Our book If: Ball, Then: Catch aims to make programming and robotics seem less intimidating to children. While there are many great resources to get kids interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), many adults may feel a bit lost when it comes to these topics. It is always helpful for parents and teachers to be at least one step ahead of their kids, but this can be difficult when the curriculum has changed so much compared to when we grew up! In this blog post we wanted to provide some introductory STEM resources for adults.
There is an article in Forbes that explains some of the benefits of learning STEM as an adult, such as reducing cognitive decline and allowing you to better interact with and positively influence kids. Celebrities such as Terry Crews and Henry Cavill have gotten on board (pun intended) by building their own computers to learn about technology. But aside from building a computer, there are many other opportunities to learn about technology.
Below you will find several introductory resources for adults with a focus on programming, making, and open courses. Most of the resources are free (or low cost) and can be done on your own time. While there are many resources provided here, feel free to start with just one topic that you are interested in – don’t feel like you need to jump into everything all at once!
Computer programming (or coding) is a way to provide instructions to a computer to accomplish a task such as building a website or creating an app.
Code Academy: this website walks you through various different coding languages. It is interactive and allows you to get instant feedback on the code you write. Python is a useful programming language to learn, but the website also includes a nifty guide to help you choose which language to start with.
Canada Learning Code: if you would prefer to learn with an instructor, this website allows you to sign up for virtual workshops on a variety of topics.
There are many new technologies available to encourage people to invent and prototype at low cost.
Makerspaces: these in-person workshops are available in most cities (sometimes in libraries, museums, or privately owned). They offer a wide range of services, depending on the site, such as 3D printing, laser cutting, wood working, sewing – basically anything you need to make something with your hands. Most will ask you to pay for the materials you use, and some will charge a fee to use the equipment or to sign up for a membership.
3D printing: this is a neat way to quickly build solid models. There are tons of 3D printers available to purchase, ranging from hobbyist level to professional. While most printers use plastic, some allow you to build with other materials such as metal and carbon fiber. You can purchase a 3D printer pre-assembled, build it yourself, or visit a Makerspace to use theirs. Check out our blog on 3D printing to learn the basics.
To 3D print something you will need a model. You can either make this model yourself, or download one online:
- 3D modelling: there are many different 3D modelling software available. Onshape is neat because it is similar to SolidWorks (a very expensive industry standard), but is free to use if you don’t mind sharing your designs. Check out our blog on 3D design to learn the basics.
- Thingiverse: you don’t need to design the models yourself – this website is a repository of 3D designs, which anyone can upload or download to. If you are looking for something to print, check out our themed models.
Electronics: there are two nice kits available to help you learn the basics of electronics (and here is a good summary of the differences if you are trying to choose):
- Arduino is a microcontroller that allows you to assemble and program all sorts of cool projects.
- Raspberry Pi is similar but is a mini-computer instead; it has more capabilities, but is also more expensive and complicated.
- YouTube has tons of tutorials for making cool projects, and many of them will include the code you need so that you don’t need to be an expert to build something really neat (e.g. an automatic watering system for your plants or a smart mirror)!
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are free online courses that you can take on just about any topic you are interested in. The two most recommended are Coursera and Kahn Academy. Both websites let you easily search for a topic you are interested in. Kahn Academy is a bit easier to navigate, while Coursera includes a wider range of topics (and some of the courses will also offer certificates).
If you are interested in machine learning, these Coursera courses by Andrew Ng come highly recommended.
That’s all we have for now! If you have any questions or recommendations for other resources, please reach out to us. Happy Learning! This activity is inspired by the book If: Ball, Then: Catch.