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Focusing on STEM

By

Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief

|

I recently read an article in my local newspaper about the Museum of Math, also known as “MoMath” (New York; www.momath.org), which piqued my interest and prompted me to learn more about it. The gallery of photos and videos on the MoMath website reveal a fun, “hands-on” approach to learning mathematics. Many activities seem to be geared to children, but some of the offerings would appeal to any age bracket — I found myself engrossed in one of the “Math Encounters” videos on the website.

Innovative approaches to learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), such as MoMath, connect these disciplines to our everyday experiences and garner interest in further study. This is particularly of interest to industries, including the chemical process industries (CPI), that depend on a technically savvy workforce. Many have expressed concerns over the difficulty in finding highly skilled employees, and industries are helping to promote and fund STEM education to encourage interest.

In April of this year, for example, Siemens Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG (Munich, Germany; www.siemens.com) announced nearly $660 million of in-kind software grants to support educational manufacturing programs at institutions from high school through university levels in Massachusetts. The grants were established as a result of an industry need for skilled workers that was identified through the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MassMEP; www.massmep.org) and the Manufacturing Advancement Center Workforce Innovation Collaborative (MACWIC; both Worcester, Mass.; www.macwic.org).

Also in April, Bayer Corp., the U.S. subsidiary of Bayer AG (Leverkusen, Germany; www.bayer.com) announced an investment of more than $400,000 to strengthen STEM education with grants and scholarships targeted at middle and high schools in the Houston area.

And in June, the Marbles Kids Museum (Raleigh, N.C.; www.marbleskidsmuseum.org) opened the “Kid Grid,” a hands-on exhibit that introduces children to power-grid technology. The Kid Grid was funded by a $1-million grant from ABB (Zurich, Switzerland; www.abb.com) to inspire a new generation to study STEM.

The U.S. Government is also addressing the need to stimulate STEM learning. This summer, U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Lindsey Graham introduced bipartisan legislation to help engineering schools meet the growing demands of industry. “The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014” would establish a program within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to designate 25 universities as “manufacturing universities.” The designated schools would receive funds to meet specific goals that focus on manufacturing needs of targeted industries. According to Senator Coons’ press office, the legislation has received endorsements from a number of educational institutions, as well as from The Dow Chemical Company and DuPont.

There are many more programs focused on encouraging STEM education than there is room to list here. And in addition, there are more ways that industry and education are interacting — see, for example our Newsfront on Rethinking Intellectual Property Policies on p. 19 of this issue. Learning is a continuous process — I’m planning my visit to MoMath soon.

Dorothy Lozowski, Editor in Chief

 

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