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Inquiry First.

In an announcement made at Stanford University last week, Peter Thiel, PayPal founder-turned "creative" philanthropist, described his latest project, called Breakout Labs. According to Fast Company, Breakout Labs "would grant $50,000 to $350,000 in funding to 'entrepreneurial' scientists -- those completely independent of typical research institutions -- for very early projects that may even be pre-proof of concept."  Sounds like just the sort of challenge for which science fair alums are uniquely prepared!

See Thiel's announcement here:

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With the goal of getting young students inspired by and excited about learning STEM subjects, a new project in Arizona, Engineers Serving Education, has the ambitious goal of reaching nearly 10,000 elementary and middle school students over the next year.

The project, spearheaded by Arizona State University, taps the expertise of faculty members from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.  “By combining the technical expertise and resources of the Schools of Engineering with the educational expertise and resources of the Teachers College, we will make a significant impact on the teachers of tomorrow as well as current teachers who are serving as mentors to our student teachers,” said Nancy Perry, assistant dean of Teachers College. “Ideally those mentor teachers will share the engineering-based learning tools with their colleagues and spread the impact of the project even further.”
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The California State University (CSU) system is looking to graduate more students with majors in STEM disciplines -- a reponse, administrators say, to concerns about the quality of the U.S. labor force.  One aspect of CSU's initiative: a focus on service learning.  "It brings STEM to life in a meaningful way," said Judy Botelho, CSU's director of the Center for Community Engagement.
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Charles Thornton, co-founder of structural engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, worked on such lofty building projects as Yankee Stadium during his professional heyday.  Post-retirement, Thornton turned his considerable energy and attention to another building project of sorts: building a new generation of engineers through mentoring.
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Nice video from Bayer's Science Making Sense program.

Paula Allen-Meares, Vice President of the University of Illinois, makes the case for colleges and universities stepping up creatively to meet the challenge of graduating tomorrow's STEM professionals.  Along the way, she notes the critical importance of elementary, middle, and high schools in influencing students' career paths.
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Contrary to popular belief, the reason that fewer women than men stick with engineering majors and enter engineering careers is not necessarily related to their ambitions to start a family.  More likely, women's shaky "professional role confidence" is to blame, according to a study in this month's issue of the American Sociological Review.  According to the study's lead author, Erin Cech, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research, despite the fact that women perform comparably to men in engineering classes, subtle biases get in the way and undermine  women's confidence. "What we found is that the women in our study developed less confidence in their engineering expertise than men did and they also developed less confidence that engineering is the career that fits them... Read More

How many middle and high school students that you know can describe what a biotechnology scientist does at her lab bench?  How many of their parents could rattle off the kinds of tasks performed by an electrical engineer?  Or the training required to design computer science tools such as Twitter or MMS?  Such knowledge is the domain of the well-trained scientist, and these days, the demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills is at an all-time high... and growing.

Project Engage! is an initiative that aims to provide students with just that -- the skills they need to tackle scientific questions and invent solutions.  It does so by putting students into the role of the scientist.  The program is being modeled in Everett, where Engage Everett! launched officially this morning.

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Framingham State University, which partners with MSSEF through MSSEF's Curious Minds Initiative to offer the STEM Certificate in Inquiry, is positioned to become an invaluable resource to teachers of STEM subjects.  As Massachusetts' first NASA Educator Resource Center, FSU will have access to a treasure trove of space-related materials for teachers.
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According to author Annie Murphy Paul ("Origins"), growing up in the digital age means that many of today's children are spending too little time tinkering.  "Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth," she writes.  Giving children the time and space to play and figure things out for themselves is an important part of setting them up to become young adults who have the capacity to do the kind of thinking that is needed for success in STEM courses and careers.
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