Provide hands-on learning to underserved students

by The Tech Museum of Innovation
Jun 27, 2012

The Tech Challenge 2012

The goal of Tech Challenge is to engage young people in hands-on STEM learning. More particularly, we seek to inspire groups that are traditionally underrepresented in science and technology, including girls and low-income area youth. In 2012, we made a concerted effort to attract more students from both demographics.

The Tech Challenge is one of the most engaging programs offered at The Tech Museum. It is a team competition for students in grades 5 - 12 that builds on design challenge methodology. The program offers young people the opportunity to create a solution to a current, real-life technological problem. It is an inquiry-based, mulch-disciplinary approach to learning -- a powerful teaching method that draws on the engineering design process and requires the application of science and mathematics. The Tech Challenge stresses important concepts such as innovative thinking, brainstorming, cooperation, team building, as well as trial and error through testing, retesting and prototyping. Teams work on “the challenge” for up to 7 months. Each challenge has numerous constraints and multiple solutions. Participants must embrace a creative, entrepreneurial approach to navigate the design process.

The Tech Challenge 2012 “Shake, Rattle, and Rescue” was held on April 21 at The Tech Museum. The challenge called on participants to design and build a solution device to reach and rescue stranded people after an earthquake severely damages a suspension bridge.

The Tech Challenge (TTC12) Program Results:

• 5,000+ visitors to the all-day event.
• 1,483 students in grades 5-12 participated (29.3% increase from TTC11)
• # of Title I (low-income) teams: 129 (7.5% increase from TTC11).
• 712 girls participated (32.6% increase from TTC11).
• Expanded community outreach.
• Hosted 20,000+ visitors to the museum’s Suspension Bridge display (i.e., The Tech Challenge demonstration rig), with over 9,000 guests participating in hands-on modeling and investigation of marine science.

X% of participants said this year's Tech Challenge helped them to:

86% Learn new things about science and engineering
88% Work better with others
79% Feel more comfortable with science
81% Want to do more science activities
85% See how you can solve real-world problems with science
91% Compare different solutions and choose the best one
88% See that you can turn your ideas into reality
89% Listen to and use other people's ideas
91% Come up with more creative solutions to problems
79% See how science connects to your own life
73% See yourself as a scientifically-minded person
81% Express your ideas more clearly
85% Respond better to setbacks
89% Have fun with science 

Write-in survey responses; what participants shared they learned through their experience with The Tech Challenge 2012:

I learned to have a long-term goal and process so that each meeting can be effective. Not everything always works, so you have to leave and plan ahead of time for the failures and revisions.
-6th grader from Harker Middle School

I learned that we can really do things that can happen in the real world. There are also so many different ways to solve a real-life problem. Lastly, you can both have a lot of fun and have lots of struggles but in the end you succeed.
-7th grader from Lawson Middle School

I learned that what we can imagine and a little hard work, it can be a reality.
-7th grader from Rancho middle school

We created a video of The Tech Challenge, which features interviews with students during the day of the 2012 competition and will be an integral component of our marketing efforts for the 2013 Tech Challenge to inspire students to participate. The video is viewable on The Tech Challenge web site at:



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Organization Information

The Tech Museum of Innovation

Location: San Jose, CA - USA
Project Leader:
Mary McLane
Director of Individual Giving
San Jose, CA United States