STEM Beats - Top 5

Top 5 Ways to Use Google Earth to Celebrate World Space Week

October 6, 2016

A Rocket Launched from Cape Canaveral in FloridaIf you’re looking for ways to celebrate World Space Week in the classroom and beyond, why not have a bit of fun with Google Earth?  In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google Earth is a digital globe simulation program that you can download for free. Take virtual tours of almost anywhere on Earth and even a few places that are out of this world. Google Earth includes maps of the sky, the moon, and Mars. And since there’s so much to see, we’ve taken the liberty of including the top 5 places your Google Earth adventures should take you during World Space Week.

(1) Take a Mars Tour with Bill Nye The Science Guy

Ever stepped foot on Mars? We’re willing to betting you haven’t. But with Google Earth, touching down on Mars is just a mouse click away. Bill Nye guides you through every important hill and crater with a brief history lesson on Mars landings and attempts from the 1970s to the present. Learn about the Bonneville Crater and how Columbia Hills got its name. Get up close and personal with the red planet like never before. 

A screenshot depicting Google Earth's weather mode

(2) Visit the Rocket Launch Pad at Cape Canaveral in Florida

There’s no better way to honor World Space Week then tuning into where all the rocket magic happens. Check out one of NASA’s rocket launch pads in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Change the Equation member United Launch Alliance (ULA) makes it possible for you to have 360 degree footage of the launch pad from Google Earth all year-round—even during actual launches! Make sure to watch on November 6 for even more rocket power as ULA launches a weather satellite on Atlas V.

(3) Explore The Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral

Right next to NASA’s launch pad is the Kennedy Space Center where visitors can meet an astronaut and have their own space flight experience. If you don’t live in Florida, use Google Earth to tour the magnificent Rocket Garden from the comfort of your chair. View pictures from actual tourist that bring the simulation to life. Discover space shuttle Atlantis inside and out through the Atlantis Shuttle Experience.

A screenshot of Google Earth depicting a map of the constellations

(4) Chase Storms   

Many rocket launches house weather satellites since the ability to view cloud formations from space have really changed the field of meteorology. Use Google Earth’s weather modes to see temperatures, analyze cloud patterns, and chase large storms all across the globe. Also, NOAA buoys provide accessible information on ocean conditions. And all data is close to real time.

(5) Hunt Constellations

Google Earth features a fun map of the constellations that’s sure to get you star struck. Locate your backyard favorites like ursa minor and major or find the constellation inspiring your zodiac sign. Spend hours stargazing while simultaneously learning about the life span of a star on Google Earth’s Sky mode. 

Photographs courtesy of Google Earth and Google Earth users.

Tags: Top 5, science

Happy Math 2.0 Day 2016!

July 8, 2016

What’s Math 2.0 Day you ask? It is a time to sit back and contemplate the crossroads between math and technology. No there’s no pie or mole sauce that comes with this holiday. But feel free to use your cellphone, engage in an online game, or check the weather as acknowledgements of math and technology contributions to society. This year, CTEq would like to celebrate this brilliant partnership by listing out cool STEM careers that require, well, Math 2.0.

1) Video Game Designer

While the use of technology may be obvious here, the use of math for video game designing isn’t as crystal. According to, “math is everything when it comes to games. From having the ability to calculating the trajectory of an Angry Bird flying through the sky, to ensuring that a character can jump and come back down to the ground -- without the help of mathematics, games simply wouldn't work.” Maybe now you’ll look at Angry Birds a little differently?

2) Computer Animation Specialist for Pixar

Ever found yourself mesmerized at the movies by the size of Mr. Incredible’s muscles, the breeze is Elsa’s frosty white hair, or the perfect tilt on Woody’s cowboy hat? Many of your favorite characters come alive through geometric shaping and modeling. Working for one of the world’s top animations studios requires equals parts creativity, math, and software knowledge.

3) Fashion Designer

Symmetry and congruence are not just terms children hear in math class. They are the principles behind some of the world’s most glamorous fashion designs. Creating the perfect look requires measuring, calculating, and sketching. The introduction of technology allows for more accurate sketches and 3D renderings of designs.

4) Meteorologist

Predicting the weather isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. It involves knowledge on computer green screen technology as well as the algorithms used for making predictions. So don’t underestimate your local weather guy’s use of math and technology!

5) Interior Design

Similar to computer animation and fashion design, creating the perfect interior requires modeling, 3D computer rendering, and accurate measuring. Math and technology have taken interior design careers to new heights. So the next time you’re searching online for your dream closet, consider the math and technology knowledge of the interior designer. Dream closet design consultations involve measuring the length and width of clients’ clothes collections and comparing that to the size and dimensions of the room and the size of the furniture pieces used.

To see more on the math and technology in Pixar animation, check out this video!

Tags: math, technology, Top 5, jobs & workforce

What are the top and bottom five states for minorities in computing?

September 18, 2015

By now, it’s well known that our tech economy has a diversity problem. As tech jobs soar and the nation grows much more diverse, the scarcity of minorities in computing is raising fears of talent shortages and economic stagnation. Yet some states seem much closer than others to cracking the diversity code—and the winners of the tech diversity challenge are not the states we usually credit with driving the tech economy.

In 2013, African Americans, Latinos, and American Indians comprised 31 percent of the nation’s college-aged population but received only 21 percent of U.S. degrees and certificates in computer science. But that the gap varies widely among states

To rank individual states’ performance, we created a “diversity score” for each. A state where people of color are perfectly represented among graduates from computing programs would receive a diversity score of 1.00. In other words, if 33 percent of the state’s college-aged population is people of color, they also would have to receive 33 percent of the degrees and certificates in computing. States where people of color are underrepresented earn scores of less than 1.00.

A quick review of the top and bottom five states reveals how vast the differences are. (Click on any state to see that state’s diversity data since 2001):

Top five:Bottom five:
1. Alaska (Diversity score: 1.03)47. Delaware (Diversity score:  .48)
2. Virginia(Diversity score: .88)48. Rhode Island (Diversity score: .47)
3. Alabama (Diversity score: .89)49. California (Diversity score: .46)
4. South Carolina (Diversity score: .84)50. Washington State (Diversity score: .46)
5. Washington, D.C.(Diversity score: .83)51. Oregon (Diversity score: .35)

Notice that most of the bottom five are states we states we usually see as leaders in the tech economy—California, Washington State, and Oregon. Most states in the top five, by contrast, aren’t among the usual high-tech suspects—Alaska, South Carolina, and Virginia, for example. Maybe it’s time to learn more from these unusual suspects.

A closer look at the trend data reveals that these differences among top and bottom states have persisted for years. Here’s Virginia, for example:

And now here’s California:

While California has long been an engine of innovation, the state’s diversity numbers may well hobble its efforts to stay at the cutting edge. Virginia, on the other hand, has its own vibrant tech corridor, and it seems to be drawing tech talent from a much broader swath of the population.

Of course, even Virginia could do a bit better, and California deserves some credit for small improvements since 2011. Still, as we try to tackle the tech diversity crisis, we should be ready to look for answers in some unexpected places.

Want to know how your state ranks?  Look it up on Vital Signs.

Tags: technology, minorities, Top 5

Top 5 Cities for New Science Jobs

February 2, 2015

Nationwide, jobs in science haven't seen the sharp decline followed by spectacular growth that has characterized, say, jobs in computing since 2001. Instead, they have made sober and steady gains, rising almost 16 percent since 2001 and five percent since 2009.

Some metro areas have seen far faster growth, however. If you're interested in a job in science, you might want to keep your eye on these five cities:

5. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh downtown

This is the second time Raleigh finds itself in one of our Top 5 lists. That shouldn’t surprise us. As the home of North Carolina’s Research Triangle, Raleigh is a national hub for science and technology. Still, it has strengthened its position since 2009, with the number of science jobs growing 12 percent, far faster than the national average. Science jobs in the area have shot up more than 34 percent since 2001.

4. San Jose-Sunnyvale, California

San Jose at night

San Jose is well known as a  mecca for young tech superstars, but it’s also a center for science jobs. It doesn’t boast quite the same concentration of such jobs as Raleigh does, but science jobs grew at a slightly faster clip since 2009: 13 percent. One major drivers of growth may be the Silicon Valley biotech industry, which has rebounded in recent years. This is a turnaround story for San Jose, which saw science jobs decline by nearly five percent between 2001 and 2009.

3. San Francisco, California

San Francisco

San Francisco has been called the “birthplace” of biotech, with major engines of biotech innovation such as Stanford and Berkeley in its backyard. It’s good news for the industry as a whole that science jobs have grown in San Francisco area—16 percent since 2009. In fact, the area has held its own throughout the recession, with science jobs growing nearly 48 percent since 2001.

2. San Diego, California

San Diego

Former President Bill Clinton gave the city major props when he declared in 2012 that it had become “the human genome research capital in America.” Work in the human genome may be one reason why, over the past five years, the San Diego area has actually outpaced San Francisco in the concentration of science jobs. In fact, science jobs in the area grew a stunning 26 percent over the past five years, making San Diego one of the nation’s major destinations for people seeking science careers. Science jobs in San Diego have grown by almost 43 percent since 2001.  

1. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines capitol

Des Moines, Iowa might seem out of place in this top 5 list, and it certainly stands out as an unlikely candidate for the top spot. Yet the Des Moines area has earned the number one position for the eye-popping 31 percent increase in science jobs since 2009 and almost 53 percent since 2001. While Des Moines is not about to eclipse San Diego, it is beginning to punch far above its weight as a center for jobs in science. The area probably owes its growth to rising investments in agriscience by government and companies such as CTEq member DuPont. In October, CTEq also named Des Moines a top 5 city for new engineering jobs. Not bad for a city in America’s breadbasket.

* For our analysis, we limited ourselves to Metropolitan Statistical Areas that met two conditions: 1.) they are among the top 100 most populous metro areas, and 2.) science jobs make up a higher-than-average share of all jobs in the area. 

Data source: Change the Equation analysis of data from EMSI, an economic and employment data firm.

Tags: Top 5, jobs & workforce, science

Top 5 Cities for Minorities in Computing

December 10, 2014

With Computer Science Education Week in full swing, it’s a good time to take stock of the future of computing in this country. Black, Latino, and Native Americans comprise 29 percent of the U.S. working-age population but only 15 percent of computer professionals. As the tech economy continues to skyrocket, and minorities head towards majority status by 2050, that’s a recipe for squandering human potential and slowing innovation.

For this Top 5 list, CTEq crunched workforce data from the nation’s leading metro areas* to see if any can claim a truly diverse computer workforce.  To compare metro areas, we gave each a “diversity score.” A metro area would get a diversity score 1.00 if minorities were fully represented among computer professionals. In other words, if Black, Latino, and Native Americans comprise 20 percent of a metro area’s working-age population, they would also have to comprise 20 percent of the area’s computing workforce. Metro areas where minorities are underrepresented score lower than 1.00.** 

Alas, no metro area we studied attains a diversity score of 1.00. In fact, technology meccas like San Jose and San Francisco, where underrepresented minorities hold less than 10 percent of computer jobs, received miserable scores of .36 or lower. Yet some metro areas are doing much better than others. Here are our top five metro areas for minorities in computing. Three of the five tied for third place:

3. Washington, D.C.

DC at Night

The D.C. metro area boasts a lively tech sector, driven in large part by the federal government’s growing appetite for technology. The area is among the nation’s most diverse: underrepresented minorities make up almost 40 percent of the area’s working-age population and 23 percent of computer professionals. Diversity score: 0.59

3. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta at dusk

Atlanta is putting itself on the map as a center for tech start-up companies, and that is creating jobs. Like D.C., the Atlanta area is diverse, and that diversity extends to its tech workforce: underrepresented minorities comprise 43 percent of the working-age population and hold 25 percent of computing jobs. Diversity score: 0.59

3. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh downtown

Home to companies like Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, and Intel, the Raleigh area’s world-famous Research Triangle has been an engine of tech employment for more than half a century. Seventeen percent of computer professionals in the area are Black or Latino, compared to 30 percent of the population as a whole. Diversity score: 0.59

 2. Tampa, FL

Tampa festival

Tampa isn’t a tech heavyweight on the order of other metro areas on our list, but its robust health care and financial sectors create a healthy number of computer jobs. Eighteen percent of those jobs have gone to underrepresented minorities, who make up 29 percent of the working-age population.  Diversity score: 0.63

 1. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Washington Monument

The Baltimore area doesn't readily leap to mind as a center for technology, but its proximity to Washington, D.C. and its emerging start-up culture have helped the area generate well more than its share of tech jobs. Baltimore comes closer to a truly representative computing workforce than anywhere else in the country. Twenty-two percent of computer workers are Black or Latino in an area where Blacks and Latinos make up 33 percent of the working-age population.  Diversity score: 0.65.


As our top five list makes clear, no one has fully cracked the code on how to create a truly diverse technology workforce. Still, these five metro areas stand head and shoulders above many others. As the tech industry struggles to cast a wider net for talent, it's worth keeping our eye on the top five.

* For our analysis, we limited ourselves to metro areas that meet the following three criteria: 1.) They were among the top most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas as defined by the U.S. Census Department; 2.) Their working-age populations were at least 20 percent Black, Latino, and Native American; 3.) Computing jobs make up a higher-than-average share of all jobs in the area. 

** The diversity score is the percentage of tech workers who are minorities (% tech) divided by the percentage of the working-age population who are minorities (% population). 14.9 percent of U.S. computer professionals are minorities, and 29.2 percent of the U.S. working-age population are minorities. The diversity scores is therefore 14.9/29.2=.51. For the purposes of this analysis, we define "minorities" as Black, Latino and Native American.

Data source: Change the Equation analysis of data from EMSI, an economic and employment data firm.

Tags: Top 5, jobs & workforce, technology, computer science