I work at a school district, and when I began reading the guidelines for the Tech for Good challenge, something related to engaging students in STEM really peaked my interest. As I began to look at existing skills, I noticed that there weren't really any skills that would challenge students to be creative with STEM, in a fun way. I've always been drawn to learning by doing, and it is so easy to make learning fun with STEM activities. That's when A STEM Challenge was born.

What it does

A STEM Challenge is essentially a directory of STEM activities, generally in a game or challenge format. This means the participants (typically kids, but not necessarily) are often competing in teams, or as individuals, to complete a task as described by Alexa. The skill begins by letting the user decide what type of challenge they would like. It then lists the supplies that are needed, and gives the user a few minutes to gather things up. Once they are ready, it speaks the instructions for the challenge. It's really about getting kids engaged in being creative and building solutions to problems, in a really fun way!

How I built it

I started by reaching out to friends and colleagues that either work in a STEM field, or teach, to build a list of challenges. I also did some online research, based on their input, to find the detailed descriptions and instructions that I needed. I then compiled all of this information into a Google Sheet, that could be referenced by my skill. I built the skill using Storyline, and leveraged Google Sheets in the back-end to host the JSON that is referenced by the skill.

Challenges I ran into

The biggest challenge that I overcame was in wanting a skill that would randomly select an activity each time the user opens it. I wanted to ensure it would not read the same skill each time a person came, in order. I was able to explore options with JSON using Google Sheets, which got around this issue. I had hoped to develop a way in which a user could pause a skill, to go get supplies, for example, and then come back when they were ready. This is something I am still working on.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I am really proud that I've made a new skill that didn't exist before, that can help students to get excited about STEM. I see voice skills resonating really well with kids, and building a skill that can help push them into learning new things in a fun way is something I am really pleased about.

What I learned

I learned a lot about skill development, as well as how to find and curate content. I was able to engage with some colleagues who are teachers in order to get input on what activities might resonate well with students, and what skills would be really valuable for them as well. This was a really fun process, and my kids enjoyed getting to test each of them out for me.

What's next for a Stem Challenge

I'd really like to develop a way that a user could pause a skill to get supplies, and have it return to the same challenge at the same place, when they return. I need to process this a bit more, but I think it can be done. I am also going to continue to build out the challenges for this skill to continue to make it fun and engaging for kids.

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