Day 1 Recap of the U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit in Dallas, TX
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on June 28, 2012
To create real and lasting change in education and find solutions to America's STEM crisis, collaboration and the inclusion of diverse perspectives are critical. That is the thinking behind the U.S. News STEM Solutions 2012 Summit which kicked off in Dallas, TX today with a plenary session hosted by basketball Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and leaders from across the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
“[STEM] is a genuine grassroots movement, and this is the first national meeting of this grassroots movement,” said Brad Smith, general counsel and executive vice president at Microsoft. Smith also pointed to the fact that this grassroots movement is being driven by the need for a skilled, globally competitive workforce. “What we face is a shortage of people with STEM expertise. We have a skills gap, but unless we close that skills gap, we won’t be able to address the unemployment gap.” The statistics would certainly suggest that Smith is right, as nearly 150 thousand tech jobs will go unfilled at Fortune 500 companies over the next several years.
To address this need and make sure that our students are ready to succeed in college and in their careers, Jeffrey Wadsworth, CEO of Battelle Memorial Institute, emphasized the need to identify what works and spread those best practices – a sentiment shared by another panelist Steve Zipkes, principal at Manor New Technology High School. As a means of sharing those best practices, in addition to being the first STEM summit of its kind, the event kickoff also serves as the launch of STEMx, a 13 network that will help connect policymakers with teachers, business leaders, and STEM organizations.
Over the next two and a half days, leaders from across sectors will explore potential solutions and look at past successes in STEM education, all in the hope of creating a pathway for our students to the jobs of the future. With a nod toward the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, former Democratic Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives Joyce Beatty called on all of the 1,500 summit attendees to come together and “give our students a shot that no one can block.”
To end Day 1, we were greeted by the Dallas Host Committee, which included a video welcome from Texas Governor Rick Perry. John Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Educate Texas, also provided a fun antedote about how his seven year-old daughter explained to him that Curious George is actually an ape not a monkey due to his lack of a tail, ability to walk on his hind-legs, and his use of tools. Now the goal is to get more young people, and especially young girls, to start thinking about how STEM applies to their lives early on.
Next Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came back to the stage with inventor and founder of FIRST Robotics, Dean Kamen. The two discussed sports as it related to young people's ambitions and how STEM can replicate that passion. More importantly, they called for the need to change the culture. Kareem pointed out that at any given time, there are only 450 jobs in the NBA while thousands upon thousands of STEM jobs go unfilled every year. Dean Kamen expounded upon this thought, adding that being "pretty good" in sports just isn't good enough to develop career skills that lead to a profession. Meanwhile, "pretty good" in a STEM field gives students invaluable skills with a life-long career. That's why programs like FIRST are so important. The format of a competition in a huge arena with will.i.am as your halftime shows gives students who want to play with robots validation for their passion. FIRST is reaching 250,000 kids and currently 11% of MIT students are FIRST alum. This is the scale to which we need more STEM programs to reach!
To join in the conversation and track the summit, follow the #STEMSolutions12 hashtag.
Photos courtesy of U.S. News & World Report