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.

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-