acceleration and gravity much more readily than adults, he said.
“Students who had never picked up a ruler before were suddenly thinking and reasoning their way through complex maths problems,” Dr Lee said.
“With STEMfit they could see the data on screen as they jumped and understand the science based on evidence, not theory.”
According to Dr Lee, the Government has identified a lack of STEM activities in Australia, particularly for Indigenous girls. The next stage of the project will be to involve teachers in the development of the STEMfit curriculum.
“We are tapping into something students care about, in this case sport, to give them a greater understanding in subjects where they typically disengage.”