Bennett Harris is “Reinventing Science” to inspire kids.

That's Ben Harris grabbing a selfie with Bill Nye "The Science Guy" at the first ever White House Maker Faire, Spring 2014

That’s Ben Harris on the right, grabbing a selfie with Bill Nye “The Science Guy” at the first ever White House Maker Faire, Spring 2014

Bennett Harris (who goes by Ben) is probably best described as a Renaissance man of education. He tinkers, he designs, he builds, he teaches, he’s a tireless evangelist for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education and its cousin STEAM (add the A for Arts, since it’s all linked), and he puts it all together with his Reinventing Science kits that help capture the imagination and interest of young people in the principles of science. He builds these kits together with the help of a ShopBot Desktop tool.

We caught up with Ben recently to see what he’s been up to — it turns out to be a lot (as usual!)

The successful Kickstarter for “Reinventing Science.”

The most recent great news is that Ben has achieved a successful Kickstarter campaign in support of expanding his manufacture and marketing of Harris Educational’s “Reinventing Science” kits. Ben said, “You may be old enough to remember, that in the 1950’s and 1960’s companies like A.C. Gilbert and REMCO made educational science kits that were sold as popular toys. Kids were excited about the Space Race, parents were supportive of their kids learning new high tech and high science concepts, and schools were racing to be competitive in the fields we now call STEM.”

“Somewhere along the line we seem to have lost that hands-on spirit and as kids became more interested in computer and video games the science kits started to dry up,” Ben explained. “At the same time schools started to do less hands-on science and hands-on projects. ”

“There are science kits available today for school use, and some on big box store shelves, but I’ve found that too many of them seem to be low dollar, low quality throw away items with few (if any) instructions. The majority of them aren’t made in the USA either. I want to change all of that and bring back quality, durable, educational STEM kits for both home use and for schools. At the same time I want to convince parents, kids, and those investing in our future through education that STEM is important and worthy of investment!”

Sounds like a great cause. Here’s the video from the Kickstarter effort:

“Reinventing Electromagnetism” (see picture below)  is Harris Educational’s newest STEM kit. It includes everything (other than a battery) necessary to build a working single-loop simple DC motor and multi-turn compass galvanometer. Includes powerful neodymium magnets. Teaches concepts of magnetism, electromagnetism, electric current.Screen shot 2014-11-18 at 1.31.46 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Reinventing Edison” (below) is Harris Educational’s first and best selling STEM kit. The kit lets you recreate the steps Edison (and other inventors) took to create the first practical incandescent light bulb. Experimenters use a safety vacuum chamber and hand vacuum pump to work with several included filament materials (including Carbon Pencil Lead, Tungsten, and others). Along the way you learn about voltage and current, air pressure, history, invention, properties of matter, and more.

Screen shot 2014-11-18 at 1.32.04 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Commitment to North Carolina education.

One of Ben’s goals with the Kickstarter is to help fund his effort to build a permanent Maker space, with an educational focus, in his hometown of Burlington, NC. A proud graduate of the Technology Education program at NC State, Ben is devoted to bringing inspiring science education to his community. He was the engine behind the first Alamance mini-Maker Faire and continues to be involved in growing this event. He’s now searching for a permanent home for a Maker space where he can build his kits, teach classes, and invite other educators to get involved in offering hands-on learning to young people (and older!).

Ben is involved as a volunteer with the EV Challenge, which was founded in North Carolina back in 1996 and has been a very active program ever since. Ben explained, “The mission of the EV Challenge is to energize high school students about engineering through a real world electric vehicle program.” Students who get involved get the opportunity to build real, full-size plug-in electric vehicles, participate in a yearlong educational program and competition, all the while learning numerous skills including: applied engineering and environmental science, electrical troubleshooting, public speaking, and community service.

The EV Challenge has a great intro video on this page of their website.

 

The new EV Challenge Electric Circuit Troubleshooting Simulator by Harris EducationalBen has created and produced a product, The EV Challenge Troubleshooting Simulator,  that’s now in use as part of the EV Challenge curriculum. Ben said, “The EV Challenge is a high school program where kids take donated gasoline vehicles and convert them into fully electric vehicles. The students then compete in a race event that also includes a troubleshooting challenge.”

“Harris Educational created this trainer so that every school in the competition could afford to have one in their program. It is designed to teach principles of EV circuits, failure modes, and logical and safe troubleshooting skills. It is my hope that the EV Challenge program will grow to include more schools and more student groups from around the country — and also, when we’re able to open a permanent Maker space, we can be helpful to the EV Challenge students at this venue.

EV Challenge participants using the simulator

EV Challenge participants using the simulator

The EV Challenge website explains that participating in the Challenge course and events ” is often a life-changer for students and has a significant positive impact on their experience of science and engineering. Recent research indicates that:
•    84% of the students become more confident in their ability to learn science.
•    68% of the students become higher performers in their science class.
•    34% of the students are more likely to pursue a career in engineering.
•    30% of the students are more likely to pursue a career in science.
The program is currently serving high schools in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, and Iowa and would like to grow to include a national reach.”

A couple of photos Ben has taken of EV Challenge events…

Students roubleshooting wiring issues on an EV

Students troubleshooting wiring issues on an EV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making last minute repairs and updates to this STEM Cycle from Dudley High School in Greensboro, NC

All of this commitment led to a very special invitation this past Spring…

White House Maker Faire!

On Wednesday June 18th 2014 President Obama declared a “National Day of Making” and hosted the first ever White House Maker Faire. Ben said, “I was very honored and proud to be invited to the White House as an ‘Honored Maker’ for the work I’m doing with Harris Educational, The Alamance Makers Guild, The Burlington Mini Maker Faire, and my Maker Made STEM kits. Kudos to all of the creative and talented folks who were picked as exhibitors for this event! Very Inspirational Day!

President Obama addresses the Makers

President Obama addresses the Makers

Kudos to Ben for his work! You can learn more about the kits at his website, Harris Educational.  And learn about the ShopBot Desktop here.

2 comments to Bennett Harris is “Reinventing Science” to inspire kids.

  • Roger and Marsha Jones

    We are firm believers in what you are doing. Proud to know you are going outside “the box” to teach what you know so well to the world!

    Love,
    Marsha (Mom)
    Roger (Dad)

  • Buddy and Mary Ann Brooks

    We wish you well in promoting new technology in education for our youth.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>