Savannah Swanson / Delaware Technical Community College

The Delaware Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Council held its fifth annual STEM Symposium and Educator Awards Ceremony at the DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, DE, on Tuesday, October 8, 2019. The symposium ran from 2 p.m.- 5:30 p.m., followed by a brief reception, and ending with the awards ceremony from 6 p.m.- 7:30 p.m. 

Co-hosted by the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education and sponsored by Ashland Inc, the awards ceremony recognizes teachers or a team of teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels who demonstrate STEM innovation and excellence through their teaching and student engagement.

Ashland’s Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Vito Consiglio gave the keynote speech during the awards ceremony. Consiglio values STEM education and the development of the STEM workforce because not only is he in the STEM field, but his family members are as well.

 “STEM is a widely recognized acronym, but the reality is that it goes way beyond what the letters are. It’s not limited by those four letters,” Consiglio said.

“We love to be a part of this. We think it is an integral part of the betterment of human society.”

Tackling inequality in STEM

This year’s symposium topic tackles what equity- and the lack of equity- looks like in the STEM workforce and STEM education. Participants specifically looked at how and why minority groups are underrepresented in STEM. 

STEM Council co-chairs Teri Quinn Gray and Jud Wagner were very excited about this year’s focus on inequities in the STEM workforce and classrooms and believe talking about problems facing STEM is what enables change.

“We wanted to create an environment where we can talk about [inequity] with real, authentic conversations and not be so inhibited or judged,” Gray said.

“In the political backdrop of where we are in the nation as well as the world, that’s a difficult thing to have right now, but it’s time that we should be talking about it.” 

As a STEM educator at Brandywine High School, Wagner is keen on doing his part in increasing access to quality STEM education for underrepresented students as well as nontraditional students. Wagner has done his part in encouraging these individuals to participate in STEM through his inclusive STEM programs.

Wagner has helped run a summer STEM camp at Brandywine High, of which many participants were female. Elementary and middle school students participated, with high schoolers and college students in STEM-related majors working with the younger students. 

Wagner said it has been really endearing and exciting to see kids from various age groups encouraging each other to succeed and teaching one another. 

The symposium started in the afternoon with a panel discussing this year’s topic of inequity in STEM. The panel consisted of STEM educators, including Wagner, and STEM students & employees, and was moderated by Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.

 “I’m very interested by the unique and creative ways educators have tried to do what our students talk to us about doing- to make learning exciting and to make it involve and encourage problem solving,” Bunting said.

“I am all for education that is meaningful. It challenges them to think and to apply and to stretch their knowledge and the application of that knowledge.”

The panelists discussed how they have experienced inequity in their respective STEM areas and the ways in which they succeeded in overcoming the obstacles produced by inequity. 

One of the most powerful stories came from panelist Jacqueline Means. Means is a senior at the Delaware Military Academy (DMA), where she commands over 300 cadets as the Bravo Battalion Commanding Officer.

Means grew up in Southbridge, DE, where economic mobility is extremely low. Means’ interest in STEM helped her overcome the negative statistics that define the Southbridge area. She uses her passion for learning to encourage other young children in Wilmington, specifically girls, to pursue their dreams in STEM.

 “You are so much more. You are not limited to what is around you,” Means said. “There’re so much more out there to expand your mind.”

At 17 years old, Means has founded the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative, and works to empower young girls to chase their dreams. She also created summer programs in the Wilmington area where children can engage in educational STEM activities. 

After high school, Means plans to study neuroscience, so she may eventually become a neurosurgeon.

Mentoring through STEM

Another major point discussed by panelists and audience members was the importance of being a mentor to young learners and encouraging positive relationships with students.

Lakia Belcher, the Director of Education and Strategic Outreach for FAME, Inc. is very passionate about giving students mentors and encouraging students to absorb what they learn, rather than just memorize the information.

Belcher said she believes that giving young learners positive mentors is the key factor in increasing children’s retention of knowledge. But making an impact on students, she says, starts with taking the time to get to know them.

“The biggest thing I tell my teacher friends is to build relationships and get to know your students, and then you can teach them. If you don’t get to know them, you’ll only get so far,” Belcher said.

“Through that idea of relationship building, that’s how you’re able to foster and create wonderful and brilliant students.”

Belcher also believes that change only comes if people are aware of the inequities affecting the STEM industry and surround themselves with others who have different viewpoints.

“If everybody looks the same, talks the same, and walks the same, then there will be no innovation, and everything will be stagnant,” Belcher said.

Following the panel discussion, audience members engaged in an activity called Cross the Line, where they were given a statement and told to step forward if they agreed or identified with it. The goal of Cross the Line is to help participants identify and acknowledge the differences among one other, and by doing so be more aware of those differences and challenges that others face in STEM.

Participants then broke off into groups for the rest of the symposium to discuss the importance of the Cross the Line activity, as well as the history of equity and the lack of equity in education and how it has changed over the years. 

Awards Ceremony

After the conclusion of the symposium in the afternoon, everyone enjoyed a brief networking reception which allowed everyone to socialize with each other and discuss the day’s events thus far.

Afterwards, the Awards Ceremony began with Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long speaking on the importance of quality STEM education in Delaware. 

 “Policy makers nationally and at the state level have to be aware that we can’t have a one-size-fits-all curriculum,” Long said.

Like Bunting, Long has a background in education and knows that interacting successfully with students starts with understanding that not all of them are the same, and that they cannot be put into a “cookie-cutter mold.”

Long was not the only Delaware political figure to address the audience. Although they could not attend, Gov. John Carney, Sens. Chris Coons and Tom Carper, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester sent video messages to the event, with all of them thanking STEM educators for their work in Delaware schools.

Finally, STEM Council Co-Chairs Wagner and Gray announced this year’s winners.

For the elementary level:

  • Library media specialist Heather Fitzgerald won for her work in the Smyrna School District since 2015.

For the middle school level:

  •  Millsboro Middle School science teacher Sarah Betlejewski won for her work in the Indian River School District.

The high school level was a little more competitive, with three awards given:

  • Michele Thomas won third place for her work at Sussex Technical High School in the Sussex Tech School District. She’s been a science teacher in the Sussex Tech District since 2012.
  • Second place went to agricultural teacher Karen Ferrucci for her work at William Penn High School in the Colonial School District. She has been with the district since 2016.
  • Finally, Margaret Birch received top honors for her work as a computer science teacher at Caesar Rodney High School. She has been with the Caesar Rodney School District since 2000.

Daniel Suchenski, the executive director for the Governor’s STEM Council, said he’d love to boost student engagement at future events, but overall loves how enthusiastic participants are during the symposium discussions.

“The Symposium is not meant to advocate for a specific, prescribed, or top-down policy change to improve STEM access in the state,” Suchenski said.

“Simply having the conversation, and getting people talking to one another, can be more powerful than coming up with a solution.”

For more information on this year’s symposium and awards, visit delawarestem.org, or visit their Facebook page for updates on the Council’s work in Delaware at facebook.com/DelawareSTEM.

Along with Ashland Inc, this year’s symposium and awards are sponsored by the following:

  • DuPont
  • Air Liquide
  • Verizon
  • Agilent Technologies
  • Junior Achievement of Delaware
  • Labware
  • ZipCode Wilmington
  • Bloom Energy
  • Spekciton Biosciences

Additional partners include:

  • Delaware Math Coalition
  • Delaware Technical Community College
  • Delaware State University
  • Delcastle Technical High School
  • FAME Inc.
  • Rodel
  • DelawareBio
  • Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control

About the Delaware STEM Council

The Delaware STEM Council was created in 2011 by former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell with the mission to increase STEM literacy for Delaware students and boost the number of individuals interested in pursuing advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields.

The Council is headed by Co-Chairs Jud Wagner and Teri Quinn Gray, and Executive Director Daniel Suchenski. Wagner is a physics and engineering teacher at Brandywine High School in Wilmington, DE. Gray is a chemist working with DuPont in Wilmington, DE, and serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDI). Suchenski serves on the board for the Delaware Foundation for Science and Math Education (DFSME).

About Ashland Inc.

Ashland Global Holdings Inc. (NYSE: ASH) is a premier global specialty chemicals company serving customers in a wide range of consumer and industrial markets, including adhesives, architectural coatings, automotive, construction, energy, food and beverages, nutraceuticals, personal care and pharmaceutical. 

At Ashland, we are approximately 6,500 passionate, tenacious solvers – from renowned scientists and research chemists to talented engineers and plant operators – who thrive on developing practical, innovative and elegant solutions to complex problems for customers in more than 100 countries. Visit ashland.com to learn more.

About DFSME

Delaware Foundation for Science & Mathematics Education’s (DFSME) mission is to strengthen STEM education and prepare Delaware students to be informed citizens and competitive in the global workforce. Our vision is that Delaware’s world-class STEM education system will serve as a magnet to attract businesses, families, and innovative educators to come to and remain in Delaware.

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About Savannah Swanson

Savannah Swanson is a Communications student at Delaware Technical Community College, Jack F. Owens Campus in Georgetown, DE. She plans on graduating with her Associate’s degree in the spring of 2020, and then wants to pursue her Bachelor’s degree at a four-year university. 

The Fifth Annual Delaware STEM Symposium was held at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington last Tuesday, Oct. 8. The event was hosted by the Delaware STEM Council in conjunction with the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education (DFSME), with primary sponsors Ashland and DuPont. The theme for this year’s symposium was equity, as throughout the conference, educators, business leaders, and policy-makers tackled head-on the challenges of working to make STEM in Delaware more equitable for all; students, educators, and workers alike.

The symposium began with a panel discussion between Delaware Military Academy students Seth Lawrence and Jacqueline Means, Brandywine High School educator and former Delaware STEM Council Co-chair Judson Wagner, and Candice Roundtree, a chemical engineer at Delmarva Power. The panel, comprised of the student, educator, and business leader perspectives, addressed their own experiences with equity or inequity, as well as barriers they may have faced in their educations or careers in STEM fields.

“I live in Southbridge, Wilmington, Delaware,” Means said. “In fact, only 40% of teens living there graduate with a high school diploma. I saw that there was a need for STEM programs, especially free ones.”

At 16 years old, Means, the self-described “STEM Queen,” founded the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative and hosts Girls Empowerment STEM events, which offer free, accessible STEM programs and educational opportunities for young girls and students in Wilmington.

“I want to equip them with the knowledge and confidence that they, as females, can succeed in the STEM field,” Means described in her mission statement on her personal website.

Seth Lawrence also leads the way as both a student and a young educator. As an aspiring pilot at Delaware Military Academy, Lawrence joined the United States Air Force Auxiliary, and is now a 2nd Lieutenant Officer and leader among younger students who share the same enthusiasm for aviation. Lawrence is also involved in STEM and STEM equity organizations such as the Forum to Advance Minorities in Engineering (FAME) based in Delaware, and is an advocate for similar programs, such as the Organization for Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP).

“Aviation takes on literally every aspect of STEM,” Lawrence said, recalling the origins of his passion for aviation. “Once the wheels took off and I wasn’t touching the ground anymore, I was like, ‘Whoa, I’m in the sky. I gotta do it now.’ Since that moment, that created a drive for me. Now I have the opportunity to teach the younger kids who just joined, who are maybe in the lower ranks of Airman or Airman First Class. I see myself in them, and I remember I was really excited about aviation, and I still am now.”

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting moderated the panel discussion. Prior to joining Governor John Carney’s cabinet in 2017, Bunting herself was a veteran Delaware educator and former superintendent of the Indian River School District, attuned to the worlds of equity, diversity, and accessibility in the classrooms. According to Bunting, she visits over 100 Delaware schools over the course of the year.

“I’m always the advocate for the kid who has no one else to speak for him,” Bunting said. “I’m always concerned about programs that are there. I want to make sure that students are not deprived of that opportunity. I think we as educators can do a lot more to assure [them].”

The panel discussion was followed by a “Cross the Line” activity, in which participants engaged in an exercise which challenged their comfort zones, introducing them to the complexity of pursuing equity in the classroom or workplace. The activity, which instructed participants to cross a line every time an announced quality of race, gender, or identity was applicable to them, highlighted the dynamics of diversity and difference, community versus isolation, setting an example versus joining a crowd.

“As educators, how do we navigate power in our classrooms? Do we reinforce already existing hierarchies? Do we challenge them? Do we complicate them? And, if so, how do we make that transparent,” a moderator asked in the evening’s following segment, “Real Conversations,” wherein participants broke into separate groups to reflect on the exercise.

“Kids need more teachers who look like them, and who have had common experiences as them,” Anne Pfaelzer de Ortiz, Director of Development & Operations for DFSME, said. “How do you open the eyes of the teachers and of the educational system? So that, even if you don’t look like the kid, you accept a student and accept what he or she brings. And instead of passing over the kid, you open doors. It’s a huge amount of work that teachers do, and a huge amount of power that they have – and equal to the power that a parent or family member has.”

In concluding the first half of the symposium, closing remarks were made by DFSME Executive Director Randy Guschl and FAME Program Director Lakia Belcher, as well as a final address from Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long.

The Lt. Governor also represents another Delaware government official with an extensive background and relationship with STEM and STEM education, having pursued nursing in her undergraduate studies and later completing her Ph.D. in health policy and nursing administration.

“Everyone should have equal opportunity,” Lt. Governor Hall-Long said. “A strong science background is a must for the Delaware workforce. And young children, whether it’s our inner cities or our rural communities, should have the same opportunity. So, for me, equity is paramount.”

A brief intermission was followed by the second half of the symposium, which included video correspondence and messages from Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and Governor John Carney, all leading up to the evening’s Delaware STEM Educator Awards ceremony.

“Delaware’s future experts on science, technology, and engineering all have to start their learning somewhere, and you’re inspiring them to succeed,” Carney said in a video message. “Those being honored tonight are perfect examples of the diverse, innovative, dedicated educators that are guiding Delaware.”

Rochester, Coons, and Carney also commended the evening’s STEM educators for their dedication, as well as the council’s ambitions for addressing and improving equity across the board of Delaware STEM as the symposium’s central theme.

The first place Delaware STEM Educator Awards were received by Smyrna Elementary school library media specialist Heather Fitzgerald, Millsboro Middle School science teacher Sarah Betlejewski, and Caesar Rodney High School computer science teacher Margaret Birch. Second and third place winners also included, respectively, William Penn High School agriculture teacher Karen Ferrucci and Sussex Technical High School science teacher Michele Thomas.

The symposium concluded with a final opportunity for its diverse range of attendees – from educators and students to business and industry leaders – to collaborate, socialize, and network.

“This organization is some of the best people I’ve met, that are pure to the soul of trying to help other human beings. And to me, that means a lot,” Vito Consiglio, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Ashland, said.

Consiglio prioritizes Ashland’s attendance, sponsorship, and support of the Delaware STEM Symposium, emphasizing the importance of the relationship between businesses and the community.

“For us, this is something we think has a lot of value,” Consiglio said. “It helps to feed the opportunities within our organization to get great candidates that live in the state of Delaware. So we want to help nourish that bed of people, and the only way to do that is to play an active role in the community.”

Jon Manon, President of DFSME and Associate Director of Mathematics at the University of Delaware’s School of Education, expressed his gratitude for the Delaware STEM Council on its ability to assemble a breadth of STEM leaders for a day of collaboration, and the inherent optimism of such a prospect.

“It’s the perfect nexus of educators, business and industry, and government coming together and, in very honest ways, saying, ‘How do we move forward and how do we reinvent this? How do we make it better?’” Manon said. “It’s sort of the perfect storm, if you will. I suppose other states have this mechanism but because of the size and connectedness of Delaware, this really augurs well for the future of STEM education in Delaware.”

Leaders in Delaware STEM will once again assemble for next year’s symposium, to be held in April 2020. For updates on future announcements for the upcoming date and location, further information and additional resources can be found at the official Delaware STEM Council website, https://delawarestem.org/.

To register for next year’s ceremony or to apply for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards, visit https://delawarestem.org/symposium-educator-awards/.

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Jan Castro is a junior at the University of Delaware, studying English and journalism. He is a Delaware native from Hockessin and has been a proud student of Delaware educators. After college, he hopes to pursue a career in journalism, feature writing, and magazine writing.

Each year, the Delaware STEM Council recognizes teachers that demonstrate excellence, innovation, and passion in STEM education through the Delaware STEM Educator Awards. The award celebrates teachers from across the state, and from across the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These teachers undertake projects and initiatives both inside and outside of the classroom in service of creating a more comprehensive and robust STEM education system for our Delaware schools, championing academic collaboration and student engagement in the process. First place winners receive a one-time, unrestricted financial contribution as gratitude for their commitment to their students and to Delaware STEM.

 

In 2014 and 2015, a total of six educators received the first place Delaware STEM Educator Award. Among them were educators that pioneered a diversity of STEM initiatives in their respective schools, including programs in robotics, computer science, and engineering. Each educator shared their experiences, stories, challenges, and successes in their journeys in propelling STEM education.

 

Travis Bower, Principal at Southern Delaware School of the Arts

 

Travis Bower placed first in 2015 for the Delaware STEM Educator Award for primary education. During his time as a teacher at Selbyville Middle School, he introduced a robotics program for K-8 students, incorporating STEM concepts borrowed from his background in VEX robotics and as a leader for his local robotics camp. At the time, Bower’s robotics program was the only one at the middle school level in Sussex County.

 

Since winning the award in 2015, Bowers became assistant principal at Georgetown Middle School and, through the new opportunities available to him, was able to implement a robotics program across the entire school district for grades K-12. He is now the principal at Southern Delaware School of the Arts.

 

What importance do you find in robotics, STEM, and the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“I see the value in teaching our students STEM skills all across the board. It’s really important for them to see what they will have the ability to work with when they graduate from high school and college and start their careers. It’s just amazing to watch, as they go through, just how much they do learn and how much they can use it in their life from day-to-day. So it really allowed me a chance to get the ball rolling for Sussex county on it.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?

“I was actually able to use the STEM money that we got from that award to start building programs in all of our Indian River schools. Because of the efforts of not just myself but others that we have in our district that really jumped on board with me, we actually have robotics in every one of our schools in Indian River.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“If there’s a will to make that change and to bring any STEM initiative, there are ways to get there. There’s a lot of people in the community that do support STEM and see the value in it. It’s just a matter of reaching out to say, ‘Here’s what I’m looking at and any help you can give, I’ll take.’”

 

Any final thoughts on Delaware STEM?

“As a whole I think the STEM Educator Awards are a great opportunity for educators. There are a lot of teachers that go above and beyond, not just STEM but in whatever area they focus on, that don’t often get the recognition they deserve.”

 

Ruth Fuchs, Librarian at McIlvaine Early Childhood Center

 

Ruth Fuchs placed first in 2014 for the Delaware STEM Award for primary education. At McIlvaine Early Childhood Center in Magnolia, Fuchs currently works with over 500 kindergarten students from across Kent County. As a librarian, her lesson plans involve creative ways of integrating STEM topics into learning opportunities for her kindergarteners. Fuchs continued to pursue her passion for STEM education after the 2014 award, putting some of the award earnings towards developing new lessons and incorporating new learning materials.

 

“I try to integrate, intertwine literacy, and the importance of reading, with science,” Fuchs said.

 

What are some of the creative lesson ideas you used in 2014 to introduce some of your kindergarteners to concepts in STEM?

“I always integrate my lessons with what’s happening in the school. And because I have a science background, my love for science is quite present in my lessons. In the fall, we actually went out and got leaves, and they used hand lenses and took a closer look. In the winter time, we were doing biography books, so I tied in a science lesson with [Wilson] “Snowflake” Bentley. So our students were able to use microscopes, and then I had them use Q-tips to build snowflakes. Based on what they had learned from the story and the little bit of research on snow, they built six-figured snowflakes, all different designs. So it was a flurry of learning.”

 

What was the experience of winning the Delaware STEM Educator Award like?

“Obviously I was flabbergasted by winning the award, when my name was announced. There’s quite a few creative teachers in the state of Delaware and I was obviously honored on behalf of my school district, Caesar Rodney, to win this award. And our district since then has encouraged STEM, so much so that we actually created a STEM class in McIlvaine.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?

“I have been able to purchase items for STEM. For example, last year I did a lesson on roller coasters. We integrated technologies, they used their Chromebooks to listen to a book about roller coasters. Then I was able to purchase marble towers, so then they had to, as a team, build a roller coaster, using the marbles as carts, from start to finish. So with some of the money I’ve been able to build and add new things for my library lessons. And also, obviously, books.”

 

What kinds of books did you incorporate into your lessons?

“This past year I did a whole unit on space, so I was able to purchase quite a few books on space to ignite children’s learning through looking through books and getting excited about stars and constellations. So some of the resources from the STEM award were used to purchase more books to put in the hands [of students], to encourage and inspire, and also materials so I can create different lessons. Because when you’re teaching 500 students, to have supplies, that’s a lot. So my lessons always have to be very simple.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“If your passion is of science, math, technology, engineering, then the sky’s the limit. To me, your students, their excitement, their ‘a-ha’ moment, fuels my passion to be as creative as I can in the lesson. I would encourage future STEM teachers. They could look out and explore, talk to other science teachers, math educators. There’s a lot of resources that you can increase your knowledge of, incorporating into your classroom lessons. But let the students fuel your ambitions.”

 

Brian Sherrer, Technology Education Teacher at Garnet Valley High School

 

At the time of winning the Delaware STEM Educator Award in 2014, Brian Sherrer was an engineering teacher at Brandywine High School, teaching Processes of Engineering & Design. Sherrer had teamed up with two other engineering teachers from Brandywine School District high schools, Brooks Twilley from Mount Pleasant and Jordan Estock from Concord, for an ambitious, district-wide STEM project and overhaul. With the leadership of Judson Wagner, the three designed and introduced a comprehensive STEM pathway which would ultimately become instituted across the school district. Their collective efforts would further be awarded the first place Delaware STEM Educator Award for secondary education in 2014.

 

What changes are you observing in the ways the students of today are learning?

“Education is an ever-evolving thing. It used to be mostly note-taking, test-taking, and score-driven. Now I feel like there is almost an application of what you’re learning, and that you should demonstrate that through your documentation or deliverables. In my opinion, as students embrace the digital world, social media, and the tools that are out there available for open-source, it’s only right to meet them in their environment instead of trying to hold onto what we’ve traditionally done in the past. And if you’re expecting the kids to take risks about their learning and the projects that they want to take on, I feel like the educators should be willing to take those risks and do, at the end of the day, what’s best for the kids.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?

“A lot of the time that we spent on actually developing the curriculum was on our own time after school. We didn’t share a collaborative period or anything like that. A lot of the heavy lifting was done outside the school day. So we basically took the award money and we divided it between the three of us. I just used mine to pay off some debt, haha. You know, it was kind of for the award winner. Somebody could say, ‘Hey, why didn’t you spend it on your classroom,’ but at the end of the day I felt it was earned.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“Fast-forwarding five or so years since our winning of the award, I would even say, in that short period of time, just going from what I’ve seen in Brandywine with blended learning, with using learning management systems like Schoology or Canvas – and now being at Garnet Valley. There’s really been a push towards gearing the programs to meet the ever-changing needs of the kids. Anyone that is applying or planning to apply in the future, I think that they should probably take that into consideration, just seeing how there’s a shift towards more of an online learning environment, just with all the tools on the internet available today.”

 

Any final thoughts on Delaware STEM?

“I think good programs and good teachers and the results that you see with students, I think all of that starts at the top. I felt as though we had great leadership through Judson Wagner. We would have never gotten to the point we were at if it weren’t his endless drive of, I don’t want to say perfection but it really was perfection. He wanted to make things the best that they could be, and I feel like Brooks and Jordan also shared that view. And I think that, just as a team, we really complimented each other well, we all shared similar skill sets but also brought our own lens to the whole project as well. Going back to that whole saying, ‘It takes a village,’ it certainly does.”

 

Brooks Twilley, Operations Manager at the University of Delaware’s Maker Gym

 

Brook Twilley was the second member of the first place-winning team in 2014, at the time representing Mount Pleasant High School as an engineering and technology teacher.

 

Twilley is currently an operations manager at the University of Delaware’s Maker Gym, an upcoming workshop space designed to provide access to cutting-edge technology, including 3D printers, wood shop equipment, scanners, CNC machines, laser cutters, virtual reality, and fabric design. The new facility is set to open later this fall and and its resources will be available to all university students and faculty.

 

What was the inspiration to overhaul and institute a new STEM program at Mount Pleasant High School, and Brandywine School District at large?

“When I got there and started assessing the condition of my space, and [I] realized that it was tired and in need of some rejuvenation and new direction. I worked with Judson Wagner, who, at the time was the co-chair of the Governor’s STEM Council. Pitched some ideas to Jud, and he was behind them but I didn’t want it to be just implementing those improvements at Mount, I felt like that was not sustainable. So I reached out to Jordan and Brian and said, ‘Let’s do this together.’ And let’s reinvent what engineering and technology education looks like at the high school level.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?

“It was definitely for personal use. At the time, all three of us were young teachers. We were all still struggling to start our families. I’m sure it probably went to the house. Ashland was generous. Ashland as a company, back when I was teaching middle school, they’d bring engineers in for days to just work with my kids. I think that’s amazing that Delaware has a company like that, that’s just willing to put their money where their mouth is, but also their people, I think, are more important.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“The most important thing is to not let your inexperience become a roadblock. In that, your kids need you to do this. The students need exposure to things, and without you to do it who will. If you see something, do something. Even if it means you being uncomfortable with it or you not knowing it. Learn with them. I think kids respond to that, and [they] recognize, ‘Hey, my teacher doesn’t need to be an expert but they’re willing and they’re taking on these uncomfortable things.’ And in addition to getting them exposed to something, you’re teaching them a skill, the resiliency of persisting through unfamiliar territory and challenges. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you go and interview the great teachers in any district, that’s the trait you’re going to find. In addition to their generosity, they’re just willing to dive into things they need to but might not know how to.”

 

Jordan Estock, Design and Engineering Teacher at Concord High School

 

Jordan Estock was the third member of the first place-winning team in 2014, representing Concord High School as an engineering teacher.

 

Most of Estock’s work now as a teacher at Concord involves real world problem-solving and application. His engineering students directly work with disabled and special needs students around the state to develop unique and creative engineering and design projects.

 

What was the process of creating and integrating this new STEM pathway for the district?

“We would meet on a monthly or weekly basis and just talk about our vision for what we wanted our classrooms to be and to take the steps necessary to align the three high schools. Prior to this team being put together, each high school was kind of doing whatever they wanted. Some were doing auto shop, some were doing graphics, some were doing wood shop. We moved away from that and unified all three high schools to be providing the same high quality engineering curriculum that we were writing and practicing all at the same time. We were putting it into action as we were writing it.”

 

What kind of projects are you and your students involved in now, at Concord High School?

“That award kind of jumpstarted us to where we are now, but I feel like we’re doing bigger and better things than we were five years ago. This year we’re partnered with Mary Campbell center, we’ve got people working for elementary schools in the district. We had a group come in from Engineers Without Borders for a project in Kenya, and we’re trying to help them with a rainwater collection system, so we’re all across the board.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?

“The three award winners split the earnings and all of us took our families out to Iron Hill immediately following the event to celebrate. The rest went to my mortgage.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“Get students comfortable using the design process. Teach fundamental skills in areas of CAD, electronics, and fabrication. Connect students to authentic real world problems in the community. Spend time making connections and finding problems in your community, these real world problems are the types of things that are valuable for our kids.”

Robert Gibson, Computer and Information Sciences Teacher at Sussex Central High School, Computer Science Adjunct Faculty at the University of Delaware

Robert Gibson won first place for the Delaware STEM Educator Award in secondary education in 2015. At Sussex Central High School, he designed and built a full, three-year, IT-based pathway in CTE, or Career & Technical Education. The pathway addressed a range of topics in IT, cyber security, and general hardware and software that are relevant to the computer science careers of such high demand today.

 

During that same year, Gibson also received a $10,000 grant from Code.org, the website and organization that created the Hour of Code, a one-hour, introduction to coding event that takes place with educators and students worldwide.

 

Can you talk more about your experiences as an educator in 2015, receiving the STEM award and the Code.org grant?

“The same year in 2015, I was also recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House as a national CTE innovator. And so I was able to, that same year, go to the White House and represent my program. And there’s a student group I’m an advisor for, a national group called the TSA, the Technology Students Association, and so I was able to represent the TSA and Sussex Central at the White House. So that was a good year for me. It was quite an honor.”

 

What did you do with the funds from the award?
“The grant money that I won through Code.org I was able to put back into the classroom in terms of resources for the students. So I actually used a lot of the STEM Educator Award to do some professional development stuff for me, in terms of some trainings, and I was able to put it back into what I needed to do to better myself as an educator.”

 

What are your recommendations for educators looking to get students engaged in STEM topics, or considering applying for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards?

“The great thing about it is that anybody can do it. So any of your students, whether they’re top athletes, whether they just want to sit around and do coding stuff, it’s something that anybody can do. Any race, any gender, any background. It’s something that’s universal. It truly prepares people for what comes next. Having a background in STEM, having a background in technology are all skills that will better prepare them to be successful.”

 

Each educator from this 2014 – 2015 award-winning cohort expressed common themes regarding what it means to be a leader and teacher in STEM today: a commitment and readiness to serve students, a resiliency to take on new challenges and experiences, and a generosity to actively devote the time and energy into furthering Delaware STEM education.

 

The Fifth Annual Delaware STEM Symposium will take place on October 8th at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington. The annual event will once again bring together leaders, experts, and educators at the forefront of STEM and STEM education to discuss contemporary challenges, opportunities, and future prospects. The examples set by these six previous award-winning educators embody an optimism for the future of STEM which the Delaware STEM Council will be celebrating once more in the 2019 Delaware STEM Educator Awards ceremony.

The Delaware STEM Council was created to oversee the evaluation and improvement of STEM education in Delaware schools. This includes through increasing engagement of students to pursue STEM careers, and to broaden the involvement of women and minorities in STEM fields. For Delaware students not pursuing STEM careers, the Council hopes to spread STEM literacy for all students, to provide skills that are valued in the growing market of STEM-oriented jobs. The Council also works to expand the STEM workforce in Delaware, and subsequently grow and attract STEM-related businesses to the state.

The 2019 symposium is sponsored by Ashland Inc., an American chemical company with global operations in over 100 countries. Thanks to the gracious support of Ashland, among other advocates and sponsors of Delaware STEM, the annual symposium is able to bring together the state’s vanguard of STEM for this day of collaboration.

To register for next year’s ceremony or to apply for the Delaware STEM Educator Awards, visit https://delawarestem.org/symposium-educator-awards/.

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Jan Castro is a junior at the University of Delaware, studying English and journalism. He is a Delaware native from Hockessin and has been a proud student of Delaware educators. After college, he hopes to pursue a career in journalism, feature writing, and magazine writing.

Librarian Michelle Harris was the only elementary school educator to receive recognition at the 2015 STEM Educator Awards. She was presented with $500 to help start a STEM program for the library at Lulu Ross Elementary School, located in Milford, DE. The Delaware STEM Educator Award is given to a teacher that is passionate about STEM education, demonstrating exemplary innovation through their lessons and student interactions. In conjunction with the prize she was given by the STEM council, Harris was awarded with a second $500 accolade from Ashland Inc., which was used to purchase additional program materials. Although Harris did not place in the competition, the recognition and consolation compensation is an impressive accomplishment.

The other elementary school competitors did not have the same unique advantage as Harris. As the librarian, she interacts with students from each grade level. In an interview she explained what set her apart from the other educators.

“Probably the biggest thing that’s different is I have the opportunity to see all the students versus just one classroom of 30 kids. So, when you look at the fact that throughout the course of the year, 600 students, 600 plus students at this point, are having the opportunity to have different STEM lessons. It’s reaching every grade level, [every] background, girls, boys, the minorities; it touches base [with] everybody,” Harris said.

Harris worked as a librarian for 10 years in Smyrna, DE before transferring to her current position. For six weeks out of the school year she was able to work extensively with students from each grade. During that time they would work on a specific STEM unit. Instead of doing mini lessons, like the ones usually taught during the allotted 45 minute library sessions, Harris was able to spend more time on bigger projects, such as the third grade’s boat and bridge building lesson. Harris’ goal is to have a library program at Lulu Ross that can be as successful as the one she started while working in Smyrna. All of her winnings were spent on STEM focused materials to help jumpstart her aspiration.

Despite her obvious triumphs, Harris did not intend on becoming a STEM focused educator. In fact, before taking the library position at Smyrna, she was a language arts and social studies teacher. But, when her previous employers asked her to provide an additional course in the library, she looked to her husband for suggestions.

“We [said], ‘what else can we do with these kids?’ My husband teaches a STEM concentration. He’s the one that got me thinking about it,” Harris said.

Since the 2015 awards, Harris’ students, as well as her colleagues, are responding well to their new STEM project materials. The school’s art teacher, for example, has used the library’s new gravity kits with her classes. The exciting new items that were debuted last school year have some of the children already requesting specific lessons, Harris said.

“The best response I got from the [new] coding [lesson] was from a student. He took time to write me a note, and said that he did not really have any hobbies and he struggles to find things he likes, but he loves the coding. It was clear and simple ‘Thanks for introducing me to coding, I finally found something I like to do,’” Harris said.

Pleased with her students’ interest and new appreciation for STEM education, Harris hopes to continue to grow the budding program at Lulu Ross. With the new school year just beginning, she is excited to make learning fun for her kids. The STEM Educator’s award gave Mrs. Harris and the students at Lulu Ross elementary the materials and inspiration needed to learn and appreciate the importance of STEM education.

“I truly love what I teach. I really do,” Harris said.

 

My name is Mrs. Harris and I am the Librarian at Lulu Ross! I attended the University of Delaware and have spent the last ten years teaching in Smyrna. I enjoy traveling, fishing, visiting the beach, and playing with my two little girls. I also LOVE to READ. Books help me to escape to faraway places that otherwise I would never see.

Author:

Giavana Suraci is a senior strategic communications major at Temple University. She was born and raised in Philadelphia and plans to remain in the city. After graduation, she hopes to work for the Philadelphia Phillies in their public relations department.

This previous week on July 6th, I had the privilege to interview Travis Bower, currently the assistant principle at Georgetown Elementary in southern Delaware. Before Georgetown, Travis has worked in various school districts teaching middle school science, directing a Gifted Students program, and creating a science camp that uses common household chemicals to show kids how the brilliance of science can be found within their own homes. He has built his career upon a deep passion for STEM, most prominently seen through his love for robotics. While he considers it just a hobby, Travis is the creator of the VEX Robotics club in Manassas Park (who competes internationally) and brought the VEX platform to Georgetown where it continues to grow. Through robotics, he has positively influenced the lives of hundreds of young students and fueled their interests in STEM. Travis strongly believes that the future of STEM in Delaware is bright, and that the opportunity to invest in and build STEM culture is there. His passion is contagious, visible in his responses below. I hope you enjoy learning about his story as much as I did.

 

DSTEMWhat does STEM mean to you?

Travis: STEM to me is a misnomer, and I feel it should be STEAM, and include the arts. So much of the engineering and design process that has a strong foundation in creativity and ingenuity that we should really include the arts into the acronym. Part of the reason I love robotics is because it requires a certain aesthetic factor. Not only should a robot be functional, but each has a unique, artistic design that adds a whole new dimension of creativity and simulates the brain in a completely different way. To me, STEAM, or STEM is not just about subject matter, it is a way of thinking and problem solving that extends beyond the four areas that compose it. It is about problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication that has existed for decades, but was set aside through the No Child Left Behind movement.

When I was in middle school, each year, we did a variety of projects that were cross-curricular and extended beyond the realms of each area. Looking back, those were STEM activities, and were some of the most memorable and meaningful lessons I learned. In education, we really need to continue our efforts to teach students to think and be critical of their ideas in efforts to strengthen their understandings, and be curious about how the world works.  By doing this, I think we will create well-rounded, lifelong learners that will be prepared for their futures.

 

DSTEM: How did you grow such a strong passion for education & teaching STEM?

Travis:  It has always been an interest of mine, and the methodology of STEM in education has really challenged me. I have always thought that students should be their own guide to their education, and it has really been something that I strive to teach. As educators, we want our students to innately be curious and to be driven to learn their entire life, and STEM provides that opportunity. One thing that I really enjoyed about teaching Science, and STEM at Selbyville Middle was the inquiry based learning approach that I used. Project Lead the Way is based on that model, and it really challenges students to think. It’s amazing to give students a problem to solve and have them find their own answer. It’s more fun for them, and more fun for me as a teacher. I strongly believe, if I’m not having fun teaching, they aren’t having fun learning. I tell my students all the time, I could teach you anything you want I just have to find a way to show it to you.

 

DSTEM: What role did teaching STEM play in shaping the trajectory of your career?

Travis: I’m a science teacher by training, and have always had a scientific curiosity.  When I first started teaching in Manassas Park, VA, I taught middle school science, and realized that the population I served was struggling with their performance in science. To try and help, I created a summer camp with a grant I received from the district’s education foundation to help reinforce the content I taught. I worked together with NSF and the local police department to help get the camp off the ground. Jokingly, I called it my “Kitchen Science Camp,” because despite its complexity everything I taught was using household chemicals (egg whites, toothpicks, strawberry DNA) and I could run a week long camp for less than $300.

I soon found myself in the role of the Gifted Coordinator for my school, and to add an inquiry-based curriculum, I piloted what was at the time Google’s App Inventor program with our middle school students. Since Google is open sourced and generally supportive of engineering, it was easy to apply to get into the Google market and give every student access to the software. I gave them a basic crash course in programming using the software and gave them the assignment of creating an app that we would showcase at our “tech symposium” at the end of the semester. Kids ran with it, using their creativity to make everything from gaming apps to one that alerts you when dinner is ready. The students loved it and we had a variety of district administrators come who were very impressed with our efforts. Overall it was a fantastic experience.

Shortly after, I met Denyse Carroll, who I met previously when she worked at Micron Technology, and really got me interested in Robotics. If you aren’t familiar with Denyse, she is a incredible person whose energy and passion is contagious. She has been a huge source of inspiration so far in my career. Denyse helped me start the VEX Robotics club in Manassas Park, and within two years, helped me build a program that was competing at the world level. She taught me about “coopertition,” and really how much is involved in STEM. Coopertition (cooperation and competition) is the idea that you help your competitors succeed so that the overall competition is stronger, and both parties are better off. The passion she shows for her students, and the undying determination for success that she instills in them is amazing, and I strive to be like that.

When I began looking for administrative positions, I found myself talking with Indian River School district, and really showed an interest in their robotics program at Selbyville Middle School. I laid out what I thought we could do to build the program, and before I knew it, I was packed and leaving Virginia for sandier places to teach. When I began at SMS, I had the idea of building the robotics program not just at SMS, but through the district and the state. My wife Mary has been supportive the entire time, and as soon as we moved to Delaware, she encouraged and helped me to start working on those goals.  She helped me organize a robotics tournament at SMS last year, and has been a great sounding board and motivator for the program I’ve been working on at GE.  My vision of making every school within IRSD having a STEM or robotics program is moving quite a long with her help and ideas. I’m working on creating programs at some of our elementary schools, and have brought robotics into our ExCEL program for fourth and fifth graders.

 

DSTEM: Robotics is clearly a passion of yours, why is robotics important to the education process and preparing students for future careers?

Travis:  My may reason for enjoying robotics so much is that it includes a variety of STEM skills. To me, it’s the best “bang for your buck”  In VEX, FLL or VEX IQ, not only do you use the design process to go through the creating of your robot, but you also need to know how to program your robot, which is a separate field of study.

At competitions, students learn need to give presentations to judges as well, which teaches them to be strong communicators and collaborators.  Judges look to see not only how well they use the design process, but also how they can communicate their ideas, and work well with their peers throughout all levels of the competition. Plus, when they are competing, students quickly learn how to adapt their robot, design or approach, which allows for quick thinking and problem solving.

 

DSTEM: Tell me a little about the program you’re developing for STEM students in robotics.

Travis: At Georgetown Elementary, we started a robotics program that primarily deals with students in 3rd -5th grade using the VEX IQ platform.  We had 70 applicants and were able to have two six-week sessions of 35 each. Working with Dickie Messick and Nicole Morey, we taught basic building and programming skills.

The governor visited our first session, and the students really had a good experience showing him what we did, and how interested they were in STEM.  We attended Del Tech’s STEM expo at the Owens’ campus, and held several parent nights to showcase our talents to our families.  It was really successful, and we are excited about next year.

 

DSTEM: Where do you see this program heading in the future? What is the future importance of robotics in Delaware education?

Travis:  Our program next year will expand to have more teams for a longer amount of time.  We’re looking to have 7 teams ready to compete, and will host the state’s first VEX IQ tournament on February 4th.  We’re hoping to have more than just our seven teams competing, and are trying to get other elementary schools in our district, as well as anyone who has a team throughout the state.  The top ranked team will earn a bid to compete at the VEX IQ World Championship in Louisville, KY in April.

I think by starting to have more events like this, we can really work to expand STEM programs throughout the state.  Mike Fitzgerald and Melvin D’Souza and I are trying to expand VEX programs throughout the state for Middle and High school, while trying to reach the younger students as well. If we can have more programs started within the state, we can really start to have schools consider and implement stronger STEM programs.

 

DSTEMYou were an award winner at last year’s STEM awards, what was that experience like and how has it helped you going forward?

Travis:  The whole experience with the award was exciting and humbling at the same time.  It felt great to not only be recognized by the Delaware STEM council, but also to meet my peers who are as dedicated to the cause as I am.  I’ve tried to connect with some of the other winners, and working with Rob Gibson, they now have a robotics program at Sussex Central, and are looking to have a competitive team next year.

As far as going forward, one thing has proven to be a benefit is that the recognition seems to have opened doors to help me work with others to build STEM programs in their schools.  Though the students of Georgetown Elementary are my top concern, I do what I can to work with other schools to make sure that all students have access to a high quality education.  As an educator, our primary goal is to provide educational opportunities for our students, and I truly believe that all students are our students, and any educators with expertise in an area should share their knowledge with our students.

 

DSTEM: In your opinion, what does STEM mean for the larger community and the state?

Travis: STEM is a pathway that we need to really invest in for the state, and the efforts of various pockets and groups are slowly making progress. Having worked in an area where STEM is prevalent, and where there is a strong technology industry to utilize, I see the potential of what we can do here.

The southern end of Delaware is still agriculturally centered, but there is a lot that we can do to bring STEM fields into the area.  As technology becomes more available, we can provide opportunities a lot easier to our students and develop programs with local businesses to link them to our schools.

I’ve seen in Wilmington, there has been a great deal of effort to start STEM initiatives, and as much as they have put into them, it was disheartening to see some of them struggle.  Everyone involved knows what STEM can do, but the hardest part is trying to get the rest of the state to see it and it’s potential. I really applaud the efforts of those involved in creating the STEM Academy, as it does have a great deal of potential, but losing their charter was a huge setback to the initiative, and I hope they can work towards finding a new approach and are not discouraged by the setback.

 

DSTEM: STEM careers are plentiful for those who pursue them, how do you think we get kids involved with STEM, and more importantly get them involved at a young age (k-12) so that they can be prepared for a future in STEM, regardless if they attend a 4 year college?

Travis:  The best way to get them involved is to start them young, and reach all demographics if possible. Utilizing summer camps, expos and other activities are great pathways to reach all students. The way I foresee being most effective has two approaches. You need to create a pipeline to get students involved in all grades, and you need to make sure you reach all demographics.

When VEX IQ was first released a friend of mine, Yolanda Farmer, and I added it to Manassas Park’s robotics club. We created a program called STEMLET (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Learning English Together), with the idea of teaching STEM to ELL students. Our goal was to provide them the opportunities to learn STEM skills in an atmosphere that was not as competitive as the VEX platform was. After a year or two in the program, we saw that those still interested were transitioning to VEX with the same skills and abilities as those that were in VEX the entire time.

In Delaware, I am working with a similar mindset. I’ve developed partnerships with the Del Tech Owen’s campus to help build a bridge between our students and theirs. David LaFazia and I are working to tie the two schools together, and we already captures a great deal of interest from our elementary students, and as they continue their education, we’ll be able to expand more.  If we can create outreach opportunities that allow college students to work with high school students, high school with middle school, and middle with elementary school, students will be involved in STEM their entire career, and foster a genuine interest in STEM.

There’s a really interesting book called “The New Cool” that speaks of a school that started their FRC program, and in follow up articles about the program, cite that students in fourth grade are already starting to figure out what they can to do get into the high school club.  I think if we can generate that kind of interest with our programs, students will be interested.  The success I had at SMS, and what I’ve started already at GE this year, have really made students interested in the STEM programs.

 

DSTEMWhat do you think the future holds for STEM education and the STEM economy in Delaware?

Travis:  I think it’s an opportunity we need to really invest in and take the time to build up. With the federal funds that Del Tech received in 2015 to help reach minority students, we should be able to create opportunities for our students, of all demographics.  One of the things that Senator Carper said that I really think we need to look into is that if we want the STEM jobs to develop throughout the state, we need to make sure that our students are prepared for them.  I feel that by focusing on programs to create learning opportunities, they will come.

In today’s world, youth participation in STEM is more important than ever. Careers in these fields are abundant, and it is incredible important that we push young minds to follow their passions for STEM through grade school and college. After speaking with Travis it is clear that he is the perfect example of the type of educator we need for STEM growth in the United States. I would like to thank him for his time and inspiration.


Interview on behalf of Delaware STEM conducted by Zachary Yonda – Zach is a passionate STEM advocate as well as a devoted student athlete on the men’s basketball team at Swarthmore College. He is currently pursuing a degree in economics.

by: Stephen E. Schwartz

The Republican and Democratic National Conventions recently signaled the official start of the 2016 campaign season.  Yet, with all of the talk of making America safe/great, of reducing income inequality, of putting Americans back to work, of raising the minimum wage, there seems to be little to no mention of perhaps the fundamental factor in enabling the United States to find new (or former?) levels of success – the American education system!  Founding father Thomas Jefferson called for an “educated citizenry,” and that education – though very different in the 21stcentury – is even more important today than it was in the 18th century.    As was forecast by Adam Toffler in his 1970 novel Future Shock, our society is facing huge changes – changes which will probably accelerate in the next few decades as we move beyond the industrial era into an ever  more technologically-dependent situation.  To thrive in, or even to cope with, that technological era, citizens will need far more science understandings, far more math expertise than ever before.  Using the current buzz word, 21st century students need vastly enhanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills and understanding.

When I was in school in the 1960s, I was strongly moved by Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring.  In that book, she clearly illustrated the impact of synthetic pesticides which were poisoning the environment.  Despite strong pressure from the chemical industry and even agriculture – along with government lethargy – that book was successful in eventually getting DDT banned, but only when the general public became informed.  Most of our modern inventions have both positive and negative attributes, and it is essential that citizens have the wherewithal – both individually and collectively – to consciously conduct cost benefit analyses.

For example, we all are bombarded with television pharmaceutical advertisements which promise relief, cures, etc. while fast-forwarding through a plethora of risks and potential side-effects.  A 21st century citizen of the United States needs to be equipped with enough science background and enough statistics background to make good personal judgments.  With the successful mapping of the genome, we are learning that all of us have some mutant cells and some predispositions; equipped with that information – and the necessary educational background to understand it all – our children should be able to make informed decisions about their own health and that of their aging loved ones.  With the reality of genetically-modified crops, don’t we want all citizens to be able to make informed decisions about the relative safety of their food?

Water is fundamental to life, yet it is a finite resource.  A recent study in the “Scientific American” noted that “only half of drugs are removed by sewage treatment plants.”  In fact, it is estimated that the drinking water in New Orleans, at the mouth of the Mississippi, has been through seven people by the time it comes out of the faucets in homes.  I recently heard a nurse urging someone “to flush” unused opiates to keep them out of the hands of youth; shouldn’t everyone understand the consequences of such actions on the general population, on fish, on wildlife, on the water.  While we are blessed in Delaware with relatively abundant water supplies, we also have thousands of failing septic systems which threaten that supply, and our students are not being taught what should and should not go through those systems.  The biology and chemistry which we were taught years ago must be upgraded!

Like it or not, everyone is dependent upon computer technology.  Bank books and stock certificates are a thing of the past.  Even several years ago, Steve Jobs said, “computer science is a liberal art” that “everyone should have a mastery of to some extent.”  There are literally millions of coding jobs which are being sent “off shore” because not enough Americans have the skills.  Coding is taught in only 10% of the high schools in the USA.  While we fine-tune [Common Core!] basic standards in English and math, we are largely ignoring computer science; Delaware does not have rigorous computer science standards and fully 20% of students’ homes lack access to the Internet.

Scientists are creating new synthetic materials and composites to improve our lives.  Look at what our automobiles are made of.  Look at the potential of the technology of 3-D printers.  Yet, like almost any new invention, there are potential pitfalls and by-products.  Educated citizens must demand appropriate protections and testings, while ensuring that competing traditional methods do not un-duly hinder legitimate progress.

Our politicians will proudly point to the American’s historical “pioneer spirit” and “Yankee ingenuity;” yet we see that dozens of countries across the globe are working harder and smarter to dominate the 21st century.  While we can yearn for the great factory jobs of the 20thcentury, robotics has largely replaced those jobs, and the ones that still remain can be accomplished much cheaper in developing countries.  For our youth to compete on a global scale, they need first class STEM skills; look at the job market today – STEM jobs are paying high wages while those without technical skills are falling out of or to the bottom of the middle class.  This situation is a reality of the 21st century!  Yet, even aside from employment issues, each individual needs a firm grounding in science and technology to function effectively as a citizen in the USA.  Do you know how well your local schools are doing in providing students with a sound STEM foundation?  Engage those politicians who seek your vote and force them beyond the platitudes of “improving education” into significant and specific plans and ideas for establishing STEM competency in all of our students.

Dr. Schwartz is a retired English teacher and public school administrator living in Seaford; he is a past president of the Delaware Foundation for Math & Science Education.

By Rysheema Dixon – May 23rd, 2016

STEM is crucial to growing our economy. Building the STEM infrastructure in the State and in our local communities exposes our students and residents to the booming STEM climate affecting our neighborhoods everyday. Changing the school environment and learning techniques to expand our student’s minds so they can gain interest in the exciting new careers that STEM has to offer. As the world evolves, STEM becomes more and more important for our communities to understand and work in.

My extensive background in health through STEM is a result of: Delcastle Vo-Tech High School practical nursing program; volunteering at local hospitals; attending a medical/ dental internship in Nebraska and working over the summer with John Hopkins as a health assistant in Massachusetts at a language camp. I was also a biological science major until my senior year at the University of Delaware before I switched to Sociology as I decided that helping people required more than medicine.

Having a background in the sciences helped me combine with my love for community work. I started my own business called RD Innovative Planning in 2011 which is a community development group that assists non-profits and churches with organizing around a specific issue, planning events and managing projects to ensure our non-profits and churches are delivering their services to their best ability. My experience in STEM has also allowed me to tap into technology. I am a Technical.ly Delaware Stakeholder and Technical.ly Delaware named me as one of the Top 12 Women in Delaware shaping the Technology Scene in 2014.

As I now enter into the public office arena, I understand how STEM plays an enormous part in the landscape of our City of Wilmington. Technology is emerging in many ways across the City, we have amazing STEM non-profits, State programs and private sector interests. As I stated earlier, we should encourage our school systems to heighten awareness and teach our young people ways to expand their career opportunities. I am looking forward to working with STEM programs/projects across the City to ultimately improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods. As well as adding to the Arts and Culture in the City creating the STEAM effect which is powerful. In today’s society, we have to be creative and innovative as we move forward to make an impact.

My experience with STEM has made me the leader I am today. I am a proud advocate of STEM!

 

July 2015 – By Daniel Suchenski

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), are vital disciplines to our future, the future of our country, the future of our region and the future of our children.

Stop and consider how often we experience STEM in our daily lives? Example of STEM include everything from the natural world, to our smartphones, to healthcare, to agriculture, to cleaning supplies you buy at the grocery store and the roads, bridges other transportation services you may have used to get to that grocery store in the first place. STEM is important, not only because it pervades every aspect of our lives, but because it is the key to a better tomorrow.

Humanity has noble and long-standing tradition of innovation, entrepreneurship and exploration that has allowed us to do everything from go to the moon, to instantly send information around the world, and even to save and extend lives.

Sustainability has a very storied past but seems to have reached a pinnacle moment of late. Recent key players around the world are asking more from humanity now than ever before to come together to handle local and global issues that STEM will play the principal role in solving.

Let’s consider how STEM effects what is closest and dearest to us—our children. For the next generation to succeed STEM innovation will be absolutely vital for continued sustainable development across the globe. For 2014, the US News and World Report listed the ten best jobs. All ten of them were in STEM fields: software developer, computer systems analyst, dentist, nurse practitioner, pharmacist, registered nurse, physical therapist, physician, web developer, dental hygienist[1]. According to the U. S. Department of Education, STEM jobs are growing at 1.7 times the rate of non-STEM jobs, and the U.S. is simply not producing enough candidates to fill them. Only 16% of high school seniors are interested in pursuing STEM careers.[2] Not only is STEM important to having our children gainfully employed, but also offers a sustainable innovation pathway for the world.

Rob Denson, Chair, STEM Higher Education Council, President, Des Moines Area Community College and Edie Fraser, Chief Executive Officer, STEMConnector® state, as part of the forward to their new book Advancing a Jobs-Driven Economy that, “Aligning, corporate, education, and community partners requires that we rethink and redesign the system that supports STEM education and workforce preparedness. The sustainability of our schools, the innovative engines of our businesses, the prosperity of communities, and the global competitiveness of our economies are at stake.”[3]

The connection between sustainability and STEM is hardly just an American need. While the Obama administration and congress seem aligned on the greater need for STEM nationally, the international community is been making significant steps to advance a global STEM driven economy. Pope Francis on July 21st 2015, hosted some 65 mayors from across the world at the Vatican-sponsored conference on Climate Change. The two-day conference, titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities” and “Prosperity, People and Planet: Achieving Sustainable Development in Our Cities,” is the latest in a series of public efforts on the part of the Vatican to influence the debate on climate change and other global issues. Like many global issues of today, it will take skilled Scientists, Mathematicians, Engineers and Technologists to come up with plans to help alleviate growing problems like climate change, pollution, waste, water usage, and much much more.

The Pope’s efforts come at a time when the international community at the United Nations will vote September 2015 on sustainable development goals, and member nations will submit plans to combat climate change this winter in Paris. The United Nations in a 2013 meeting that acted as a precursor to the September Sustainable Development Goals noted that while innovation and R&D are essential elements to the goals, that in particular that areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics: the so called STEM subjects will be “the key to ensuring sustainable progress: no effective research would be possible without a steady supply of trained, competent researchers” trained in STEM disciplines.[4]

For the Delaware Valley region, investing in the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics makes sense for local large firms like InterDigital, Dow, Ashland, Christiana Care Health System, AstraZeneca, DuPont, AirLiquide and Incyte, as well as several international engineering firms, and a growing large life sciences and agriculture industry. The Delaware Valley region’s challenge in recruiting sufficient numbers of STEM professionals is daunting, in the face of competing with known areas like the Silicon Valley or the Research Triangle. Local firms are finding it difficult to recruit the STEM professionals they need to continue to be successful in today’s ever-changing business environment.

According to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, Delaware ranks only behind Massachusetts for the best state to get a job as a STEM grad.[5] And the region will need thousands of additional people completing post-secondary degrees by every year. From community colleges like Delaware Technical, to state institutions like Delaware State University and the University of Delaware, and private colleges like Wesley, and Wilmington University and others, the region has the capacity to produce more trained individuals. Introducing our current and future students to STEM opportunities and getting them engaged and excited about seeking advanced schooling in these areas is essential to meet these demands.

If the United States is to remain a center for research, innovation, entrepreneurship and prominence, then we must motivate all citizens into STEM fields. Because STEM is so important for our children, our region and our country, we need to encourage current and future generations of students, to understand and embrace the technology that affects them every day of their lives. Students should be advised on the merits of taking as many math and science courses in elementary and middle as much as possible but also meet with STEM professional mentors like the Its My Future Program that Junior Achievement of Delaware administers[6], to make science and math courses fun and interesting such that their passions will grow into an exciting and rewarding STEM career.

 

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Daniel Suchenski runs the Governor’s STEM Council for the state of Delaware. He is responsible for oversight and management of all day-to-day functions and services; acts as the focal point for all STEM Council matters; serves as the primary liaison to the Governor’s Office, Department of Education, institutions of higher education and regional businesses to further the mission of the STEM Council.


[1] http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/articles/2014/01/23/the-best-jobs-…

[2] http://money.cnn.com/2014/09/25/smallbusiness/stem-facts/

[3] STEMConnector Team (2015). Advancing a Jobs-Driven Economy. New York, NY. Morgan James Publishing. Page XXII

[4] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/4628cern.pdf

[5] http://delawarestem.org/event/new-georgetown-university-report-finds-mas…

[6] http://delawarestem.org/news/junior-achievement-partners-stem-council-do…

By Ken Chisholm and Steven Worden – RadioNewark (WIZU 99.9 FM)

RadioNewark is an internet station, for now, and can be found on iTunes (News), WindowsMedia.com (1st page of news-talk genre), on rad.io app it is the #2 news station behind BBC World Service.  This year, the FCC has granted Newark Community Radio Inc. (the parent company of RadioNewark) a construction permit to build a low power FM radio station that will cover all of Newark, Delaware and surrounding communities.  The internet station will continue broadcasting as it has since 2010, but change its name to “OMNIBUS” radio.  The local broadcast station will be RadioNewark, WIZU 99.9 FM.

Newark has very limited local print media and virtually no video media for advertising.  Local radio is far and away the best return on the advertising dollar; the best “bang for your buck.”   This is the void to be filled by RadioNewark.  Our local broadcast station will cover the Newark demographic and reach the local audience not currently covered by other formats.  RadioNewark will ‘partner’ with those Newark businesses who provide sponsorship of our science programming, with the goal that when a customer’s need for a product or service arises their first thought that comes to mind will be that sponsor.

“What is a science radio station?”  — Science (Latin root scientia) means ‘knowledge’.  Today, it might more mean ‘the pursuit of knowledge.’  RadioNewark brings interesting and educational science content to you in a clear and articulate audio stream that delivers internationally sourced science-related stories and interviews with local brilliant minds.  Stories about space exploration, archaeology, paleontology, climate change, breakthroughs in medicine, chemistry, physics,–you name it.  RadioNewark literally brings this science-based programming to individuals with “a mind for science.”

“How RadioNewark Supports STEM Education” – STEM education is simply the acronym of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  A broader definition as provided by the National Science Teachers Assoc., or NSTA, is:

STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM literacy and with it the ability to compete in the new economy.

Radio Newark’s programming offers support and ideas for how to draw connections across disciplines. The programming embodies STEM education for everyone. Story telling is an art, and Radio Newark’s “A Mind for Science” stories aspire to entertain and educate at the same time.  As a nation, we need well-educated citizens in STEM fields. Currently, the “T” and “E” in STEM are rarely taught in K–12 settings. Because of this, few people understand the way in which these fields benefit our society or the variety of careers that support them. By exposing our listeners to STEM topics and the people engaged with them, Radio Newark can help to deepen everyone’s understanding of the world in which we live.

Radio Newark offers short, STEM-focused stories intended to spark the interest of general audiences. We will partner with local schools to expose students to science communication and to provide examples of the many fields of study and possible careers that exist under the umbrella of STEM education. Families can listen together and talk about the topics that interest them. Our website will carry occasional blog posts that accompany some of our “A Mind for Science” stories with pictures, behind-the-scenes details, and additional resources about the topic.

By James DeMartino – Founder and President – Y Bicycle Association

The Bicycle – We all know about bicycles, we learn to ride a bicycle from an early age, 3 or 4 years old, some younger, many older.  We started on tricycles maybe a Big Wheel, and then progressed to a two-wheeler with training wheels and one day we even removed the training wheels and rode on our own.

Some children use the bicycle to ride to school, some to a friend’s house and some just like to ride and go fast up and down the street.  Then there are BMX and mountain bikes which open a whole new adventure for children.  As we grow, work and move to urban areas the concept of affordable transportation and commuting become priority.  There are even some who desire a healthy lifestyle and use the bicycle for exercise and possibly competition.  Finally, if you have a life long enthusiasm for bicycles, you open up a retail store to sell the most popular bikes, rent bikes and even repair and maintain bikes.

The fact is historically, people have grown up with the bicycle.  But, do we know about the bicycle?  Do we realize the Aerospace industry was launched by the Wright Brothers who had a small shop and built bicycles?  Many of the principles used to design and test for the first recorded flight were based on their knowledge and understanding of the bicycle. One of the designs of their airplane was propelled by pedal power.  Do we understand the technology of mechanics, structure, metals and composites? Or do we know the math of geometry for design and function, gear ratios for speed, formulas for power conversion and watts?  Have we thought about the engineering required for the combining of different composites and components to structurally withstand stress in order to function as intended?  Finally, have we considered the science of momentum, aerodynamics, energy, health, fitness and even environmental impact?

 

The point of this litany is the Bicycle is the ultimate product for teaching children about the principles and application of STEM.  People of all ages have grown up with the bicycle and we

can all relate to it.  Parents and grandparents can even help children learn about STEM by using the bicycle as an example in principle and reality; they can all go for a ride!

 

Students can connect with parents, teachers, engineers and scientists because they all have a common understanding of The Bicycle.  The best method to promote STEM education is begin with this common understanding and develop the desire and knowledge to pursue education in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  With a good understanding of basic principles, creative thinking and a desire to improve a common product the limits are boundless.

Without realizing it, you have learned, lived, loved and developed your own career all because of a bicycle. This is what a bicycle has done for many generations and with the proper direction can provide even a better future for generations to follow.

Become a member of Y Bicycle Association  –  Visit us at www.y-bicycle.org  –  Like us on Facebook@ybicycleassociation and Follow us on Twitter@ybicycleassoc

 

Y Bicycle:

To Educate our youth about the benefits of cycling from safe riding to a healthy lifestyle.
To provide and support bicycle programs to all children in rural and urban areas.
To provide an awareness and understanding of the bicycle industry.
To promote enthusiasm for creative design and function for the future of cycling. 
To encourage and foster continued learning of bicycle design and manufacturing in conjunction with high school STEM programs.