Children gathered last week at Irwin. L Young Memorial Library in Whitewater to build their very own virtual city.
On Saturday, April 7, the library hosted its Super STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Saturday workshop. This week focused on civil engineering and city building in the game Minecraft.
Gary Curtis, who ran the workshop, explained the importance of children participating in these events.
“If we can capture their minds at this stage in their life, it’s likely they are going to stay with it and become engineers,” Curtis said.
Curtis and his wife Donna Curtis co-own the Illinois Wisconsin Territory for STEM For Kids, an organization founded in 2011 which focuses on getting young children interested in STEM fields.
The workshop was set up in Minecraft Education Edition, owned by Microsoft. This version differs from the regular game as it’s set up to teach its players about a variety of topics, from economics to chemistry
Curtis set up individual laptops connected to a master server, which means all the children participating could play in the same world and build together.
“First they are going to design a city and then pick which building they want to build,” said Curtis.
One of the children participating 6 year old Jonathan Kestol-Bauer, who was brought to the workshop by his mom, Julie Kestol-Bauer.
“I think it’s great that they’re getting kids involved in science at such a young age,” said Julie Kestol-Bauer.
There is a greater point to these workshops though, as a looming skills gap is happening in Wisconsin.
For every unemployed STEM worker in Wisconsin, there was an average of 17.2 online job postings, according to a 2015 study done by New American Economy Research Fund.
Introducing children to these skills at a young age may help influence their decision to pursue careers in the field.