By Monica Mizzoni

This past week I had the opportunity to interview with Michael Canning, a senior at Caesar Rodney High School. Canning serves as the student representative on the Governor’s STEM council for Delaware. He also currently serves as the President of the Delaware Technology Student Association, “a non-profit student organization that fosters personal growth, leadership, and opportunities in technology, innovation, design, and engineering.”

When I asked Canning about his role in STEM he responded by explaining that his most influential involvement in STEM is serving as the student representative for the state of Delaware. As representative, he attends meetings, provides input in discussions, and has been an important voice on the Council’s signature initiative; the Delaware STEM Educator Awards. He values his role on the STEM council because he feels that he “provides a different perspective to the council members as he voices opinions from a student’s point of view.”

Furthermore, as the leader of the Delaware Technology Student Association (DETSA), he provides insight to STEM classes in public schools, helps write the curriculum for STEM courses, and has the chance to communicate with various tech teachers around the state. With TSA, he also encourages students to get involved in STEM and shows other students why STEM is fun. Each year, the TSA runs their State Conference which involves over 750 students, advisers, and judges from across the state of Delaware.  Students attending the conference participate in various competitive events. The members of the council also volunteer at STEM outreach programs where high school age students teach younger students. His favorite event is the Invention Convention, a three-day event held at the Hagley Museum in Delaware. The TSA students help to run this event where kids are invited to build their dream inventions with recycled household items and participate in other hands-on interactive experiments and activities.

In his spare time, Canning enjoys applying what he has learned in his engineering and computer classes to fix things at home. Canning asserted that, “STEM is not just something experienced in a classroom, for most, if not all, students it carries over into normal everyday life.” This shows why STEM is so relevant and important to everyone.

When I asked Canning what he believes is the importance of STEM education, he explained how in the past there has been reliance on the status quo, but now that we have entered a new era of technology, we should embrace the opportunity to learn how new technologies operate. He believes that STEM goes hand-in-hand with the need to acclimate students to new technologies. Additionally, there is a high demand of STEM jobs, so teaching kids STEM not only helps students acquire jobs, but also teaches them valuable skills that are useful in their day-to-day lives.

In conclusion, Canning is appreciative for the opportunities that he has had through serving on the STEM Council and the Delaware TSA. He feels honored to be the student representative on the council voicing the opinion of the students of Delaware, and is determined to continue working to make Delaware a better through science, technology, engineering and math.

 

About Delaware STEM:

The STEM Council, composed of more than two dozen appointed members representing businesses, educational institutions and government agencies throughout the state, was created by Governor Jack Markell in 2011 to increase the STEM literacy of all Delaware students, thereby expanding the STEM capable workforce and fueling economic growth for all Delawareans.  http://www.delawarestem.org

 

About DETSA:

The Technology Student Association fosters personal growth, leadership, and opportunities in technology, innovation, design, and engineering. Members apply and integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics concepts through co-curricular activities, competitive events and related programs. http://detsa.org

Delaware STEM

Virginia Hanna joined the Kalmar Nyckel’s team as the new assistant director of education earlier this year. Since 1998, the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel has served as a floating classroom and an inspirational platform for educational outreach.  We offer people of all ages a variety of sea- and land-based learning and recreational experiences that promote STEM for the greater Delaware community.

Daniel Suchenski from the Delaware STEM Council visiting the Kalmar Nyckel to learn more about STEM-to-Stern – October 2015

Earlier this year, the foundation launched a new hands-on STEM field trip experience for Middle and High School students. The “STEM to Stern” program integrates Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering concepts aboard Kalmar Nyckel, our floating laboratory, and in the new Copeland Maritime Center. Students conduct experiments and work together to find solutions to real life STEM challenges that sailors have faced for centuries. Interactive Learning Stations include: Celestial Navigation, Sail Velocity and Wind Vectors, Buoyancy, Mechanical Advantage and so much more.

“To us STEM is not just an educational and workforce term for success, it’s what we are founded on; It’s what we do every day here at the Foundation.”   – Captain Lauren.

A few moments with our inspirational staff will spark that passion for inquiry based learning and the fun of all things STEM for our teachers, students, parents, and adults of all ages.

Celestial Navigation: Students will use longitude and latitude as well as navigation tools to plot a desired course. They will analyze the effectiveness of navigation at sea by “dead reckoning” and by using a sextant. Students will also learn significant celestial bodies used by sailors throughout history to circumnavigate the globe.

Sail Velocity and Wind Vectors: Students will determine true wind from relative wind and study ship velocity vectors! They will also analyze the wind directions and its impact on the ship as they sail down the Christiana River.

Buoyancy: Students will participate in a buoyancy ship-model building challenge. They will determine the center of gravity, buoyancy, hull resistance and wind force. Students will also learn and use the “Free Surface Effect.”

Mechanical Advantage: Students will determine the mechanical advantage of various machines used on the ship based on calculations from the Main Deck’s Physical features.

For more information please contact Ms. Hanna at:

Kalmar Nyckel Foundation
1124 East Seventh Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
302.429.7447

Kalmar Nyckel: The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to “preserving and promoting the cultural and maritime heritage of Delaware for the education and enrichment of all.”  The Foundation is a volunteer-based organization that built, owns, and operates the Tall Ship of Delaware, Kalmar Nyckel. The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation is a unique resource in the greater Delaware community. The Kalmar Nyckel is known for innovative educational and outreach programs. The Kalmar Nyckel also serves as a catalyst for social and economic development in and beyond the state of Delaware.

Delaware STEM Council: Delaware STEM was created to evaluate the state of STEM education in our schools and recommend ways to improve it.  Our goals are to:

  • Expand the number of Delaware students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields and broaden the participation of women and minorities in these fields.
  • Expand the STEM capable workforce to create, grow and attract STEM related businesses to Delaware.
  • Increase STEM literacy for all Delaware students including those who pursue non-STEM related careers, but need STEM skills.

By Dr. Randolph Guschl

I am Interim Executive Director for the Delaware Foundation for Science and Mathematics Education (DFSME). I am a long-time resident of Delaware who has been personally connected to science education in this state for a good portion of my career. I am a retired scientist who was involved for over 40 years in DuPont’s major local and national efforts in science education, and as a founding member of DFSME and a member of the Governor’s STEM Council, I have a strong interest in the success of STEM education in Delaware. My first mission as the head of DFSME has been to investigate what is currently going on here in STEM education. So what do I see and hear?

For the past 3 months I have had a fascinating series of visits and interviews with leaders in STEM education in Delaware, and I am impressed with what is going on in our state. I saw great things in Brandywine, Indian River, and New Castle County Vo-Tech schools. However, many of these successes are isolated or are known only to those experiencing them. In order to make these successes system-wide, we must increase communication and advocacy associated with such programs. Both DFSME and the Governor’s STEM Council recognize that coordination among these programs and the people involved in them will increase their impact. We have successfully put together a number of pieces of the STEM education puzzle but many more are needed to complete the picture. It is the job of DFSME and the STEM Council to identify the missing pieces and address the barriers that prevent them from being put in place.

One thing I have discovered is that even among the strongest of STEM supporters, there seems to be little agreement about what STEM really means and what fields it encompasses.  Most often, the passionate teachers, administrators and supporters want to see more STEM education in the classroom. However, state and business leaders do not always think it reflects the bigger picture. In order for audiences not to turn off as soon as they hear the words “STEM education” the terms need to be better defined and understood. There is a growing momentum in the rest of the nation to see STEM as a key factor in over 60% of all jobs in the U.S. These jobs include more than the aerospace, chemical and auto industries that first used the phrase. They also include other huge industries, including the food, agriculture, healthcare, biotechnology and information technology industries—many of which have a footprint in Delaware and need a local, STEM-savvy workforce. We have to teach our Delaware audience that STEM encompasses all these industries and more.

We must also recognize that STEM is not just the content of science and engineering nor is it just memorized facts. It is the hands-on, inquiry-based experience that goes beyond the labs staged in many high school text books. Delaware actually has a head start through its earlier statewide adoption of the “Smithsonian Project” which made our small state a leader in teaching methods. Introducing STEM using hands-on, inquiry based teaching methodology means our students can experience the fact-gathering and synthesis, the exploration and discovery that allow them to make their own informed decisions and that permit students to develop skills and experience the excitement of using these skills to create things and understand their world. Students with these experiences will be better able to envision themselves in exciting, high-paying jobs and careers. More of them will be able to see the point of entering certificate programs, two-year programs, or four-year programs. But the spread of advanced technology into so many jobs is not the only reason that we need this renewed emphasis and improved communication related to STEM. As so many teachers remind me, it’s not just those who pursue those careers who need these skills; we need every citizen to experience and be able to use these skills in order to make their own informed decisions about the many technological issues involved in daily life, now and in the future.

The leadership of this state and our school districts are aware of this. But we need to help them see the urgency of coordinating all these efforts, whether in colleges, community colleges, K-12 schools, or outreach programs. All are parts of serving the same need. Let’s continue to discuss STEM so we can open doors for understanding, and to highlight the progress and successes of our leaders, teachers, and students in these areas. Let’s find out where amazing partnerships between industry and education are making things happen, and let’s make sure everyone learns about those programs and has the opportunity to see how they might be part of such programs. Let’s create a forum available to everyone so these successes can proliferate.

Who should be the players? Teachers? Administrators? Students? Parents? Businesses? Government leaders? Ordinary citizens whether actively employed or retired? Yes to all of the above and more. Let’s share our successes and help each other work together. Let’s find and address the gaps and problems, together.

I would appreciate your feedback and offers to share your successes. DFSME and the STEM Council are but two of many groups working toward common goals. We can use letters such as this one to tell our stories and identify other like-minded groups to join a growing alliance of groups interested in working for the common cause.

Please feel to write, email or call me at

302-547-2256

guschlrj@gmail.com

It has been over 50 years since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched his war on poverty.  Though this effort did yield progress, many pockets of the country, namely many rural and inner city communities, remain trapped in a cycle of poverty.

It has been well established that past behemoth industries such as coal mining and manufacturing have dwindled, hitting each of these two communities particularly hard.  For instance, there were over 200,000 coal workers in the United States in 1980, now there are less than 100,000 coal miners (1).  Also, based on increased efficiencies and worldwide competition, American companies need to hire fewer workers in manufacturing today than in the past.  The challenges of many of our inner city and rural communities around the country have been well documented:  troubled school systems, high crime rates, scarce employment opportunities and crumbling infrastructure.   How might sustainability and all of its principles improve upon this condition?  One answer may involve renewable energy.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 24% job growth for solar installers through 2024, well above the national average for all jobs (2).  As an added bonus, in contrast to the coal mining industry, solar workers wont have to expose themselves to agents of lung cancer and black lung, nor destroy water and land resources for themselves and their children.  My father in law, George Wheeler, incurred black lung, emphysema and suffered a broken neck all due to coal mining, as he worked as a bolter in a Western Pennsylvania mine.

This environmental job sector may provide decent jobs for men and women in rural and urban communities.  Families better off financially tend to have children that do better in school, creating better opportunities for them and their future children.  The Obama administration has also enacted several policies that make it much easier for lower income families to afford solar power.  For example, the Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program allows residents to finance solar panels via future savings on their energy bills (3).  For example, Baltimore city resident Ida Rhyne, who once had to choose between food and her paying energy bills, was able to take advantage of the PACE program to have solar panels installed on her home (4).  As a former Baltimore City resident, I can attest to the poverty traps of the city.  People need options.  PACE is currently not available in the state of Delaware.

If solar energy becomes a household norm, it would create even more jobs and opportunities for these communities.  It would also have the effect of lowering energy costs.  Many of the poorest families spend up to 30% of their income on energy bills (5).  These extra funds could be spent on other goods and services within the community itself, thereby further improving local economies.  High energy bills exacerbate the poverty trap many low income families find themselves in, as an excessive amount of effort is spent simply working to pay energy bills.

The state of Delaware was recently recognized for its solar friendly policies (6), though most of its progress stems from larger organizations and projects, as well by homeowners that are solidly in the middle class.  These efforts need to be broadened to include the poorest among us.

With that being said, sustainability needs to be taught and promoted in K-12 schools, and sustainability programs should be targeted to lower and middle-income families. Delaware Technical Community College has an associate degree programs in Renewable Energy Solar and Energy Management and recently partnered with Wilmington University on a connected Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science and Policy.  We should leverage and promote the resources we currently have in order to effect more change in lower income communities.

Of course, solar energy cannot solve all of America’s issues related to poverty, but may certainly be a weapon in the fight against poverty.


Milton Muldrow is an assistant professor at Wilmington University and Chair of the College of Arts and Sciences. He holds a PhD in environmental science and public policy from George Mason University a masters from the University of Missourri – Saint Louis in Biology. He is a board member of the Delaware Foundation of Science and Math Education and the CEO/Founder of Body of Science LLC.


References:

1.  The National Mining Association.  (2016).  MSHA coal worker employment [Data file]. Retrieved from

http://www.nma.org/pdf/c_msha_coal_worker_employment_trends.pdf

 

2.  Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2015). Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/solar-photovoltaic-installers.htm

 

3.  Office of the Press Secretary, The White House. (2016). FACT SHEET: Obama administration announces clean energy savings for all Americans initiative. Retrieved from

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/07/19/fact-sheet-obama-administration-announces-clean-energy-savings-all

 

4.  Garunay, M.  (2015). How Ida went solar (and why it means you can, too).  The White House.  Retrieved drom

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/07/19/how-ida-went-solar-and-why-it-means-you-can-too-0

 

5.  Boyce, D. & Wirfs-Brock, J.   High utility costs force hard decisions for the poor. Inside Energy.  Retrieved from

High Utility Costs Force Hard Decisions For The Poor

 

6.  Rapp, Melanie.  Delaware named a top state for solar energy. (2013). DNREC. Retrieved from

http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/News/Pages/Delaware-Named-a-Top-State-for-Solar-Energy.aspx

Recent policy efforts such as Computer Science for All, emphasize the importance of helping allstudents acquire a deeper understanding of how to recognize aspects of computation in the world around us, solve real-world problems, design systems, and understand human behavior by drawing on computer science concepts (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2012; Wing, 2006).  These goals have been described in the literature under the term computational thinking (Wing, 2006).  Wing (2006) suggested that computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone and that “to reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability” (p. 33).

Although many children are exposed to new technologies in their daily lives, they often acquire skills as consumers and are given little opportunity to become creators of computing innovations (Repenning et al., 2015).  In fact, only a small and homogeneous group of students acquire skills required to create technological products.  Certain populations such as females and non-Asian minorities remain severely under-represented in computing (Cuny, 2012).  Traditionally computer science has had low presence in K-12 schools due to a number of reasons including: lack of teacher preparation, limited understanding of computer science-related career opportunities available, lack of computer science curricula, and hesitance in allowing computer science to count towards mathematics or science graduation requirements.  Yet, by 2018 it is projected that 51% of all STEM jobs will be in computer science-related fields (Carnevale, Smith, & Melton, 2011).

At the high school level, there has been substantial progress in providing access to computer science due to initiatives sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).  One such initiative is the CS10K project. The CS10K initiative is a systemic effort to transform computing education across the academic pipeline, increase the number of students from under-represented groups studying CS, and prepare 10,000 teachers in 10,000 high schools teaching curricula focusing on Computer Science Principles.  The University of Delaware Partner4CSteam has been a recipient of a CS10K award since 2012.  But, while progress at the high school level is important, changes must be made across the entire computing education system, as it is during middle school that students decide whether computer science is worth exploring (Bruckman et al., 2009). As a result, it is important to include middle school students (grades 5-8) from all racial backgrounds in any effort to democratize the field of computing, since changing only one aspect of the system (e.g., high school) will not correct the problem. By providing middle school students from all racial backgrounds exposure to computer science early on, we can increase the number and diversity of students selecting a computer science course or computer science-related pathway in high-school.  In addition, while many efforts to broaden participation in computing focus on K-12 systems, it is becoming evident that schools cannot fulfill the goals of CS for All alone. Rather, informal institutions such as libraries, community-based organizations, and after-school programs should play an active role in supporting formal school efforts and providing resources potentially unavailable in K-12 classrooms.

Our Partner4CS team seeks to broaden participation in computing and fulfill goals of CS for all through a three-pronged approach: teacher professional development, a college field-experience course, and sustainable partnerships with formal and informal organizations.  The Partner4CS professional development model, offered yearly since 2012 in Delaware, includes two components: a summer institute, structured around two tracks (CSP Track and Module Track); and follow-up site-based support. The CSP Track, focuses on high school teachers who are committed to integrating a full CS curriculum in their classroom. The second track, called Module Track, focuses on middle and high school teachers as well as participants in informal settings (e.g., libraries) who are interested in infusing CS modules into existing STEM curricula or programs.

To provide follow up support to our participants, we established a Field Experience university service-learning course at the University of Delaware, where Undergraduates in computer science directly support teachers or informal educators in their classrooms or settings. The course has been offered continuously since spring 2013. The field experiences take place in local middle and high schools where teachers are working on integrating computer science principles into their courses and after-school programs. Recently, we expanded to libraries interested in offering computing initiatives.  Undergraduate participants in the course meet with teachers to discuss their role and provide ongoing support directly in teachers’ classrooms or in libraries. Throughout the duration of the project, Undergraduates work collaboratively with teachers and other informal educators to adapt lessons and activities from available resources, lead classroom sessions, and serve as role models for students.  They also help plan and lead after-school computing programs where they engage students in programming activities.

Since 2013, we have reached over 100 teachers in 7 school districts and over 25 different schools.  Results indicate that teachers who participate in our professional development program improve in their understanding of CS content, learn pedagogical strategies for teaching CS modeled during the professional development, and become more confident in their ability to deliver CS modules and curricula. As one participant explained, I feel absolutely empowered to teach CS principles in my own classroom. Further, students working with undergraduate students through the field experience course exhibited significant gains in their CS content knowledge and attitudes towards CS.

Moving forward, we are interested in establishing certification programs for teachers in computer science and further expand our reach to schools and informal environments serving primarily under-represented populations.  Our goal is to ensure that computer science is available to all Delaware students independent of gender, ethnic or socioeconomic background.  Given the prominence of computer science in daily life and career opportunities available in the field, it is important that all children have equal access to computer science knowledge and skills.

Written by:  Lori Pollock and Chrystalla Mouza – University of Delaware

As an educator interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), I have the opportunity to research the cutting-edges of science and technology every day. The rate of change in how the world works is accelerating at a dizzying pace. Aspirations, such as Elon Musks initiative to send humans to Mars, present the same challenges as John Kennedy’s goal to put a human on the moon. Time, money, technology, collaboration, desire, successes and failures, knowledge and, most of all, wisdom.

While going to Mars is exciting, future generations will be asked to create solutions to our present world problems. Clean water, safe bridges, autonomous automobiles, lean manufacturing, cybersecurity, food supply for a growing population, and curing diseases will present continuous challenges. As the baby-boomers age, the solutions rest on fewer shoulders. Engineers, scientists, doctors and tradespeople are retiring in large numbers and the need for a skilled labor force to provide for a thriving economy is critical. You have heard the numbers before:

  • One million new engineers are needed by 2025 to meet the needs of our economy;
  • Twenty-three (23) percent of engineers currently working are age 55 or over;
  • Only 20 percent of students choose a STEM path in college despite STEM majors having the highest median earnings;
  • America ranks 26th in math and 19th in science competency compared to other countries;
  • In Delaware, there are three jobs for every one skilled STEM worker.

At Delaware STEM Academy High School, we look at the world through the lens of science, technology, engineering and math. Everything in our world is a project waiting to be explored and solved. Learning is more about problem-solving and critical thinking, rather than just reading about the newest technologies. Proposing solutions, and discussing pros and cons with teammates, leads to an appreciation of different ways of thinking. Collaboration results in better and more creative outcomes. Viewing the world this way becomes an exciting proposition, one that all students can embrace, internalize and view their own future endeavors.

But convincing students that STEM is accessible to them is not an easy task. Many students are intimidated by math and science. Many think that STEM is accessible only to the top echelon students. Many students may never have had access to STEM in their previous school experiences. For instance, according to the National Math & Science Initiative, only 12 percent of African-Americans and 17 percent of Hispanics took Algebra I prior to high school as compared to 26 percent of students overall.

STEM education, while quickly becoming the subject du jour in many schools, often does not put STEM in the context of everyday life, nor does it fully demonstrate how STEM is integral to other subjects, such as history, social studies and the arts. These classroom silos may create knowledge but often times they prevent understanding. This is where project-based learning becomes important. Project-based learning allows students to directly work with a hands-on project, developed specifically to reinforce the STEM principles that underlie it. The Academy will utilize a system developed by the New Tech Network, used in over 200 schools nationwide. In addition, we asked local STEM professional to advise both on projects and the context in which they are used in industry. A project-based system of learning integrates information from multiple disciplines to create greater understanding. It also appeals to students with different learning styles. Most importantly, at the end of each project, every student receives not only a grade but a sense of accomplishment.

In our experience, students already have the curiosity, the insight and the passion within them.  It is our job as educators to fan these flames and to teach our young people how to develop a hypothesis, set and achieve goals, express themselves clearly, collaborate on solutions with their teammates, and develop the confidence to present their ideas to other students and to adults. In order for us to support our industries in America with a skilled workforce, we need students who have the confidence to solve problems and work in collaboration with others. We need students who are not intimidated by the problems of the future, but embrace the challenges. As informed citizens, let's give all students – not just those proficient in STEM – the opportunity to impact our world and their future. The Mission of the Delaware STEM Academy is to prepare students in grades 9 through 12 for the future economy through the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) using engineering, environmental science and bioscience as a basis for learning…. in an ethically driven educational environment emphasizing intellectual curiosity, individual responsibility and planetary stewardship.

Written by:

J. Brett Taylor, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Delaware STEM Academy

302-993- 6993

www.destemacademy.org

By: Joe Maglaty, PhD, STEM Program Manager, the Dow Chemical Company

Furthering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is a key component to solving the complex environmental, economic and social challenges facing our world today and in the future. Providing our future leaders with the knowledge and tools to succeed is based on the belief that an employed, productive workforce is fundamental to the health of each community. Dow is committed to building the workforce of tomorrow as part of our goal to positively impact the lives of one billion people across the globe by 2025.

Dow supports project-based learning concepts that connect to careers and increase interest in STEM professions, mainly chemistry, engineering and manufacturing. We understand that behind each student motivated by STEM is an inspiring educator. We support teacher training and professional development programs, with a focus on science and chemistry. This work is driven by our Dow STEM Ambassadors, trained employee volunteers, who lend their passion and expertise to engage students and support teachers year-round.

A Delaware Dow STEM Ambassador and Rapid Customer Sampling Group Lead and Engineer, Lauren Leonard, recently shared with me why she is a part of the program, “I volunteer in the STEM program because when you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, they will commonly answer with careers that they have exposure to: a teacher, a doctor, a writer – they do not say engineer because they do not have contact with engineers on a daily basis. I appreciate that Dow’s STEM program puts that option in their mind.”

Globally, in 2015, the Dow STEM Ambassador network was made up of over 1,600 Ambassadors across 17 sites in 6 countries. This type of programming is also applied locally and is vibrant in Delaware. The STEM Ambassador program supported 80 events in the Delaware Valley last year, and our volunteers clocked-in nearly 2,000 hours and impacted tens of thousands of community members. Dow’s partnerships also aim to give individuals of all ages and all backgrounds the opportunity and the support to pursue a successful STEM career.

As Liliana Carrillo, Delaware STEM Ambassador and Run Plant Engineer – IC Casting, recently explained to me, “There is a low percentage of minorities and women in STEM and I would like to show young students the great things a career in STEM can bring and how they can change the world with it. Supporting the aspiring young leaders in our communities is an important step to achieving change and promoting academic success.”

Dow STEM Ambassadors make it possible for us to change and impact communities, bringing science to life for many. In Delaware, the Dow STEM Ambassadors have been a part of a variety of local events. This past April, Dow sponsored and hosted the You Be the Chemist Delaware State Challenge for middle school students at our Newark, DE site. Students participated in multiple rounds of quiz bowl-style Q&A, and had the opportunity to engage one-on-one with Dow STEM Ambassadors. Dow STEM Ambassadors were also on-site at the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ Science Night and the 2016 Special Olympics Delaware with fun, hands-on activities related to the science behind sports. Attendees had the opportunity to construct their own luge sleds and take them for a test ride on a mini track. Additionally, a rolling friction test also allowed attendees to explore how various balls roll down different athletic surfaces.

Terry A. Hays-Sapp, Senior Administrative Professional and Dow STEM Ambassador who has volunteered at 28 activities including the Special Olympics Delaware said, “I admire Dow as a company for giving people with disabilities the opportunity to be employed as well as Dow’s commitment to STEM education for the young. If we tap our young students we can change the path they are on and change the world.”

Our work with young people is key as the demand for skilled workers in STEM will continue into the future. In my role as Dow’s STEM Program Manager, I also work closely with The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, one of the leading science centers in the country. My job is to encourage the Dow STEM Ambassadors to promote and support STEM education in communities where they live and work, and support their efforts by identifying opportunities for them to engage learners in the process of scientific inquiry. My connection with The Franklin Institute enables me to leverage additional resources, best practices and strategies for employees to help enhance their STEM efforts here in this region.

This year, Dow also returned as the presenting sponsor of the Philadelphia Science Festival for the sixth year in a row. Led by The Franklin Institute and Dow, the festival spanned over nine days, encompassed more than 90 events, engaged more than 160 Dow employees and attracted 75,000 science fans from the Delaware Valley.

The Dow STEM Ambassador network continues to grow as the need for skilled STEM workers continues to rise. Each day, Dow engages more talented and passionate employees in community programs that support STEM education in an effort to strengthen the value, quality and impact the Company brings to the Delaware Valley, and the world.


Dr. Joseph Maglaty is the Dow STEM program manager for the Delaware Valley.  In his role, he is responsible for managing day to day operations of Dow’s STEM outreach in the Delaware Valley, supporting the growth and impact of the region’s STEM Ambassador Network. Joe is a member of the Delaware Valley STEM Ambassador Steering Team and has brought valuable STEM education outreach experience and passion to this new role.  He previously volunteered at The Franklin Institute as a science presenter, bringing his teaching expertise to an industry leader and, prior to that, Joe had a long career at Merck & Co., serving as director of education outreach at the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) for eight years,  where he designed, planned, and implemented highly successful volunteer programs at Merck’s major research sites, local community organizations and schools.

By Mike Carr, Axalta President-North America

Axalta Coating Systems is a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings.  Our products are designed to improve durability, increase productivity and add beauty.  We strive to predict industry changes and bring solutions to our customers in order to meet their evolving needs.  In order to be successful and offer optimal products and solutions, we must be nimble and employ talented individuals who are experts in research and development, chemistry, technology, engineering and more. These technical skillsets have made a critical contribution to our 150 years of innovation.

We understand the impact that exposure to these fields can have on our future workforce.  It is our belief that the investment we make today can and will greatly impact us tomorrow.  It’s been said that “preparation is one of the critical keys to success.”  Our encouragement and support of community outreach initiatives that promote exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exemplifies that ideal.

Axalta believes in giving back to the communities in which we work and live.  We are steadfast in our corporate social responsibility initiatives that includes all things STEM.  This quite naturally leads to a major emphasis on preparing our youth to be able to take on the challenges and demands that the future will bring.  With this in mind, we believe it is important to partner with organizations who help students acquire practical experience in these areas.

Our investment in the next generation will drive our continued advancement.  We are proud to support Delaware’s First State Robotics and the Miracles of Engineering (MOE) team.  This program sets a foundation by engaging students in the robotics design process and provides them with opportunities to compete.  The MOE team visited our offices and demonstrated their robotic talents.  Our employees were thrilled to see these young people put their skills to the test.  The confidence and teamwork that they displayed will serve them well for years to come.

As a sponsor, we were pleased to award Georgia Mackay, a Newark High School senior, Axalta’s First State Robotics Scholarship earlier this year. Georgia was selected for her scholastic achievement, dedication and excellent contributions to her robotics team. She received the scholarship at the 2016 Diamond State FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Championship in Dover.  Georgia plans to attend the University of Delaware this fall to study engineering.

We also support the Young Men and Women In Charge (YMWIC) organization that is focused on providing opportunities for students who are economically disadvantaged or under-represented within STEM fields.  Our goal is to help junior high and high school students prepare for collegiate programs and careers by supporting the Girls STEM and Leadership Camp, Elementary School Robotics and YMWIC’s scholarship fund.

Our Coatings Technology Center in Wilmington, Delaware recently hosted Serviam Girls Academy Middle School students.  Students participated in hands-on experiments, learned from Axalta scientists and got a true sense of what it is like to work in a high-tech research environment.  The young ladies spent time with researchers who regularly use STEM to help develop and advance Axalta’s products.  The experience was part of Serviam’s exploration project during the school’s summer program.  Although more women are entering STEM fields than ever before, Axalta wants to continue to do its part to expose and enlighten future generations.

We are excited about all of our partnerships near our facilities, around the country, and abroad that include building a 21st Century Classroom called the “Spark Room” that fosters technical development.  Students are encouraged to make every decision like installing a 3D printer, green screen and state of the art learning tools.  The Spark Room’s inspirational environment is designed to spark new ideas…spark innovation…and spark creativity.  Work is also in progress to create a STEM lab to serve high school students near our Fort Madison, Iowa facility and more.

The importance of STEM cannot be overly stressed.  We will always need brilliant minds who are passionate and focused in these areas.  The business community can help ensure that the pipeline continues by advocating and encouraging employee-student mentorship programs.  We should be motivated to help stimulate and encourage our youth to explore the various possibilities.  For our part, Axalta will continue to provide a platform for STEM expression.  It is important to our business and the economy at-large.  If we all commit to keep STEM top of mind…our future will continue to be bright.

Dave Cadogan – ILC Dover

Delaware companies do a lot to support STEM education. However, industry and education need to find better ways to work together more effectively in order to create a stronger future for Delaware.  Elevating the STEM proficiency of the workforce, from the production floor to the managerial level, has a direct correlation to the performance of individual companies.   Having employees with deeper STEM capabilities translates into improved work efficiency, enhanced problem solving, and therefore improved profitability.   Industry has the knowledge, financial resources, and people with a strong desire to support education, to help with this mission.  The real question is how best to do this?  There are hundreds of excellent STEM education programs in practice.  Each one touches some number of students in a positive way and therefore justifies its existence.  However, it is difficult to tell which program, approach, method, or focus area yields the greatest return on investment (ROI).  The answer to this question can be used to help guide industry’s involvement and demonstrate a high ROI to its management and owners in such a way as to invite continued or greater investment.  Conclusive data to support any hypothesis is scarce.  If you know someone who is looking for an impactful Masters or Doctoral thesis topic, this is it.

Industry currently supports education in many ways including grants, mentoring, scholarships, classroom visits, team project support, afterschool program support, etc.  My employer, ILC Dover, has supported education initiatives for decades.  Much of our engagement has centered on using the space suit, which we design and manufacture for NASA, as an educational tool to explain scientific principles.   We have a dedicated group of people who regularly visit classrooms and support community outreach events.  Everyone we visit loves to see the space suit and hear stories about space exploration, so, for those audiences, it makes STEM learning interesting.  However, as a leader in industry in Delaware, we are always looking for better ways to support STEM education and strengthen our future workforce.

Several years ago ILC was contacted by Mr. John Moyer, who then managed teacher training for the Department of Education, asking if we could support science refresher training by showing examples of work we did that overlapped with energy principles.  We constructed a half-day program which related many of our products (space suits, airships, airbags, etc.) and methods of manufacture (fabric welding, laser cutting, infrared cameras, etc.) to energy.  We assembled a PowerPoint presentation the participants could keep to share with their classes which had as many hands-on examples we could dream up to guide the training.  Examples included things such as the energy transference when the Mars Exploration Rover airbags hit the surface, how the resistance of pressurized space suit joints require energy to operate, and how radio-frequency energy can be used to weld polymer coated fabrics in aerostats.   A group of approximately 25 teachers visited ILC’s facility to participate in an interactive lecture and tour of the plant.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  The teachers left excited, engaged, and anxious to take real-world examples back into the classroom.  We repeated the training event two consecutive years after the initial event with the same result each time.  It is impossible to know the true impact of these events on students’ learning because no metrics were kept and meaningful measurement would be very difficult.  However, the teachers stated that their knowledge was increased and their level of excitement for the subject was enhanced.  The bottom line result was that a small effort was exerted by industry to help train teachers who could then become catalysts by bringing that information and excitement to multiple classrooms of students in a repeated fashion.  The effect of the interaction is multiplicative as one teacher will teach several classrooms of 20-30 students per semester, and then over successive years.

Personally and professionally I found the teacher training experience to be enlightening.  Not only could it help bring real-world examples into the classroom to inspire engagement and learning, but it also added a dimension to ways industry could help support education.  The ROI of this activity, if formalized and expanded could be significant enough to attract broad industry involvement and enhance STEM teaching effectiveness.  This is a starting point that could be refined in practice but appears to compare well against other methods of engagement when considering potential impact on learning with cost of implementation.

stem education initiative cost vs impact ILC Dover Image

This chart was constructed by members of the Delaware Foundation for Math & Science Education (DFSME) and the Delaware STEM Council in an attempt to understand the ROI of some of the approaches for collaboration between industry and the education community.  The placement of the bubbles is not supported by hard data, so their locations may be significantly different in reality.  However, the table was constructed with empirical data from conversations with people in industry and academia.  It is important to note that a tool like this does not suggest that any of the action areas are without merit, but rather where an enhancement initiative might be targeted.  All of the action areas noted are beneficial to STEM education and should continue.

By looking at ROI it appears that teacher training initiatives like the one conducted at ILC Dover might be an interesting area of focus for expansion.  Delaware has an amazing array of accomplished companies across the state, both large and small.  It would be easy to cross-match the skill sets of Delaware’s companies to next generation science standards curriculum topics (http://www.nextgenscience.org/overview-topics) and have teachers rotate through company visits and associated training events to relate each companies experience to specific topics.  For example:

ILC Dover – Earth & Space Sciences – Space Systems

DuPont – Physical Sciences – Chemical Reactions

Air Liquide – Physical Science – Structure and Properties of Matter

Christiana Care – Life Sciences – Structure & Function

Gore – Physical Sciences – Forces & Interactions

Obviously, not every topic area in the standard curriculum could be covered in a program like this because of time constraints on educators, but many could.  Reinforcement of the topic areas most closely related to Delaware companies will only enhance the preparation of our future workforce, which in turn will help make companies more successful and improve the economy in Delaware.  A program of this nature that brings companies and educators in close collaboration could also have many collateral effects including donation of materials and equipment to schools, targeted classroom visits, expert references for teachers to engage, etc.  At some point we could even have students visit the companies in a related STEM exposure capacity.

This is an ambitious suggestion.  Undoubtedly there would be many challenges to overcome.  However, I believe that there is great benefit in drawing industry and academia closer together to enhance STEM education, and suggestions like this warrant serious conversation.  I see something for everyone in this construct including enhanced STEM education for students which could lead to brighter futures, enhanced professional growth and excitement for teachers, a better prepared future workforce for companies, and economic growth for Delaware.  This concept has been discussed with members of the Delaware STEM Council and with the Delaware Foundation for Math and Science Education.  There are lots of competing priorities at the moment, but perhaps one day Delaware will initiate a program like this to facilitate industry involvement on a scale even greater than already in place, to foster further improvement in STEM education.


 

Dave Cadogen the Director of Engineering & Product Development at ILC Dover, leading one of the most dedicated and capable softgoods development teams in the world. Working over 30 years in the industry, and actively contributing technical solutions in the form of technology, product, and systems architecture development. He has served as a Principle Investigator or Technical Leader for numerous NASA, DoD, DARPA, and other government programs. He has authored/contributed to over 80 technical papers / book chapters, and 15 patents. He enjoys creating partnerships between ILC and other companies, universities, and government entities. His goal is to contribute something good to the world, do it effectively, and enjoy doing it.

Pop quiz: Name a few of the United States’ regional centers of advanced technology.

If you’re like most people, you may have answered Silicon Valley, suburban Boston, or Redmond, Washington. But you need look no further than our own backyard, given the concentration of banking, life sciences, manufacturing and high-tech firms in the Delaware Valley.

Next question: Are we doing enough to nurture the future growth of our high-tech workforce? The answer in this case is not so clear.

Since 2012, my company – InterDigital – has been headquartered in Wilmington, and it has additional offices and research facilities in Conshohocken, PA; Melville, NY; and San Diego, CA, as well as in Montreal, London and Seoul. Altogether, we employ about 300 people, including around 170 world-class researchers and engineers who are continuing the work we first began as a small startup over 40 years ago.

Our mission is developing wireless technologies that are at the core of mobile devices, networks, and services worldwide. InterDigital’s solutions, covering a broad range of technical areas, have contributed to the spread of wireless standards like 3G and 4G that underpin practically all devices and network equipment.

Put another way, if you have used a cellphone, laptop or tablet within the last 15 years, you have benefited from our technology.

And today our team is developing the wireless technology that will support your life in future decades, such as 5G wireless, the “Internet of Things,” and the many innovative products and services that will flow from them.

In order to do this work, however, our company depends on top-tier engineering talent —  and that talent remains scarce, not only in Delaware but across the nation.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Education reported that only 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career, at a time when the number of STEM-related jobs is growing almost twice as fast as other jobs.

Among industrialized nations, U.S. students rank 25th in mathematics and 17th in science. The achievement gap is even wider among minorities and young women.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) calculated that if all American 15-year-olds could reach a baseline level of performance, the U.S. economy would gain an additional $27 trillion over the working life of these students. (source)

The bottom line is this: To meet growing needs for a highly skilled workforce, America must expand its investments and public-private partnerships in STEM education, youth development, and workforce skills.

For our part, InterDigital has contributed to, and benefited from, collaborative research with more than 20 top-tier universities, helping to develop tomorrow’s technologies and engineering talent.

We are particularly proud of our support of local STEM education. For example, last year we donated $300,000 to Delaware State University (DSU) to support its new Wireless Communications, Signal Processing and Controls Laboratory. We also support DSU’s Optical Science Center for Applied Research, or OSCAR.Our other STEM-education activities include charitable support of the Delaware Children’s Museum Junior Engineers Program and the Hagley Museum’s Invention Convention. We encourage every American company that is engaged in scientific and technological research to follow our lead and contribute to schools at the local and state levels.

We also encourage the federal and state governments to expand educational opportunities for children and adults to prepare them for STEM-related careers.  Governor Markell’s efforts to expand access to technology training and jobs are making a difference; as is President Obama’s initiative to strengthen community colleges, which traditionally provide skilled labor for regional needs.

Finally, we encourage the U.S. Congress to expand investments in basic and applied research and development (R&D); overhaul the tax code to spur more innovation; and uphold America’s patent system, which is under assault from several directions.

Through partnerships like the ones between our company and several Delaware institutions, and persistent, visionary action from leaders of business, government and civil society, the power of American innovation can create a stronger, more prosperous and connected world.

Bill Merritt is President and CEO of Wilmington-based InterDigital, Inc., a wireless technology research and development company.