Professional Development

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Play and Exploration

Q&A with Jay Flores, Global STEM Ambassador, Rockwell Automation

We know you're passionate about STEM and health and wellness. Why are these so important to you?

My roles as Global STEM Ambassador and as an Obstacle Course Racing coach are both rooted in a passion for helping people overcome obstacles and solve problems that will make the world a better place.

People often look at the obstacles/challenges of life as things that impede our journey. I am of the mentality that "the obstacles are the way." We must learn to stay committed to our vision and engineer a way to conquer the obstacles we encounter. Once that mindset shift occurs, the obstacles become just another step along the journey, instead of a roadblock.

How do you think play factors into learning and the health and well-being of kids and adults?

Play allows for the exploration of a subject via multiple learning styles, which can lead to improved retention of the material.

A well-planned activity can touch visual, aural, verbal, physical and social learning styles. The variety maximizes the young peoples' learning potential. Fear of failure and concern for constraints are also less prevalent during play. Therefore, young people are more likely to explore the topic in depth and are more willing to look for innovative approaches. Finally, it's FUN!

How do you think play inspires kids?

Play can provide an opportunity for both creative exploration and real-life application. This combination is what turns on the light bulb for youth! When young people can connect the dots between their passions and a real-life application/career, their interest transforms into commitment.

A creative mind that is committed to exploring their passion can change the world!

What did you do as a kid after school?

I participated in a general afterschool program. My activities consisted of a recess, homework and some game time.

What makes you hopeful for the future?

FIRST LEGO League gives me hope for the future. It's more than robots! Youth have the opportunity to look at the world around them and come up with innovative solutions to relevant problems in their community.

They face a new challenge every year and have an opportunity to work in teams to solve complex problems. They learn that the world around them is moldable. They create a vision for what they want the world to look like and begin to reverse-engineer the solutions that will make it a better place!

Written by Cassie Westrate. This article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of 
AfterSchool Today magazine