Pittsburgh STEM Summit 2013

Pittsburgh STEM Summit
August 15, 2013
(sponsored by Pittsburgh Technology Council and ASSET STEM Education)

Wow!  What a great day. I’ve divided my notes to try to allow for easier access to the plethora of information that came my way at the Pittsburgh STEM Summit.  Overall, the experience was extraordinary and yet more evidence that growth and change are coming.

Scroll through all the notes, or feel free to skip ahead to what I found most relevant for you:

Administrators and School Board Members
Teachers
Business Leaders
Parents and Kids
STEM Advocates
Closing Thoughts

Everyone:

  • Rigor is needed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
  • Collaboration between educators, business owners, and motivated, engaged students is necessary.
  • Coding skills are crucial.
  • Brilliant Blunders are good, sloppy blunders are not.

Administrators and School Board Members:

  • Dream Flight Adventurers  (CMU ETC spin-off) will install a real world simulator (a real magic school bus) in a room in your school.  Student’s inside the simulator (the example we saw fit 18 students) collaboratively explore together human circulatory systems, real galactic mysteries, nuclear isotopes, the checks and balances of the US government, and several others core standards aligned curriculum. We saw footage from the installation at Shaler High School.  Dream Flight Adventurers can modify their installation to fit into the space available in your school. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZI7g7iRF7qE
  • Eric Heasley A.W. Beattie Career Center (North Hills) The Center works with youth grade 10-12. Eric spoke of a recent partnership with Junior Achievement of Western PA Careers in Energy Program.  The opportunity gave students a glimpse at different types of energy, the economic and environmental impact of each, and careers in the industry and related fields. The curriculum supports JA’s three pillars of financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship, while introducing concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • Mary Dreliszak, The Challenge Program   The Challenge Program partners with businesses close to your school to motivate high school students to excel. They are in 114 high schools in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. The non-profit program’s portfolio of awards now includes The STEM Award to encourage excellence in the fields that are needed in our region’s workforce.  Their programming is unique and specific to your school and local businesses. Submit a new school inquiry HERE
  • Joshua Cramer – Project Lead The Way  PLTW is the nation’s leading provider of rigorous and innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for schools. Joshua shared some amazing (VERY AMAZING) statistics on the success of PLTW.  There three programs are provided at no charge to schools. 
  •  Dr. Bart Rocco, Superintendent, Elizabeth Forward School District  Dr. Rocco spoke of the school’s great success with the Zulama Game Design curriculum.  Students in the High School are put on track to learn the programming, graphic design, and storytelling components of game design while immersed in project based hands on activities. Courses are 15 weeks long, containing between 70 and 80 lessons and activities, which is equal to half a Carnegie Unit. The content is delivered through an online platform into your classrooms and learning facilitators are trained to support student activities. With the assistance of NLG Consulting, the middle school has installed a SmallLab and make steps daily to radically reimagine learning in the 21st century.  Over ¼ of the high school is now enrolled in game based learning and they are using what they learn to create real life artifacts for others to use;  for example high school students create software for the small lab in middle school and apps for the Andy Warhol Museum. Incredible teachers drive it all.  A school can implement Zulama for $10,000. An interesting question was raised in the follow-up questions, “What policies are there for intellectual property rights?  Who owns the games made? The student? The school?” (Bart Rocco shared the following: “The district owns the rights to all of the games  that are created. We also own the rights to the simulations that were created in the SMALLab.”) 
  • The NMSI AP Program is comprehensive three year program that increases teacher effectiveness and student achievement in rigorous math and science courses. NMSI literally changes the culture of a school with teacher training, awards, incentives, 18 extra hours of classroom time, waived exam fees, and Saturday sessions with master teachers demonstrating techniques that your student’s benefit from and your school’s teachers learn and integrate.  Funding needed is $500,000 over three years for a high school and feeder middle school. Locally, Pittsburgh Brashear High School and Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy (Sci Tech) have contracted with NMSI for this researched based highly successful program.

Business Leaders:

  • Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie, has developed innovative educational and workforce development programs in more than 20 countries. His keynote spoke to the critical importance of long term strategies in educational reforms and the integral partnerships that must grow stronger between businesses, governments, and institutions of learning.
  • 4Moms   Fred Hopke, Director of Engineering, described an excellent model for hiring high school interns with the goal of designing, prototyping and testing a component piece to one of their new products within a semester long program. I loved his language of making sure the students are an asset resource and not an asset drain. 
  • Adventures in Technology   Specter Studios brought some scary latex masks (there stock and trade) and shared their Adventure in Technology, where the Challenge Institute matched them up with some local middle school students who hacked the masks, adding some blinking lights and special effects. Business owners can check in with the Catalyst Connection  for local opportunities.

Teachers

  • Theresa Richards, Carnegie Mellon University and  Lisa Abel-Palmieri, The Ellis School spoke about the Arts & Bots and the Hummingbird Robotics Kit program at Ellis. Oh, how I wish I had found these kits last year and I am excited at the possibility to experiment with some.  (If anyone wants to donate one of these Hummingbird Kits to the Media Lab or BC STEM – I’ll be glad to hold a workshop and have some kids working with them in Beaver County!) These are ideal for Art Teachers expanding into technology, technology teachers expanding into the arts,  an afterschool Craft and Technology club, or an entry into the mini-maker faire.
  • Jeff Mori, Mechatronics Instructor, Eastern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center and Greg Chambers, Director of Corporate Compliance, Oberg Industries Inc talked about BotsIQ, a battling bot program, a fun gladiatorial head fake that introduces students to careers in manufacturing. High school Physics and technology teachers please apply! 

Parents and Kids

  • 4Moms High School Intern Program They described themselves as a small engineering startup that creates technology integrated baby supplies such as strollers, playpens and bouncy seats. A high school student approached them asking to be an intern.  Their concern was whether he would be an asset resource or an asset drain. He volunteered to come in full time for two weeks at the end of summer and learn their CAD software systems so that his internship, only a semester, provided them with the a real problem solved and a chance to advance their business plan. It was their positive experience with this young man that has led them to open their doors to three high school interns each year.      
  •  Eric Heasley A.W. Beattie Career Center (North Hills) The Center works with youth grade 10-12. Eric spoke of a recent partnership with Junior Achievement of Western PA Careers in Energy Program.  The opportunity gave students a glimpse at different types of energy, the economic and environmental impact of each, and careers in the industry and related fields. The curriculum supports JA’s three pillars of financial literacy, workforce readiness, and entrepreneurship, while introducing concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • Read over the career paths of the 2 keynotes and special guest. Notice the lifelong commitment to ongoing learning.

Rear Admiral Cindy “CJ” Jaynes is serving as program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)).
–        BS Math Education Indiana University of Pennsylvania
–        Master’s degree in Mathematics
–        Master’s in Business Administration from Norwich University
–        Systems Engineering Certification from California Institute of Technology Industrial Relations Center
–        tours include

  • Training Squadron (VT)
  • Patrol Squadron
  • Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department
  • Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Detachment
  • Naval Aviation Engineering Service Unit
  • Aircrew Systems
  • Naval Air Traffic Management Systems
  • Logistics and Industrial Operations
  • Fleet Readiness Centers

–        Medals include

  •  Legion of Merit (two),
  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal,
  • Meritorious Service Medal (four),
  • Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal,
  • Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal,
  • National Defense Service Medal (with Service Star),
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal,

Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie

  • Career began in the Israel Defense Forces
  • Developed an innovative foreign military exchange with the U.S. Navy Training Command
  • International Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) instructor to the US
  • At age 29 — and with no formal training in software engineering — Mr. Taran became the youngest-ever faculty member to teach in Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Software Engineering program, the number one ranked program in the US.
  • While a faculty member,  helped managed two companies: GIMETO, a US-based software education training company that taught professionals in developing countries, and Tekama, a Russia-based software engineering education company that led corporate programs for the local and Eastern European IT markets.
  • In late 2009, he was appointed CEO of iCarnegie, an innovative subsidiary company of Carnegie Mellon University that aims to change the world by offering educational and workforce development programs in more than 20 countries. In just under two years, Mr. Taran has established new national level projects on three continents, growing the company by 900%.
  • Bachelor’s degrees in English Literature and Economics from Tel Aviv University, and a
  • Master of Science in IT Management with high honors from Carnegie Mellon University.

Mario Livio

STEM Advocates

  • Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie, has developed innovative educational and workforce development programs in more than 20 countries. His keynote spoke to the critical importance of long term strategies in educational reforms and the integral partnerships that must grow stronger between businesses, governments, and institutions of learning.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chmb3x6XdK8   
  • Linda Ortenzo, Director of STEM Programs at the Carnegie Science Center, focused on a need to establish a shared common definition of STEM Education. STEM Education is defined in scope by inquiry based science and math, integrated curriculum, project based learning, and career awareness. The STEM Education initiative needs four hallmarks for success; Collaboration, Great Teaching, Inspired Learners, and Committed Community.
  • Cynthia Pulkowski, from Asset, spoke of plans to create a cohesive PA STEM Learning Network.  Asset will be the Pennsylvania spoke of the new national StemX network.   She spoke of the 3.1 billion being invested into STEM education. The 2014 federal budget has dropped the number STEM programs from 226 to 112, but the FY 2014 budget for STEM programming will increase by 6.7% or $195 million. Schools that develop partnerships with colleges and employers are being rewarded.  The STEMx™ network impacts STEM teaching and learning at a grassroots level through the sharing of STEM-specific resources and tools across the United States.

Closing Thoughts

I missed the opening keynote (flat tire!) – which may have addressed this. Each speaker defined STEM as preparation for a career. While an important part, it is not enough.  STEM is needed for an educated citizenry, to make medical decisions, to question your pharmacist. I listen to the absolute frustration of our family physician that he has educated “good career” patients that are following the advice of some media star and blogging mother raising alarms about measles vaccines and they are refusing to protect their children.  I listen to engineers and foresters decry the lack of educated watchdogs to oversee the coming Fracking in our region (not wanting to stop it, but definitely wanting an outside group to oversee environmental repercussions). I visited a the Montreal Science Centre to discover an activity designed to teach critical thinking promote conspiracy theories of a moon landing hoax. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum in their recent book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, track this growing illiteracy and claim that the problems facing the 21st century (climate change, the energy crisis, global pandemics, nuclear proliferation) all require literacy in science. Even that was not enough. I felt as I sat in the STEM Summit, that a passion for learning, for science, for joy in discovery was overshadowed by preparing students for careers.

As I was contemplating the above, Dr. Mario Livio took the stage with an inspiring presentation on brilliant blunders (from his book Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe). Dr. Livio is the senior astrophysicist Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute and an incredible story teller.  The audience was rapt up into his passion for Darwin, Einstein and Pauling. Our love of science was reignited, and the invitation will hopefully stay with us as we head into our classrooms this fall, “allow for brilliant blunders, risk taking, and unconventional thinking.”  STEM is more than a career, it can become a source of wonder and an artist’s brush to build a more just and beautiful world. 

Special thanks to the Franklin Center for allowing me the chance to attend! ~ Dr. Ellen

About Beaver County STEM

The Beaver County STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) Education Advocacy Coalition is a community based organization of professionals, teachers, parents and community members advocating for STEM education and opportunities needed for 21st century jobs.
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