MIT, Harvard students touring across US teaching STEM subjects


It's not uncommon for college students to embark on long, cycling tours over the summer. But a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University are setting out on a cross-country summer trip this year to help people get excited about science, mathematics, engineering and technology. 

STEM students set out to raise interest 
Seven students from these two premier American universities for all things science will be riding between Washington D.C. and San Francisco along the Trans-America Trail, according to The Boston Globe's Beta Boston website. The cyclists are members of MIT's Spokes riding club and will travel to schools and libraries teaching children from grades 6 to 12 about various aspects of science along the way. 

STudents from MIT and Harvard will tour the country teaching STEM subjects.
Students from MIT and Harvard will tour the country teaching STEM subjects.

For example, some students will be teaching about "Scratch," a basic computer programing language created by MIT students, while others will show students how to build robots in electrical engineering workshops. 

"It's a growing problem in the U.S. that there's not enough engineers," Harvard sophomore Francesca Childs told Beta Boston. "We need to get [students] excited about this. When they're in school, doing all that math, they'll remember that spark and that'll keep them going."

The students have raised about $30,000, and the trip is expected to last until August. They left June 1 and received help from Teach for America as well as financial support from edX, the MIT Edgerton Center, Cannondale Bicycle Corporation, Texas Instruments and private donors, according to Beta Boston. 

Carrying computers in your panniers
Among their gear, the students are going to be lugging around as many as 20 laptops with them on their long-distance ride. While these mobile devices are critical for the purpose of the students' trip, the decision whether or not to bring a laptop on a tour frequently comes up with cyclists.

"Smartphones are typically better than laptops on shorter rides."

The experienced cyclists at TravellingTwo recommended that most people shouldn't ride with a laptop. Although the computer can be a useful device for booking lodging, looking at maps and planning your ride, the website explained that it adds too much weight on short trips of a few days or weeks. Instead, a lighter tablet or smartphone can get the job done with much less weight and more convenience. 

However, if you're out on a multi-month tour or blogging about your ride, the extra weight of a laptop in your panniers may be worth it. TravellingTwo noted that on a longer touring trip, a laptop can help you journal more effectively, edit photos for your blog, store more information than a smartphone, and have a more enjoyable entertainment or internet experience, which can be key after weeks on the road. 

Look for a laptop that's compact, lightweight and has a solid battery life. Additionally, TravellingTwo recommended laptops with extra internal storage space and proper voltage cords for international travel. Some people prefer using netbooks with or without data networks for their low price and portability. 

About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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