A few parents and teachers asked about the up-coming #SciFund Challenge, wondering if our participation would interrupt the STEMulate Learning workshops during the 30 days of online effort around the crowdfunding event. I assured them we would continue working on Computer Merit Badge and Energy Merit Badge requirements, ROV construction and 3DR 3D printer construction workshops as planned.
Participation in the #SciFund Challenge over the past several years has given me the chance to expand our resources for STEM education, without the sometimes aggressive competition that the Universities’ usual grant processes experience. Rather than competing against the other scientists for a set number of awards, #SciFund reaches out to citizen scientists and laypersons who individually are not expected to try to support an entire research program like a typical grant would. Instead, #SciFund researchers are asking the public for small donations supporting their research – offering their own enthusiasm for their resarch and a chance to come along for the ride in return.
By sharing their expertise and the experiences around their research, our scientists get to expose laypersons to the delightful discoveries in their field! The backers, who may individually provide only the price of a cup of coffee, also let the scientists know their research approach and intent is of interest beyond members of their specific scientific discipline. That public validation is a reward of tremendous value to junior researchers, many of whom are currently working on or have only recently attained their PhDs after years of intense study. #SciFund’s projects have even allowed a few researchers to complete their Doctorates through the very research they crowd-funded.
Because of this sharing between researchers and citizen-scientist supporters, there is also a comaraderie between fellow researchers (even across campus rivalries, since we are not researching football this year in any case). There is no competition to “get ahead of” a fellow researcher because there will only be a specific number of grants awarded, instead the group has experienced a community of mutual support and even some collaboration between researchers who discover that their fellow’s research might augment their own so that the result can be “greater than the sum of its parts” in the truest sense of synergy.
When this year’s #SciFund Challenge begins on the 5th of February, it will conclude on the 7th of March, but during this time our usual workshops will continue as planned.