Geek is Glam event at WPI
While we’re generally accustomed to seeing STEM stories through activities in schools, encouragement and support can come from many corners. A great new example of this is a partnership between the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. On Saturday, they are presenting a day of Geek is Glam events aimed at showing more girls what the possibilities are for STEM related careers. There will be workshops on a variety of topics including how to use every day objects to do science, and speakers from astrophysics, meteorology, NASA, and more.
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Making science come alive for kids through interactive, hands-on, inquiry-based learning is key to getting them “hooked” enough to pursue STEM subjects as their academic careers advance. Darryl Lee Baynes, president of the Minority Aviation Education Association’s Interactive Science Programs, has an action-packed formula for encouraging minority students to think about pursuing careers in STEM fields.
A compelling part of Baynes’ message? Careers in STEM pay. “There is a shortage of scientists and engineers in this country,” he says. “If you get a job as a petroleum engineer, you’ll make $100,000 to start. The more math and science you take, the more money you make.”
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Massachusetts isn’t churning out enough college graduates in the field of computing to meet the demands of the current job market. So said representatives of Google, Microsoft, and Intel during a meeting with Massachusetts lawmakers on Wednesday at a Tech Hub Caucus meeting held at the State House.
According to Steve Vinter, engineering and site director at Google’s Cambridge office, “Computing… is not a tech sector problem, it is a Massachusetts economy problem.” Vinter pointed out that while more than 70% of new STEM jobs require advance computing skills, inadequate computer science offerings in Massachusetts schools have created a shortage of workers to fill the available openings. One solution: Spark interest in computer science by introducing the subject earlier in students’ school careers.
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The Boston-based non-profit Citizen Schools has long been working with corporate partners to bring exciting STEM experiences into the classroom and give students access to STEM professionals. Now, Citizen Schools will working with corporations on the US2020 project with the goal of having 1 million STEM professionals mentoring K12, college, and graduate students throughout their careers by the year 2020. In addition to changing the landscape of STEM education by giving students these opportunities, they also hope to change the workplace for those in STEM careers by making volunteering a common occurrence. Citizen Schools will be incubating this project until June 2014. Cisco, Cognizant, and SanDisk are the founding corporate partners.
With an estimated 14 million people currently out of work in the US, how can there still be a shortage of qualified workers to fill STEM positions? The disconnect was one topic discussed at last week’s STEM Solutions 2012 leadership summit in Dallas. Leaders seemed to agree that inspiring students to follow an educational path in STEM subjects is key to solving the crisis. But the question of the role that companies might play in enticing and helping to cultivate talent is still unanswered.
In terms of where, specifically, the talent gaps are, experts are divided. Many cite math as an area in which American students are lacking, pointing to the emphasis on standardized testing — rather than real-world applications — as the measure of our students’ math ability.
Several possible solutions to the problem of the shortage of trained STEM workers were voiced at the summit. Among them: creating university/industry partnerships, promoting STEM careers among students, and enhancing STEM education in grades K-12. Some participants felt that companies should bear some of the responsibility for communicating their needs clearly and coming up with innovative hiring practices and training programs. “Industry really needs to engage in a much closer relationship with educational institutions,” said Melinda Hamilton (photo, above), director of Idaho National Laboratory’s education programs. “They have to share their strategic plans. They have to share their growth projections and why they’re predicting this area will grow. They have to be involved in saying not just ‘Here’s what we need,’ but also how we get it.”
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Thinking about applying to law school? An undergrad degree in a STEM subject is a selling point these days. While the typical law school applicant of a decade or so had a humanities background, today’s recruit is more likely to have a grounding in the sciences. Driven by the tremendous growth in technology, the trend in law school admissions is yet another sign of the rapidly increading importance of STEM in the job market of tomorrow.
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In his blog, “Arthropod Ecology, Christopher M. Buddle, Associate Professor in McGill University’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences makes the case for a scientist’s responsibility to do outreach. The five points he makes supporting his argument are: 1) scientists have specialized expertise; 2) scientists have credentials; 3) scientists are critical thinkers; 4) scientists are communicators; and 5) scientists are passionate. For all these reasons, scientists have the knowledge and power to alter perspectives and inspire others. Read Buddle’s whole post here: arthropodecology.wordpress.com
A new report by the National Academy of Sciences casts the shortage of talent in STEM fields in a new and unsettling light. The military — and therefore our national security — could be hurt by a lack of personnel adequately trained in science and engineering. “We’re in the bullets, bombs, and guns business, but that’s just a piece of what the big mission is,” said Laura Adolfie, who heads STEM Development at the Department of Defense’s office of the assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. “We have scientists and engineers across the gamut. We have social scientists that perform important human performance research, technicians, welders, lab workers.” An already small pool of workers well equipped to do these jobs shrinks even further when you factor in the citizenship requirement for jobs with the military; many STEM graduates in America are foreign-born, and therefore not eligible to apply for military positions. Among the strategies under consideration for working around the shortage of ideally credentialed and trained employees in STEM disciplines: loosening qualifications. “There is scope within the current DoD system of controls for reducing the number of positions requiring clearances, depending on security threats,” the report says.
Speaking at Northeastern University’s CEO Breakfast Forum yesterday, Raytheon Chairman and CEO William H. Swanson emphasized the critical need to inspire a new generation of STEM leaders. “Virtually every business is technology dependent today, so we all have a stake in replenishing the STEM pipeline,” he said. “Businesses certainly see the benefits of a stronger STEM pipeline with a highly skilled workforce driving innovative new products, systems and solutions.”