swivet, a web series featuring fictional high school students confronting everyday issues while using STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts, filmed Broadcom MASTERS finalists interacting with their characters this September in Washington, D.C. The episode will be aired in Spring 2014 as part of Season 2. Answers were provided by Scott May, Executive Director, ICPD and Executive Producer, swivet.
What is swivet?
The overall goal for the swivet series is to get children excited about STEM concepts so that when they get to high school and college, they are inclined to take more STEM coursework. It’s not designed as a formal instructional program; the goal is to be 80% entertainment and 20% focused on STEM content. We strive to portray a group of high school students in a comedic scripted series where they are confronting everyday issues and often using STEM ideas to address those issues. Through the storytelling aspects of the series, the characters provide role models for middle school students. It’s a subtle way of educating students. Our STEM content is aligned with learning standards and guidelines for sixth to eighth grade curricula.
The show is set at a fictional high school in Southern California called Maven High. The cast are Screen Actor Guild members and the series is professionally produced in high-definition format. We made the decision to broadcast online because we want to be truly on demand content, so not just time-independent but completely location-independent. You don’t have to be sitting in front of your television. swivet is available to watch on any device anywhere in the world where you have internet access, and is aired commercial free.
While the first tier of swivet is the web series, we also have two other tiers- a website for and about children and an education component. Online you can find cartoon versions of each key character, all with unique STEM interests. The website aggregates games, activities, quizzes, and more associated with STEM topics and we also host competitions. In addition, we have engaged educators to advise us on both the web series and the overall website. Educators have been invaluable in identifying ways to tie what is going on in various episodes to what they can do in the classroom. In addition, we are building lesson plans that teachers can use for grades 6-8.
How did the concept of swivet come about?
swivet came about for two key reasons. One, we acknowledged that late elementary school and middle school are when kids, particularly in the United States, start drifting away from STEM coursework. Something is happening in that timeframe to turn students off.
Secondly, we could focus on our organizational strengths. Since the beginning, the International Center for Professional Development (ICPD) has focused on serving students from underserved populations who are getting advanced degrees in STEM fields and moving on to their careers. There is a major pipeline issue with getting students to remain in STEM fields overall, and especially from underserved populations. Not only were we cognizant of the problem, but we had the background to help address it. With headquarters located in Southern California, we also already had a strong connection and access to video and production facilities and talent, providing us with the ability to create something in a high-quality, professional format.
Why did you choose to feature Broadcom MASTERS finalists in an episode of swivet?
Broadcom MASTERS shows children who have been working on STEM projects what the opportunities are to go to the next level. This is the kind of program that can inspire students. How exciting is it to be able to come to Washington, DC for 4 or 5 days and wind up in a hands-on competition similar to Iron Chef (minus the food) or other competition shows you find on television? We are trying to have our characters serve as role models for students interested in STEM, and the Broadcom MASTERS finalists are real-life role models, in and of themselves. It’s an exemplary program.
When will this episode air?
Season 1 of swivet is airing now, with new episodes released online every Tuesday. Post-production on Season 2 will take place in January, with a March 18 launch date. This episode will air toward the middle of the season, in late April or early May.
We encourage our audience to interact with us on social media. This is a fairly new way of distributing video programming and we think social media is vital for us to engage our audience and receive feedback. We want to get kids interested in and excited about STEM by presenting it in real-life situations. Part of doing that is to get the youth voice about these topics out there and measuring not only to what extent are we engaging our audience, but also if their attitudes about STEM are changing.