Puzzles on Hiatus in Hyannis Port

The  sTEm-at Work Puzzle series is on hiatus.  It is likely the series will return.  However, as its slips out the door heading toward Hyannis Port, today's FLATE FOCUS has a reminder of what the puzzles are trying to do.

The puzzles presented in the sTEm-at Work Puzzle series provided tools for that task.  The puzzles are cast within situations a technician might become involved with and at the level that the technician is expected to handle.  The visually striking qualities of these puzzles is there lack of specific values for the scalars represented as independent and dependent variables.  In addition, the plots presented (line, sinusoids, and exponentials) represent common waveforms that a technician is likely to encounter.    The intent here is to provide instructional avenues to the various measurement systems that are used to quantize the situation described by the scalars in the plot.

The lack of specifics also directs the students to the plots intended message.  This provides instructional avenues for proper interpretation the graphic data as relative to magnitudes for variables in context with the "story" that the graphic is presenting.  It also directs student attention to the plot's boundary conditions expectation.  This knowledge helps students understand the intended range of data that quantizes the situation.

   Finally, the puzzles present students with a situation where they must reach a definitive (yes/no) conclusion.  A task that is hard to master since it also requires the continuous development of the student's proper self assessment of their knowledge and skills and then the confidence to make a public declaration of their conclusions. Success with these skills, in turn, develops the student use of data as part of their trouble shooting toolbox with the confidence that they will be able to move through the problem's symptoms, compare that data with the acceptable range of data, and then fix the problem.       

Despite the ever presence of flashy visual data in our 21st century world, few people critically review data in any format.  It is very important for technical educators to provide students with opportunities to practice and develop their own strategies for analyzing visual information.  Data presented in infographics typically showcase data bytes that an author wants the audience to see from a single point of view.  This snapshot brevity of infographics is admirable however, the practice hides data that is often needed to think creatively, troubleshoot, and solve problems.  Educators should use exercises like the STEM-at-Work puzzles because our instructional practices typically do not always deal with challenging information and critical interpretations.  A successful technician in any field must be able to critically read, interpret, and trouble shoot a problem using scalar data quickly and effectively.  And so, like Arnie, we'll be back!

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