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.
Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray headlined the launch at Everett High School. "One thing that I've learned as lieutenant governor is that the jobs of the future are based in and around STEM," Murray said. "The question is, how do we take STEM to the next level? Everett gets it; Engage Everett! is part of the answer."
Engage Everett! will involve Everett Public School students in grades 6 through 12 in independent science and technology research experience, with the goal of building a culture of research in school districts across the state.
The program was designed through a multifaceted collaboration of professionals, including representatives from MSSEF, the Intel Corporation, the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences, the Everett Public Schools, and the Marlborough Public School system -- the latter as a "mentoring" school district.
MSSEF offers access to key teacher professional development resources and hosts a forum for showcasing student’s efforts: the annual Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair. Engage Everett! provides professional development and teacher support, and brings in both high school mentors and professional scientists to help the students design and execute their projects.
In her remarks during the launch event, MSSEF Executive Director Cora Beth Abel thanked the teachers involved, without whom, she noted, the project would not be possible. Abel also highlighted the potential for science fairs to serve as springboards for students with STEM proficiencies. "[MSSEF's] role is to help with professional development and help students be part of the science fair system, which, for many students, becomes a pathway to college," she said.
During his remarks, MSSEF Vice President Bill Rigney, who is District STEM Instructional Specialist for the Marlborough Public Schools, summed up the net impact of the initiative: "The kids are going to be the true winners here."