U-T profiles of notable local people, By Story by Nina Garin, Photo by Howard Lipin • U-T5:05 a.m. March 11, 2015 Article Click Here
The San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering kicks off on Saturday, bringing six days of experiments, activities and interactions with local science educators and professionals.
Rodger Ashworth, 47, a resource teacher and administrator at Washington Elementary STEAM Magnet, is one of the event’s participants. The University City resident challenged his kindergarten through fifth-grade students to design and build arcade games, which will be on display at the festival’s Petco Park Expo Day on March 21.
Ashworth, a native San Diegan who went to Santa Fe Christian High School and Point Loma Nazarene University, explains why art is an important part of science.
Q: What is STEAM and why is the “A” an important part of that?
A: STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. However, STEAM is an experience to me. It’s a hands-on way of learning that challenges students to use the design process and work in teams to design solutions to real-world problems. The art component is essential to this. I would often sketch or draw out ideas on scrap pieces of wood or graph paper when I was building houses as a carpenter. Engineers and scientists often draw out their ideas in the same manner in a sketchbook or engineering or science journal. Art is the glue that holds STEAM together.
Q: When did you first become interested in science and technology?
A: I became interested in science when I was very young in elementary school. I loved playing at the beach, canyon and going on hikes. I was always in and out of the ocean. I did not become interested in technology at a deep level until I was in college. I began to realize that I could use technology as a tool to explore all of the things I enjoyed doing in the outdoors. It also provided me a way to share that information with others. This is one reason I take digital photos of almost everything we do at school — from projects in class to field trips.
Q: What kinds of things are the kids at Washington Elementary doing?
A: Our students are engaged in a variety of activities, including building bridges, tiny houses and working with various robotics platforms from (educational kits) 3R’s Robotics, VEX and Lego EV3 Mindstorms. We also have a STEAM garden. Our students use it to grow their own vegetables and study soil, water, insects and plant structure. They are also involved in the Garden to Café program; they have the opportunity to eat the vegetables they have harvested in our school cafeteria.
Q: Why is it important for young people to engage in STEAM?
A: Because it’s fun! School is more than memorization, it’s an experience. I really believe if students have fun and are engaged in their education, they will naturally gravitate toward many STEAM careers. There are a variety of career paths and choices they can make as they progress through school. It’s also important because the world needs leaders in STEAM careers to provide solutions to many of the real-world problems we face on a daily basis.
Q: What is it like teaching STEAM in a scientific city like San Diego?
A: It’s amazing. This is such an amazing city and we have partnered with numerous members in our community, including The New Children’s Museum, The Bright Ideas Society, 3R’s Robotics & STEAM Maker, the Little Italy Association, University of San Diego and Optimist International. It really has been a fun experience working with the local community. But the best resource has been our parents — many of them work in STEAM careers.
Q: What is a common misconception about STEAM/STEM?
A: A big misconception is that the focus on those five core disciplines ignored reading and writing. Simply not true. Students are still conducting research, writing in journals and are still engaged in rich text.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: Teaching is my third career. I worked as a carpenter and building contractor. I also spent a number of years in sales and marketing. I think this gives me a unique perspective on STEAM and working with students.
Q: What is the best advice you ever received?
A: There is more than one way to solve a problem, always do your best, have fun and never give up.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: This city is beautiful so I like to get out and enjoy it early before everybody else wakes up and gets going. Saturday morning, I’d wake up early and ride my Holland bicycle up the coast for a 30- to 40-mile bike ride. Then spend the afternoon with my wonderful wife, Kristin, and perhaps go someplace like Pizza Port for lunch or dinner. My wife and I love seeing live music at the Belly Up. Sunday, I like to go for a dawn patrol surf with close friends, then spend the rest of the day with family at church, outside at a Padres game, fishing or playing board games like chess with my family.