STEM Beats - guest blog

Guest Blog: Girls Should Feel Like They Belong in STEM

August 1, 2017

STEM education is as crucial as the air we breathe. We can find its influence everywhere. Yet, there remains a low percentage of students graduating with STEM literacy. As told by the Business Roundtable, “thirty-eight percent of companies say that at least half of their entry-level job applicants in the U.S. lack even basic STEM skills.”

It is our job as industry leaders, educators and communities to do more to expose and encourage students to these principles, especially young women. According to the U.S. Census, “women make up nearly half of the workforce, [and] they were 26 percent of the STEM workforce in 2011.” Techbridge Girls (TBG) and the 49ers STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) Education program are moving the needle to change not only the statistics but also the narrative and industry so more girls can feel they belong. Both programs focus on providing accessible, free, informal learning opportunities to populations that are under resourced. Our organizations are laying the foundation to bridge the gender and socioeconomic gap in STEM professions and removing barriers that prevent marginalized communities from reaching success. Techbridge Girls has a 17-year track record, reaching over 7,000 girls from low-income communities in Title 1 schools across our three regions (Pacific Northwest, California and D.C. Metro Area) with girl-centric and culturally-responsive STEM enrichment programming. TBG also builds the capacity of educators across the country so they understand how to deliver high-quality STEM enrichment programs that recruit, engage and retain girls – especially in low socioeconomic communities. The 49ers STEAM Education Program has served 150,000 participants in the three years since it’s been established, with half of all participating students coming from Title 1 schools. Among other STEAM focused initiatives, the 49ers have also wrapped up the second year of their teacher professional development platform in STEAM integration and Project Based Learning serving 190 educators to date.

Being intentional in exposing students to STEM ideas that connect to their everyday life can ignite and push students to new pathways in their education. In a Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL) survey done by Nation’s Report Card, “It is more likely for students to tinker and troubleshoot outside of school than in school,” which are both key components of STEM. It is essential to craft relevant real-world experiences for students that go beyond the classroom in order to reinforce this type of thinking.

Techbridge Girls does this by offering year-round and summer-based afterschool programs for girls from low-income communities in grades 4 – 12. Techbridge Girls’ curriculum is research-driven and implements holistic interventions that engages girls through hand-on activities that bring STEM concepts to life so they can see how STEM is a vehicle to change their circumstances and the world around them. Similarly, the 49ers STEAM Education Program hosts students in grades K-8 and teaches STEAM concepts through a 49ers Museum tour, Levi’s® Stadium tour, standards-aligned STEAM lesson and a movement lab. During a five-hour session, participants can learn a variety of information, including all about the evolution of football equipment and how a material scientist contributes to its creation, to the importance of preserving history in relation to art, culture and the technology that helps make it possible.

In collaboration with Techbridge Girls, the 49ers STEAM Education Program hosted over 100 girls for a field trip to Levi’s Stadium to learn about the engineering and design process and its relationship to the game of football. Together, Techbridge Girls and the 49ers co-designed a field trip experience that aligns with both pedagogies and infused a mentorship component where a dozen 49er women employees were able to connect and draw parallels to their work and lives of the girls. This opportunity allowed Techbridge Girls participants to see STEAM in their day-to-day, from the concrete they walk on to graphics they see on TV. Most importantly, they saw that women contribute to the success of a sports organization.

This is just one piece of the puzzle. The 49ers and Techbridge Girls are working on lesson materials that will live in Techbridge Girls’ curriculum as well as collaborating on how both of their professional development platforms can reach a broader audience. It is not only important that girls get exposure to STEM but that educators and school programming give girls the tools to help them succeed. The Techbridge Girls and 49ers STEAM Education Program collaboration is a partnership that offers innovation, high-quality pedagogy and cutting-edge technology and it provides more students the opportunity to learn about STEM and all of the benefits it can provide.

Our end goal is to equip more young girls with the confidence to charge powerfully into school subjects and careers that are underrepresented by their gender. Bringing more and more girls into this equation will not only transform their life but the STEM industry and our world.

 Nikole Collins-Puri is the CEO at Techbridge. She co-authored this piece with Sofy Navarro, San Francisco 49ers STEAM Education Manager.

Tags: women & girls, guest blog

Guest Blog: Manufacturing Day

October 7, 2016

Today is Manufacturing Day – a day set aside every year when the men and women who make the products that change the world, celebrate those who experiment, invent and create.  Although for me and my Dow colleagues, every day is manufacturing day.

My story in manufacturing began when I was a young boy in Argentina, and since then has crossed businesses, borders, and even continents. It has led to a lifetime of being inspired by inventing and creating something new, something I could hold in my two hands; and by the diversity of experiences, cultures and challenges I experienced along the way. Yet today I see young people who don’t know that science, technology, engineering, and math careers are exciting, accessible, and full of opportunity.

The seeds of my career in manufacturing were planted a generation ago when my father, the first born in Argentina to a Spanish immigrant, began to work at seven years old. His education in the classroom ended early, but the lessons of the printing business helped him to support his family throughout his life. His work ethic inspired me. He was a “maker.” And he encouraged me to pursue math and science, because he saw a talent and an opportunity to go into a technical field and have a better life than he had.

That seed took root thanks to an elementary teacher who put chemistry in my hands as a young boy. Through a simple lab demonstration of distillation, I saw the magic of chemistry. My curiosity grew as I worked in a chemistry lab in high school. This set me on a chemical engineering track, and I’ve never looked back. A few years later, I found my way to Dow where my colleagues and I have shared different cultures and perspectives as we innovate our way towards solutions to the most difficult problems our world faces.

Developing solutions that make a difference in the world has captivated me from the time I was a young man working on solving challenges of the assembly of shoes. I’ve worked on dyes for the textile industry, seeing my labor reflected in the day’s fashions. I’ve worked in paper coatings and plastics. With chemistry, the work you do affects the world around you in clear ways. Pursuing this career, I’ve seen how the work I do makes the world better, and I’ve seen the world along the way.

Perhaps it is that young people today — or their parents — don’t think that manufacturing and science and math-based careers are accessible. They fear that they are too difficult, or that they are only for those who are mathematically gifted. I can tell you these careers are open to anyone. It takes people with different talents and skills to bring about waves of the future, such as the communications revolution we are living in today. Smart phones, the electric car, self-driving vehicles all are innovations that started with a student inspired by a teacher, supported by parents to make something that the world can use.

I see millennials drawn to work that is flashy and fashionable — business rather than engineering, banking rather than chemistry, the tech sector instead of the physical sciences. These are all worthy careers. But somewhere along the way, manufacturing was dismissed as dull work, and as jobs of the past or for those with limited options. The reality is far different. Careers in manufacturing are creative in the truest sense: you innovate as you produce. When you have a connection to making something the world wants or needs, you will know a deep satisfaction, like I have in my career.

Manufacturing careers are the key to a path of fulfillment for a new generation of young people who are tomorrow’s dreamers, inventors, and creators. And this generation understands our responsibility to our planet and can apply their creative talents to make manufacturing even more sustainable, and even more important in improving the lives of billions of people and the environment.

My parents in Argentina decades ago were really no different than parents today in the U.S. We all want our children to grow up to be successful, satisfied and responsible professionals. My parents knew the value of making something tangible and solving problems, and manufacturing today offers opportunities that my parents could have only imagined.

So, as we in the manufacturing world celebrate this recognition of our industry and all that we do, I encourage you to look around you today. The gadgets you use, the clothes that you wear, the vehicle you drive — these are all possible because someone in the manufacturing world put their creativity, their passion and their talent into inventing, creating and building to make things that solve problems and improve peoples’ lives.

Pedro Suarez is the President of DOW USA.

Tags: guest blog

Supporting STEM Education Will Help Bring More Diversity to Financial Services

September 9, 2016

MIchael Bodson, President & CEO at DTCCSummer is unofficially over and kids are back in school. This time of year always gets me thinking about the past and my own children preparing to start the new semester.

Back then, we talked a lot about the three Rs – reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. Of course, a lot has changed over time. Most kids today probably know the three R's as "Reduce, Recycle and Reuse." Maybe the world used to be a simpler place, but to succeed in today's technology-based economy, young people need to do more than master the basics. They need to focus on a new acronym – STEM.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) have always been important, but as they become increasingly crucial to a growing variety of activities, schools are finding it more difficult to meet these educational needs alone. This is where business is stepping in to help fill the gap.

As we all work to become better corporate citizens, and as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes embedded in companies around the globe, there is no better way to channel this effort than toward improving STEM education.

For many businesses, and particularly for those of us in financial services, this is not simply an altruistic venture; we are investing in our future. The financial system today relies on highly sophisticated information technology to accomplish a spectrum of tasks from routine to major. For example, high frequency traders can execute orders in a millionth of a second – faster than a blink of the eye – while mathematicians and physicists are applying quantitative analysis to develop trading and risk management programs.

This evolution will continue as newer and faster technologies come to market in the years ahead. In fact, industry research says that jobs in banking and finance requiring STEM skills will increase by 21 percent in the next 10 years while all other jobs will increase only 18 percent. In other words, strong competencies in STEM will be essential for a career in banking and finance.

Change the Equation (CTEq), a coalition of corporate members leading a movement to ensure that every young person is STEM literate, points to the opportunity of expanding the STEM talent pool in the U.S. with promising programs and strategies that are successfully drawing girls and young people from diverse populations to the fields. Business will play a key role in ensuring such programs attain the necessary scale. For financial services, the focus on STEM education also creates opportunities for the industry to address the historic under-representation of women, Blacks and Hispanics.

According to data from CTEq, three occupations account for almost half of the industry's total projected job growth over the next decade, all of which will require substantial math or technology skills:

  • Personal financial advisors will grow by 45,000, while today's representation is 28 percent female and 11.5 percent Black/Hispanic.
  • Securities, commodities, and financial service agents will grow by 21,000, while today's representation is 30 percent female and 14.3 percent Black/Hispanic.
  • Financial analysts positions will grow by 20,000, while today's representation is 35 percent female and 14.4 percent Black/Hispanic.

Clearly, STEM will be among the most in-demand skills that employers will be seeking. At my own company, recruiting and retaining candidates with strong STEM competencies will be essential for us to continue to grow and expand our role supporting the industry. In addition, attracting diverse candidates will enable us to better understand the needs of our global client base and foster new ideas and different ways of thinking about how to tackle complex challenges in the future.

Unfortunately, the most recent statistics from the National Science Foundation show women comprise only one-third of STEM graduate students while Black and Hispanic students combined account for less than 10 percent.

This is why we have joined with many our colleagues across the industry to make promoting STEM education a key focus of our CSR efforts. Working with several groups in this field, such as Change the Equation, we are proud to join with our colleagues in business to help students at all levels and across all demographics gain the skills and competencies they will need to succeed in the future.

Corporations can also use their CSR volunteer efforts to begin to address the opportunity gaps for students who have unequal access to qualified teachers and STEM resources. For example, research has found that across the U.S. there are millions of Black and Hispanic students who would enroll in STEM programs after school if only they could. Is there not a more perfect opportunity for volunteers to contribute their expertise?

By collaborating with schools, communities and STEM education groups, business can support this crucial education and instill a life-long love of learning in all young people while preparing the workforce of tomorrow. 

Mike Bodson is the President and CEO at DTCC. This article originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse on September 8, 2016 and was reprinted with permission from DTCC.

Tags: guest blog, diversity

Guest Blog: Celebrating 16 Years of Partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative

August 11, 2016

Texas Instruments’ dedication to supporting and improving education dates back to the company’s founding and remains one of our highest philanthropic priorities. TI recently announced new and continuing partnerships  with organizations through our corporate and foundation grants that support K-12 STEM education, and we’re excited about the positive impact this will have.

Dallas-based National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) was awarded $1.1 million from the TI Foundation. The grants will expand the NMSI’s College Readiness Program (CRP) into all six Garland ISD high schools and launch CRP in two Uplift Education high schools.

Why is this important? NMSI’s CRP is a comprehensive program that is dramatically increasing the number of students succeeding in rigorous coursework in math, science and English and opening doors to rigorous coursework for traditionally underrepresented students in STEM – two ideals that fit squarely in TI’s efforts to support and improve STEM education.

Since forging the partnership in the 2000-01 school year, roughly 400 teachers and over 80,000 students in the Dallas area have been positively impacted through NMSI’s work. Through this joint effort to boost STEM education in local schools, the TI Foundation grants have helped improve STEM teacher effectiveness and thus impact student success.

Teachers receiving training and support to increase rigor in the classroom, and students benefit from study sessions. After just one year in the program, schools see, on average, a 68% increase in the number of qualifying scores earned by students on math, science and English Advanced Placement® exams – more than 10 times the national average. The result: students participating in the program are better prepared for college and STEM careers.

NMSI, a STEMworks program is just one of several that TI is partnering with to enhance education in the communities where we operate.  TI also announced its 2nd year funding award to RAFT, and its new funding award to NAPE, both are part of Change the Equation’s STEMworks database. To learn more about the other programs that received funding from TI and the TI Foundation, please read our announcement here

Andy Smith is the Executive Director at Texas Instruments Foundation.

Tags: guest blog

Guest Blog: The San Francisco 49ers Use Football to Inspire STEM Learning

July 13, 2016

The San Francisco 49ers are taking science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to new heights for children throughout Silicon Valley.

We leveraged the powerful appeal of sports, as well as our location in the heart of the world’s tech capital, to motivate young people and enrich our community with STEM education platforms. At the outset, we asked ourselves how we could help make STEM more meaningful, relevant, and approachable to young students. We found that the best approach was to create a STEM learning platform that was unconventional in its pedagogy, atmosphere, programming, and reach. Our programs engage the full range of learning domains: physical, affective, and intellectual.

An Unconventional Atmosphere

The 49ers STEM Education Program, which opened in conjunction with Levi’s Stadium in 2014, provides K–8 learning platforms that teach content-rich lessons in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Housed in the Denise DeBartolo York Education Center inside the 49ers Museum presented by Sony, the program is committed to education and innovation that inspires students by repurposing football and the stadium as vehicles for learning.

Our field trips give sixty thousand students each year the opportunity to learn about STEM outside the classroom. The program—a four-part field trip experience that includes museum exploration, a Levi’s Stadium tour, a movement lab, and a classroom STEM lesson—employs our stadium as a 1.85 million-square-foot learning lab that children can examine as a true articulation of what in-class STEM principles look like in real life. With the 49ers STEM Education Program, students have the opportunity to learn about rigorous subjects in a fresh, exciting setting. Getting kids to think about these subjects as they’re standing in an NFL locker room or on the field makes all the difference, re-injecting them into their schools, communities, after-school programs, and families with a new thirst and frame of reference for STEM knowledge.

Math, science, and technology are everywhere in sports. The diverse learning environment that accompanies the 49ers STEM education experience allows students to start thinking about STEM in a different light, including how it applies to them—perhaps more than they previously thought.

Unconventional Programming

As the leading professional sports organization in the support of STEM learning concepts for youth, the 49ers have devised a multi-pronged approach to connecting with kids. In addition to the 49ers STEM Education Program on-site, we also have strong presence in our home community of Santa Clara.

The team’s efforts additionally include the 49ers STEM Leadership Institute’s Chevron STEMZONE at Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara. The school’s six-year curriculum begins in seventh grade and continues through high school, seeking to prepare students with high academic potential to be outstanding in STEM subjects. The 49ers STEM Leadership Institute (SLI)—launched in 2014 as a partnership between the 49ers, Chevron, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, and the Santa Clara Unified School District—provides students with more than 330 additional hours of instruction at no cost. Currently hosting two cohorts of scholars totaling 120 students in the seventh and eighth grades, the program will expand to Santa Clara High School (SCHS) this fall. When the Fab Lab at SCHS opens, it will provide state-of-the-art equipment for SLI students and will also be open to the greater community of STEM entrepreneurs.

Our approach to STEM programming for Bay Area youth is diverse and ever-evolving.

Just last month, the team launched its Football and STEM Academy Summer Camp Program to extend the organization’s educational impact. The three-day camp (a beta test for a larger summer program in 2017) hosted more than eighty local students from grades three to eight and focused on the science of sports, fusing football skills and STEM learning. The camp, which was jointly created by the 49ers STEM Education Program and the 49ers Youth Football Program, began each day with lessons that were rooted in STEM and relevant to the kids’ efforts on the 49ers practice field later in the day. Lessons included football force and movement, innovation in football equipment, strength and training, and flexibility and speed drills.

Unconventional in Reach

Before launching the 49ers STEM Education Program at Levi’s Stadium in 2014, we knew that we wanted to spur a wide range of Bay Area students to harness skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This range of students was representative of our program’s reach in the Bay Area—we’ve had schools visit from as far as Reno—and was also geared toward various K–8 development levels and learning audiences.

To ensure that students of all backgrounds and learning levels are able to experience the program, 50 percent of students that participate in the 49ers STEM Education Program come from Title I schools. In addition, we have hosted schools like the California School for the Blind and the Stellar Academy for Dyslexics for field trips, meeting every student’s needs when they visit us. Our diverse platform—from our classroom atmosphere to our program curriculum to our overall reach—helps us make STEM more meaningful and relevant to kids at all age levels.

I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve been able to offer the 49ers STEM Education Program experience to more than ninety thousand students at no cost to the kids or their schools, effectively covering transportation, admission, and supplies. This is absolutely crucial to our success; without our subsidization of transportation and program costs, the barrier to entry for those who need it most would be far too high, effectively removing them from the experience and the chance to embrace STEM at a deeper level.

We hope others will join with us in our efforts to engage K–8 scholars in the Silicon Valley. We welcome discussions, program observations, and other ways we can work with other organizations to explore how they can help young people succeed in education and in life. And we invite you to connect with us!

Jesse Lovejoy is the director of STEM Education & 49ers Museum. This is part of a series of blog posts that is collaboratively published every week by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and National Association for Gifted Children. Each post in the series exists both on the NAGC Blog and Fordham's Flypaper.

Tags: guest blog