STEM Beats - January 2015

The Best Jobs in America? Just Say STEM!

January 28, 2015

CNN and Payscale are out with a new listing of the Best Jobs in America. and it will come as no surprise that the list is replete with STEM jobs. From Software Architect (number one on the list) to Dentist to Accounting Director, it's hard to find a job that doesn't have STEM attached to it.  We know, as we have for some time, that STEM graduates have greater opportunities that those without a background in STEM.  Are you starting to think about a career change?  Better think STEM!

And if you're looking for more information on STEM jobs, check out our STEMtistics for all kinds of interesting tidbits!

Tags: jobs & workforce

The STEM Behind "Deflategate": Scientists Weigh In

January 28, 2015

Unless you’re hibernating this winter, you know enough now about the air pressure in a pro football to talk a good game on Super Bowl Sunday. Or do you?

Scientists are coming to the rescue to explain “deflategate,” the controversy that emerged last week during the AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, the penultimate game before the Super Bowl this weekend. In the first half, a reported 11 of 12 game balls used by the Patriots were underinflated by about 2 pounds per square inch (psi). NFL rules specify that game balls should be pumped to between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. 

Underinflated balls are softer and easier to grip and catch, reports NPR, which could give players an advantage. But they can decelerate a bit faster in flight. ESPN Sport Science put these maxims to the test, using balls under different conditions and with different air pressure. The findings:

  • Gripping. An average person gripping an underinflated ball could indent it more than a fully inflated ball, but only by less than one millimeter.
  • Passing and receiving. A typical NFL player, whether throwing or receiving, could apply roughly 1.5 percent more force to an underinflated ball.
  • Velocity. Decreasing the air pressure by 2 psi reduces a ball’s mass by about the weight of a dollar bill. Consequently, over the course of its flight, all else being equal, a deflated ball’s average velocity is reduced. On a 20-yard pass released at 50 mph, an underinflated ball will arrive three-thousandths of a second later than a fully inflated ball.

Bottom line, according to ESPN’s analysis: the underinflated balls didn’t affect the outcome of the game, which the Patriots dominated by a score of 45-7, and had a miniscule effect on any given play. The rainy conditions during the game could have had more of an impact, at least from a physics perspective. Water on the surface of a ball can add as much as half an ounce of weight—10 times more of a weight differential than the inflation issue.

But how did the balls become deflated in the first place? Unless they were purposefully underinflated, the physics of air pressure could explain at least some natural deflation, according to Sportsgrid. Footballs are permeable—and temperature can affect psi. WUSA9 illustrates these physical principals with this equation, known as the Ideal Gas Law:

pV = nRT

where p is pressure, v is volume, n is the number of moles of gas, R is the Universal Gas constant and t is temperature. By plugging in the variables for this equation and making the calculations, it is possible to show that balls properly inflated at room temperature in the locker room could have deflated by 0.4 psi on the cooler field of play. However, that’s less than the reported 2 psi deflation of the Patriots’ balls.

A physics professor at Union College even went to the trouble of freezing fully inflated footballs overnight, then measuring the air pressure. The balls did deflate by about 2 psi, but those extreme conditions weren’t present in Boston, where the temperature was about 50 degrees on game day.

A science teacher on Reddit, meanwhile, factored in the rain and the vapor pressure of water on the ball, concluding that that could have deflated the balls a bit more.

Even Bill Nye has weighed in on the controversy (below). No doubt scientists (and conspiracy theorists) will continue to scrutinize the factors that could have contributed to the squishy footballs.  Until then, you have plenty to talk about at Super Bowl parties this weekend!

Kicking Off a Banner Year for STEMworks

January 27, 2015

2015 is off to a great start for STEMworks! STEMworks is growing to include more of the nation’s best STEM education programs; STEMworks programs are getting more funding to expand to new schools and districts; and a new partnership will expand the reach of STEMworks even farther. This will be a banner year in our work to ensure that every young person has access to the nation's best STEM education opportunities.

STEMworks is Growing
STEMworks is growing to include more of the nation’s most effective STEM learning programs. This week, we added programs that expose young people to computer science, app development and the growing maker movement:

  • The UC Davis C-STEM Center integrates computer programming and robotics into traditional STEM subjects through hands-on learning strategies;
  • MAD Learn exposes K-12 students to the world of mobile app development and design; and
  • Making STEM Connections  helps teachers and afterschool program leaders bring the Maker Movement into their own learning spaces.

These three programs came to STEMworks through an innovative partnership with the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, whose reviewers evaluated more than a dozen programs that were vying for a coveted spot in STEMworks. Last year, Iowa joined Arizona as a STEMworks partner state. In the coming days, CTEq and the Science Foundation Arizona will announce more STEMworks programs.

STEMworks Programs Will Expand Across the State of Iowa
In 2015, the Iowa Governor’s Council will also bring established STEMworks programs to new young people across the state. Yesterday, the Council announced that state and private funds would bring Project Lead the Way, ST Math, and TEN80 National STEM League to new schools and out-of-school programs across the state. Two years ago, we honored these programs for their readiness to scale to many more places across the country. The honor was prescient: in the weeks to come, schools and afterschool programs from across Iowa will compete to host these  programs at their sites.

STEMworks is Coming to Colorado
Colorado has become the latest state to join us in expanding the reach of STEMworks. Last week, CTEq, The Colorado Education Initiative, and the Colorado Technology Association announced a collaboration to identify top Colorado programs for STEMworks and expand those programs across the state. Colorado Governor Hickenlooper lauded the effort "to ensure every Colorado learner has access to engaging, real-world STEM education and experiences.”

Unfortunately, far too few American young people have access to such experiences. In 2015, STEMworks is making great strides towards changing that.

Tags: STEMworks

Guest Blog: Patricia Florissi of EMC2

January 22, 2015

What first sparked your interest in STEM?
Watching the construction of buildings as I rode the bus to elementary school first sparked my interest in STEM. Throughout my childhood, there were many civil construction projects happening and I’d track the progress of each one as I passed. I was fascinated watching how major constructions were built, brick by brick, until they became major architectural wonders.

What aspect of STEM is most appealing to you?
I have an earnest love for building things, an eagerness to solve problems, and a constant desire to find out how things actually work. My STEM education provided me the tools, the thinking process, the training, and the environment that I needed to do just that. I often find it hard to believe that I actually get paid to do what I love.

Who is your “STEM hero”?
My father was my biggest inspiration by far. He was a medical doctor and he constantly talked about how this or that part of the body worked. When I’d ask him questions, he’d always explain the answer in a logical way. He’d deconstruct each part so it was digestible, but also explain how all the parts were connected and worked together. I created a mental association between grown-ups and knowledge. I wanted to grow up and explore and understand a topic to the same degree as my father had with medicine. I also wanted the ability to translate complex answers into consumable pieces of knowledge.

How did you decide to pursue a STEM career?
Ever since I was very little, I knew I’d have to support myself financially once I grew up. So, I focused on marrying my interests in life with a profession that would provide both financial independence and personal fulfillment. Going back to my father, he absolutely loved his profession. He had a passion for helping others and you could feel his innate sense of purpose. I wanted to experience the same

How do you use STEM every day?
Today, it is impossible to go through the day without encountering STEM. We experience it the moment we wake up in our warm and comfortable homes. We use it when we communicate via our smart phones and browse the internet. STEM is there when we drive our cars (and eventually when we travel in our driverless cars). STEM is involved when we receive treatment for any illness and when we watch movies that transport us to other eras or places. STEM is fascinating in its ability to weave its way into the fabric of our lives in a pervasive manner, constantly changing and improving it. STEM is an engine of evolution.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue STEM – for fun or for their career?
Never give up! The time spent studying and learning STEM is worth every second.

Patricia Florissi is VP & Global CTO for Sales at EMC2, a CTEq member company. She holds a Ph. D. in Computer Science from Columbia University in New York, graduated valedictorian with an MBA at the Stern Business School in New York University, and has a Master's and a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science from the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, in Brazil.

Tags: guest blog, Start with STEM

Data Disconnects in Education and the Workforce

January 20, 2015

Educators and employers talk a lot about the concept of learning, schooling, and working, with seamless and successful transitions from early childhood programs to K–12 and postsecondary education to careers.

Right now, though, there’s a serious limitation to strengthening preK–20+ programs and college and career pathways as workforce demands change: despite years of effort and a $640 million federal price tag, most states can’t yet comprehensively track the progress of preschoolers, K–12 and postsecondary students, and young working adults in their education and workforce systems. 

That’s the conclusion of a recent report by the U.S. Government and Accountability Office (GAO), which examined 48 states that received federal stimulus funding to develop or enhance state longitudinal data systems.

Robust analysis of sound data can help focus policies, practices, and investments on what works. Data can be used to identify, champion and scale effective programs and to improve student achievement—the aim of CTEq’s STEMworks. Without effective use of data, states are flying blind. 

In an ideal world, state longitudinal data systems would be a powerful tool for examining key challenges, launching provocative conversations, building trust and forging collaboration among education and workforce stakeholders, according to Elizabeth Dabney, associate director, policy analysis and research, Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a nonprofit that works with states to support the effective use of data to improve student achievement.

For example, many states want to smooth the way for students who stumble when they move from high school to college, two-year to four-year postsecondary programs, and high school or college to the workforce. Data on program participation and performance could help states understand which education and training programs contribute to successful transitions—and for which students. Data also could help states look at equitable opportunities to enroll in rigorous AP and STEM courses, take career and technical education programs of study, and gain experience in industry internships, for example, and take steps to rectify identified gaps. 

“We recommend starting with the policy and research questions that you want to answer,” Dabney says. “Begin with the questions, and then collect data to answer those questions.” (Check out DQC’s interactive map to find out the kinds of questions some states are asking to guide their data collection and use. Here’s one from Florida that Change the Equation members will appreciate: What is the impact of STEM curriculum, courses and/or programs on student achievement, high school graduation, postsecondary readiness/success and workforce outcomes?)

There are some bright spots with state longitudinal data systems in the GAO report and in a recent DQC survey of states:

  • Forty-one states produce growth reports that show changes in a student’s achievement over time and 26 states produce college and career readiness reports to identify students who are on track for success in college and careers.
  • Thirty states produce early warning reports to flag students who are most likely to be at risk of academic failure or dropping out of school. Some states incorporate this information into classroom data dashboards, which helps teachers focus on the needs of individual students. Some early warning systems also identify students who are ready for more advanced coursework.
  • Parents in 17 states, and students in 16 states, have access to student achievement data to help them track progress over time. 

States also are getting better at linking—and actually using—longitudinal data from early childhood, K–12 and postsecondary education systems. But what happens to individual young people after that is anybody’s guess. Are they employed? In which industries and occupations? How much do they earn? In most states, the data trail on every student peters out when students leave school. That’s because education and workforce data systems aren’t yet connected, making it difficult to match individual education and workforce records. That leaves a critical question unanswered: What is the relationship between individuals’ educational preparation and their workforce outcomes?

The biggest impediment to overcoming the limitations of state longitudinal data systems isn’t technical, Dabney says. Data governance—or lack thereof—is the real issue. And here, there’s a leadership role for employers to play. Some states bring together early childhood, K–12 and higher education, workforce agencies and employers to set their agendas for data questions; data sharing, security and stewardship; data mining and reporting; and data-informed policies. If your state has a data governance infrastructure, find out how you can get involved. If not—and if you care about how data impacts education and workforce policies, practices and outcomes—consider advocating for a broader role for industry.