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Superhero Cool from Big Hero 6 by Jill Worth of the Rodon Group

This past weekend I took my son to see the movie Big Hero 6.  We were at Disney World recently, and the movie was promoted all over the parks.  Needless to say, my son loves anything superhero or robot related, so this was a must see on our list.  The movie is about a young boy named Hiro who lives in a futuristic city. Hiro is a 14-year-old robotics genius who spends his time participating in back alley robot fights. His older brother, Tadashi, worried that Hiro is wasting his potential. He takes Hiro to the robotics lab at his university, where Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends, and Baymax, a personal healthcare robot Tadashi created.  When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to Baymax and transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.” The movie centers on the special bond that develops between Baymax and Hiro.

superheroes and STEMEditor’s Note: What is also encouraging to see is that the movie, Big Hero 6 won the Kid’s Choice Award for best movie. Further, the best video game or most addicting game Minecraft is boding well that our children are getting exposed to STEM and making things. It’s great to see!

Towards the end of the movie, Hiro goes into his garage and starts tinkering with his tools and computers.  On one of the shelves, is aMcMaster Carr catalog.  The book is shown several times throughout the scene.  As I sit there looking at this image, I realize that my son wouldn’t give it a second glance. I, on the other hand, know exactly what this product is.  McMaster Carr is one of our distributors and has been for 25 plus years.  Every year since 1894, McMaster releases this large yellow catalog.  Like most, this product placement has a purpose, a meaning.

At the very heart of this movie is a lesson for our youth about STEM related careers.  Careers that made companies like McMaster Carr what it is today.  I wanted to find out how this catalog got placement in the movie.  There is an organization called “FIRST” which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. Founded in 1989, their mission is “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.” Every year they host a robotics competition. It began in a New Hampshire high school’s gym, with only 26 teams, and has grown over the years to over 32,000 teams, and more than 350,000 students.

superheroes and STEM First TeamThe FIRST team was given the opportunity to help out the producers and writers of Big Hero 6 and became their technical consultants. The producers wanted to learn the jargon that robot building teenagers use these days.  Some of Disney’s writers and producers visited their machine shop and came away with ideas for the movie. The FIRST team also helped inspire product additions to the movie such as the McMaster-Carr catalog making a cameo.  It all makes sense. That one scene has a ton of meaning, more than most 8-year olds will realize, but I give the folks at Disney a lot of credit for showcasing the coolness of STEM education. The characters prove that being smart and being a good friend are the keys to being a hero. If 21stcentury super heroes can also be STEM nerds, then I can’t wait to see what the future holds.


Editor’s Addition: Minecraft and STEM By Adam Robinson

Ok….I have a confession: I am 33 years old and I absolutely LOVE Minecraft. I love it for many reasons, but the main reason is because I get to play it with my 2 kids, Mason and Finley. We first started playing in late 2012 and we were instantly hooked. Then we got to watching YouTube videos and came across Mr. Stamplylongnose. We’ve watched Stampy Cat, as he is known since he dons a cat “Skin”, since before he amassed his almost 6 Million subscribers of rabid Minecraft kids. Stampy is best known for making kid friendly Minecraft Youtube videos in his “Lovely World.” If you are a parent of a kid who likes Minecraft, then of course, you know Stampy. If you didn’t see his April Fool’s video check it out! Thanks in part to Stampy, Minecraft has engaged millions of millions of children around the idea of having an open sandbox where you can “Make” anything the mind can think of. But, it’s not just mindless blocks, it also has logic built in thanks to the contraptions you can make using what is almost like electrical wiring called redstone.

Further, as a kid, you learn that you must gather materials in the way of ores to make the next big project by smelting them into useable ingots to craft tools such as axes, hoes, pick axes, swords, armor and more. You go mining in vast mines to find gold, iron, and the ever coveted diamond! (And last night, for the first time, Finley found Emerald to mine….although at present, you can only trade with Villagers for stuff you can already get….maybe there will more application in the next update!). Kids also learn the value of farming and cultivating food as you lose hunger and in order to stay alive and survive you must hoe dirt, plant wheat seads, then harvest the wheat to make into bread or milk cows to use in cakes (Stampy’s most favorite food!).

Minecraft may be just a video game, but it’s a influential platform shaping the minds of our children. There are even Minecraft coding classes to teach kids about how to make changes to the game through modifications. My son attended one last year and is expected to go again this year. He is turning 9 this year, and yes, he is learning coding. What these kids will achieve will truly blow our minds. There are no restrictions for the possibilities. Combine kids who are spending their youth making things in Minecraft, additive manufacturing, big data, and the internet of things, wowsa, does manufacturing have a bright future.

My kids and I have loved Minecraft so much, we even started making our own YouTube vidoes. You can check out one of ours below. I hope you enjoy! The kids are now learning about making videos, editing them, and how to upload them. Even more education to boot! And if you and your kids haven’t ventured into the wide world of Minecraft, I encourage you to do so. It’s not just a video game, it’s education wrapped in fun….and what parent isn’t looking for a way to do both at the same time?!