Save the World, Study STEM: Refugee Housing, Hydropower, and Gaming for Good

So, after we recently posted our Want to Save the World? Study STEM! post we learned two things:

1- People LOVED hearing about the world-changing effects of STEM.

2 – These types of stories are absolutely everywhere!

In light of these two realizations, we thought that we would take this concept further and highlight these types of stories in a recurring feature. So welcome to part 2 of the infinity-part series: Save the World, Study STEM!

Reinventing Refugee Housing

Food, water, sanitation, and housing all pose recurring challenges to both inhabitants and facilitators of refugee camps. To address these challenges, the Ikea Foundation recently joined forces with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to create a new and improved design for refugee housing. Assembling your own bookshelf is a thing of the past… assembling refugee housing is the thing of the future!

A New Approach to Hydropower

Photo courtesy of Verdant Power

Photo courtesy of Verdant Power

Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we introduced the Wind Energy subject to our Kids Ahead and STEM Works websites because we believed that the issue of sustainable energy is of great importance. Located in that subject is the Cool Jobs interview with Jonathan Colby, a hydrodynamic engineer who is working to derive energy from New York’s East River. If hydropower and wind power had a baby, it would be this sustainable project! Check it out!

Gaming for Good

Think gaming is a waste of time? This article from Mashable.com shows how technology and gaming come together to provide a platform for social activism. Whether racing virtual bikes so an impoverished community can get real ones or virtually stepping into the shoes of a refugee, these games bring conscience and purpose to an often criticized technological field.

So what do you think… inspired yet?

Assignment Exploration: My Weekend on a Lake in the Middle of the Desert

View of red rock formations from on Lake Powell

Life for me has always been about new experiences. So, a couple of years ago when my husband of only two months told me that we had the opportunity to move from the Washington, DC area to Utah for a few years, it didn’t take long for me to agree to this adventure. After moving to Utah, we started what we have been affectionately referring to as our “Utah Bucket List” which includes all of the things that we want to see and explore while we live in this part of the country. As we have made new friends in the region, this list has evolved and grown immensely, leaving us with a list that has been impossible to accomplish in the two and a half years that we have called Utah home. During this time, life happened and our list sat there, items getting crossed off only when family came to visit and when we filled the role of impromptu tour guides. However, a couple of weeks ago we confirmed that our time here was quickly coming to an end and we planned a long weekend boating/camping trip to Lake Powell located on the border of Utah and Arizona.

More rock formations

More rock formations

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lake Powell (I certainly wasn’t!), it is a somewhat controversial, albeit spectacular man-made lake in the middle of the desert that was built in the mid-1900s by damming up the Colorado River. It is closely located to Canyonlands National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument as well as various state parks. The lake is actually the 2nd largest man-made reservoir in the US and has nearly 2,000 miles of coastline just waiting to be explored. As you can expect, it has become a large tourist attraction with over 2 million visitors every year. The great thing about the lake is that since it is so large, even with hundreds of people visiting the lake at the same time, you can spend a significant portion of a full weekend not seeing other people. Beyond the tourist aspect of the lake, the Glen Canyon Dam that helped to create this massive lake provides power through hydroelectricity to over 20 million people in the southwest US. For those of you who are interested in learning more, here is a great article from Energy Kids explaining what hydropower is and how it works.

Our three day adventure map

Our three day adventure map

Panorama of our Camp Site

Panorama of our Camp Site

We started our adventure on Friday and after parking our car, we didn’t see it again until Sunday afternoon. We spent three days boating the river and investigating various finger canyons that jetted out from the main channel of the lake. In most places on the lake we were surrounded by hundreds of feet of red rock and we were boating in water that was typically deeper than 150 feet. In the evenings we camped on a secluded beach and enjoyed spectacular sky gazing; we even saw a bunch of shooting stars! After three days and nearly 90 nautical miles, we left the lake with memories to last us a lifetime.

Our dogs enjoyed the adventure too!

Our dogs enjoyed the adventure too!

No matter where you live or how long you have lived there, there are new experiences for you to have and environments or phenomena for you to explore. Whether your adventure includes going to a local park and learning about a new animal or plant, visiting a museum, or taking a road trip to experience a new environment, do it! Take the time to let your inner explorer out – you’ll be amazed what you learn about the world and yourself when you do.

If you have plans to explore somewhere interesting and want to share it with us, please send us a note using the Submission form and we can talk about sharing it on this blog for the broader community to see!