The purpose of this blog is to explore Louisiana's strategy and capacity for advancing STEM education, careers, and workforce for all. Louisiana has its own array of STEM assets, strengths and approaches in place - thus this site is designed to discover these strategies and activities. Not just a PK12 issue - all stakeholders, higher education, workforce development, economic development, business & industry, are welcome to participate. Hopefully the site will pose and answer questions that will ultimately help guide and focus diverse partners in this effort.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Collaboration + New Education Models = Economic Growth

Within the past few days I have read several articles that really make the case for linking education, government, and business for education reform that could help grow the economy.

One that particularly caught my eye was the recent U.S. News and World Report's article, U.S. Needs New Educational Model for Economic Growth.  The article mentions the increasing need for at least two years of postsecondary education or training to fill an estimated 14 million jobs over the next 10 years in industries such as healthcare, information technology, business, etc. Although funding is a part of the answer for meeting this education need, a call for increased collaboration between businesses, educators, and government entities to leverage existing resources is more critical. 

The author provides two models for STEM education that have potential to improve education performance leading to economic value:
  • A "21st century" career and technical education program (CTE) that provides a seamless link between high school, postsecondary coursework, and much needed STEM careers.
  • A professional apprenticeship program that utilizes federal work-study funds to pay salaries for off-campus jobs that are relevant and directly connected to the students' academic majors and intended careers.  
Although the models themselves are not new, the strategies have been re-focused to bring relevant experiences to students as soon as possible that lead to meaningful lifelong employment, particularly in critically needed STEM fields.  The cost?  Innovative thinking and collaborative planning by education, business and government.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

LSYOU Summer Program Exposes Students to STEM


LSYOU
LSYOU (Louisiana State Youth Opportunities Unlimited), a year-long program for underserved youth, is sponsored by the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education. During LSYOU’s recent summer phase of the program, they collaborated with School of the Coast and Environment and the College of Engineering to expose students to STEM disciplines and careers. After introducing the students to engineering tools and various technologies combined with authentic hands-on projects, subjects like math and science took on an all new interdisciplinary meaning.

Exposure to professionals and the work they perform is extremely critical in STEM education. By introducing students to topics and professionals in very relevant ways through projects, students actually experience what it is like to be an engineer, a designer, or even an epidemiologist! Interest is sparked; dreams begin.

Exposing students to interesting STEM work doesn’t happen by itself. As this inspiring article featuring LSYOU demonstrates, it took a committed team of professionals working together to plan and deliver real-world professional projects; projects that these students probably would have never participated in. A rigorous curriculum is certainly a must in K12, however, waiting until youth enter the workplace to experience a workplace’s unique skills, tools, and knowledge is simply too late.


For more information about the LSYOU program in the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education, visit www.lsu.edu/lsyou. For more information about the School of the Coast and Environment, visit http://www.sce.lsu.edu/; and for more information on the LSU College of Engineering, visit http://www.eng.lsu.edu/.

Monday, August 20, 2012

PBS "Design Squad Wins an Emmy!

I have to congratulate PBS for winning an Emmy this summer for their series “Design Squad Nation” in the “outstanding new approaches” in children’s daytime television category.  Like STEM, the programming encourages students to "be creative,  solve problems, and make things that help people."  Funded by NSF, the show encourages authenticproblem solving, but also helps students, particularly girls and minorities, imagine themselves in engineering careers.  The series also features a website, complete with project ideas and games:  Design Squad Nation.

In the video segment below, the series challenged kids aged 5-19 to spend their summer vacation recycling, reusing, and re-engineering everyday materials to create the next great green invention for the 2010 Trash to Treasure competition. The winning inventions that are featured include:  The Smarter Toilet" (a water saving device); "Sibling Soaker" (a homemade dunk tank); and "MiBike" (a bike that holds a backpack and protects a kid from rain and snow).






Thursday, August 16, 2012

Speaking of Innovation


 

Everywhere across the nation as schools explore ways to nurture STEM careers, innovation is also at work. Students in high school can "major" in health fields, such as biomedicine, or aerospace - like students at Toltech T-STEM Academy do.  

At Toltech, located in inner-city San Antonio, partnerships with universities and community colleges and businesses are taken very seriously - opening doors for students to earn university credit early through dual credit courses.  These tight partnerships make it possible for students who never dreamed of having a professional career to receive a certificate in aerospace.

STEM education takes on many forms at many levels, but innovation is at the heart of the curriculum, both inside and outside the classroom. It is about engaging students in projects and curriculum that empowers them to be creatively problem solve and invent. This could be a science project in a kindergarten class, a university-sponsored community problem solving project, after-school robotics or rocketry programs, or internships at hospitals and businesses. Successful projects yield newly formed passions for learning.

According to these experts, including Dr. Tony Wagner, Thomas Friedman and others, experiences that foster innovation is woefully absent in our schools. How do we encourage a passion for learning, curiosity, collaboration, and play that it takes to create innovators?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cu·ri·os·i·ty: A desire to know; Interest leading to inquiry

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory that produced the Curiosity rover brings to mind the kind of skills, knowledge, and teamwork that are required for innovation.  Aptly named by a twelve year old, curiosity itself is a powerful driver for innovation.  How do we, as a community, nurture the curiosity and passion required for solving today’s challenging problems?

Based upon my experience teaching at the K12, college, and adult learning levels, problem-based learning - central to a STEM educational experience and guided by personal interest and inquiry -is engaging for both the learner and the co-learner (formerly known as the teacher).  Given an inquiry-based iterative process to tackle authentic problems, learners ask questions, imagine possibilities, plan, create, and improve. Learners bring their own passions and experience to the process, are required to work as a team, and use technology when appropriate. So empowered by the process, learners often hate for the lesson to end.  Although a passion for questioning and curiosity can be nurtured by parents at a very early age and reinforced by teachers and mentors, a problem solving attitude can make an enormous difference in the life of a child in terms of rich lives and more interesting, rewarding work.

In my quest to identify STEM at work in Louisiana, I was very proud to learn that Keith Comeaux, team chief for cruise/engineering operations and flight director for the landing was a native son and graduate of LSU’s College of Engineering.   Although the rover itself is a priceless asset, the more priceless state asset is our students. 

Can STEM education serve as a catalyst for developing a state-full of innovative problem solvers like Dr. Comeaux?  

Curious? Click here to learn more about the attributes of a STEM classroom. 


Photo of Dr Comeaux-http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/E6EYS2ZaubU/NASA+Jet+Propulsion+Lab+Holds+Viewing+Mars/Umtqz5Z7rEM/Keith+Comeaux


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why STEM?

STEM is critical to continued innovation and new products that can help make the world a better place. STEM is also a key part of a healthy economy, business growth and stronger communities and good jobs. People with STEM backgrounds find careers in every part of our economy including medicine, construction, energy, oil and gas, environment, farming and finance.

However, it takes the entire community, strategic partnerships among PK12, higher education, business, government and non-profit, as well as parental involvement to foster an increase in individuals pursuing STEM careers. (BISEC-Business and Industry STEM Education Coalition)


Why Louisiana?

69,000 = The number of STEM-related jobs* Louisiana will need to fill by 2018, most of which require at least some college.

The future is closer than you think! See today's press release.


Ameritas Technologies Announces 300-Job Technology Center in Baton Rouge.
Ameritas will partner with state government and local colleges and technical schools to recruit, employ and train a new generation of skilled IT workers to support innovation and technology leadership in Louisiana. The 300 new direct jobs, with an average salary of $63,000, plus benefits, will result in an additional 306 new indirect jobs.


* 69,000 STEM Jobs (by category)




Computer and mathematical science ......20,000
Architects and technicians...................10,000
Engineers and technicians ...................24,000
Life and physical scientists ..................12,000
Social scientists ................................ 3,000

(STEMConnector.org)

Keys to Advancing STEM

To guide this blog, questions posed will focus on "Change the Equation's" Vital Signs tool that is designed to help review current strategy and continuously improve state and regional strategy for positively influencing STEM learning for all students.
                                                          (Summarized from Change the Equation)
Six Key Components:  (Click here to see detailed list.)
  • Overarching Infrastructure
  • Standards and Expectations
  • STEM Learning Opportunities
  • Teacher Preparation and Support
  • Postsecondary Education and Research
  • Resource Allocation and Alignment