Sneak Peek: Take a Listen to Laura Nelson’s Interview

This episode is sponsored by Halliburton. Listen to the full episode.

Laura Nelson is the Coordinator of Science Education for Portsmouth Public Schools. In this podcast, she shares:

  • Her extensive career in STEM.
  • Obtaining a 5 million gift for STEM education.
  • Creating innovative outlets for elementary students.

To support STEMcast Podcast:

AI Integration, Who’s Up Next?

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is taking the world by storm and jobs of the future are relying on technology to go from good too great to accurate.  Thoughtful AI[i] collaborations are revolutionizing how we experience the world.  Those who are willing to share their data, depth of knowledge, and unique information will continue to innovate.  Whether the automotive industry, supply chain management, or the field of medicine, there are remarkable breakthroughs resulting from AI.

The future of work[ii] will be laden with new opportunities. For example, within various fields of medicine, AI has proven its accuracy in diagnosing early stage terminal illnesses that are treatable when caught early. Such medical advancements are improving upon medical services doctors provide their patients.

Today’s students are on deck to lead in STEM spaces and the AI ship has set sail. AI contributions, solutions, and innovations will continue to be integrated into daily life and classrooms must reflect these technological advancements. To prepare students to participate in the economic opportunity space that AI offers, it requires more real-world application-based learning experiences. Increasing the relevancy of student learning further develops their capacity to visualize the future and requires schools to make a swifter transition from traditional to more innovative classroom learning environments[iii].  AI is working more closely with humans and there is no turning back.

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[i] https://ai.google/research/teams/brain/healthcare-biosciences

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinessdevelopmentcouncil/2018/08/13/three-trends-on-the-future-of-work/#235c629960a4

[iii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/schoolboard/2018/01/08/3-biggest-education-innovation-questions-for-2018/#59ef37d24b13

An Expanded Growth Mindset for Girls in STEM

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

For years, there has been a noticeable gender gap in STEM fields, both in higher education and professions. Why is that? A more up-close and personal look reveals one of the culprits as being negative stereotypes. Further, there is also the issue of accessibility to STEM opportunities and how they are communicated to young girls in their homes, schools, churches, and communities.

Children are impressionable and more inclined to being heavily influenced by the beliefs and viewpoints of adults in their lives. Assertions have been made that differences in expectations of boys and girls by individuals whom they respect is quite noticeable.  For example, STEM is ridiculously believed to be hard, filled with masculine work tasks, and require minimal creativity; that is simply not the case. In fact, some of the drivers in STEM industries are creative thinking, problem-solving, innovation, and communication, which is how new technology, systems, and processes are developed. According to Mae Jemison, the first African American woman astronaut in space, girls should not let anyone rob them of their imagination, creativity, or curiosity.

One thing we know for certain, is that powerful women in STEM never back down from pursuing their passions and leave behind a legacy that continues to move women into STEM fields. Nichelle Nichols, former NASA Ambassador and Star Trek actress said it best, “Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game.”[1]

Today, social factors play an enormous role in the way females perceive their capabilities in the workplace. A common stereotype is that females do not have the same intellect or grit as males. An individual’s capabilities are expandable, not static. A point that must be emphasized when teaching and leading girls. It is important that parents, teachers, church leaders, and mentors are conscious of their implicit bias when encouraging girls and boys to explore and experience opportunities. A growth mindset requires eliminating misguided and limiting stereotypes of females that discourage the pursuit of STEM careers. Girls should be allowed to be just as messy and adventurous as boys. The world holds a place for girls in STEM and it leads to a fabulous life. It is important that girls move forward with their STEM talents and have fun in the process.

Let’s encourage girls to work hard, fail fast, and play hard! After all, girls dust off just as nice as the boys.

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[1] https://interestingengineering.com/25-quotes-from-powerful-women-in-stem-who-will-inspire-you

Link to Article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodberger/2018/03/31/stem-education-new-research-sheds-light-on-filling-the-stem-gap-for-girls/#2affbdc51cf9

 

Your Colleague, Artificial Intelligence

Written by: Reagan Flowers, PhD

“Standardized tests are ineffective tools in measuring a student’s talent and capacity to work smart alongside machines.”

Some people believe that “the fuel you need for AI is just pure data”[1], but that is only one component. You can have all the data in the world, but to make that data useful it must be understood and analyzed. No matter who is analyzing the data (i.e. engineers, computer scientists, artists, or artificial intelligence, etc.), they must first be taught the necessary skills to do their job with accuracy and efficiency.

This then leads to the concept of teaching students to be innovative in analyzing and finding patterns within data, starting as early as elementary school. Which creates challenges for educators who are required to teach students to pass standardized tests. Although such tests challenge students on straightforward problems with a clear solution, employers are relying more heavily on Artificial Intelligence (AI), something standardized tests have not been designed to measure.

Let’s face it, you are considered as being smart when you can problem-solve and utilize technology to create the best possible solution.  Testing should evolve to measuring the overall capacity of a students understanding and ability to interact with technology to solve complex problems.

The standardized testing process and language has created its own barriers. There are many people who criticize the testing movement and colleges that are making their admissions decisions more inclusive of accomplishments beyond standardized test scores.

AI is widely integrated in all aspects of our lives from the food service industry at McDonalds to the driverless vehicles that are sharing our roads. In the age of Industry 4.0, the academic gaps created by standardized testing are leading schools in the wrong direction, away from high skilled opportunities.  Standardized tests are ineffective tools in measuring a student’s talent and capacity to work smart alongside machines.

We are beyond the computer and automation age. Work platforms are increasingly more dependent on cyber platforms that can be integrated into our daily workflow.  Student’s must be taught how to work smarter with machines.

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[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-06-22/human-iq-and-artificial-intelligence-can-work-together-business-professor-says

STEMing Up During Summer

Written By: Reagan Flowers, PhD

The first day of summer is fast approaching. Schools across the U.S. are preparing to downsize for the summer months and are re-tooling for the upcoming school year. There are students preparing for summer camps, adventures, and vacations; while others are preparing for whatever the day brings.

During the academic year, every student enrolled in a school excelled at learning something because of their teachers, mentors, peers, siblings, and/or family members.

I find summer to be a perfect time to add to students’ personal stories of achievement with experiences that add value and propels them towards what will come next in their learning journey.

Because students do not choose the life they are born into, making available summer STEM programs aid them in choosing paths, and seizing opportunities that will make their collective hopes and dreams a reality. It is important that our students understand that each of their paths are different. Their experiences are not all equal or equitable and as a result the road to accomplishing their goals could be longer or shorter and filled with challenges or lucky breaks.

No matter what some might think, summer for students offers a window of time that should be filled with learning experiences that are positive, enlightening, inspiring, challenging, engaging, fun, and empowering.

Let’s face it, whether we are working to achieve success with creating awesome memories or being a scholar, it will only be achieved through demanding work, commitment, focus, determination, endurance, gratitude, humility, thoughtfulness, failure, and a good balance of knowing when not to take yourself too seriously.

STEM summer experiences aid students in taking closer steps towards achieving the life they hope and dream for themselves. It is important that students are directed during the summer to not limit themselves, set grand expectations, and to push beyond urges to spend time on activities that will cause the valuable time of summer to slip away.  Resulting in having nothing good to show for their time.

The learning gains achieved during the summer months helps to remove barriers that limit opportunities, restrict exposure, and stifles competitiveness. Students that do their part as scholars, thoughtful leaders, and examples of what is good in the world, continue to make advancements and eventually take hold of futures better than what many of them inherited at birth.

All students can have awesome STEM summers whether enrolling in a camp or assuming a curious, creative, and innovative mindset that leads to STEM discoveries at home, in their neighborhoods, and city. I hope that within all our communities, we continue to be deliberate and unwavering in providing as many STEM summer learning experiences for children that their brains can hold.

The Diploma to College to Career Mismatch

Written By:  Reagan Flowers, PhD

It appears that minority students are less likely to enroll in college, remain in college, and are more likely to go directly to work post high school.  Factors impacting their choices to attend college are finances, access to opportunities, awareness, proper preparation, supportive networks, and exposure.  And for many minorities enrolled in college, they are first generation.

According to NCES, minority students are obtaining their high-school diplomas with completion rates in the U.S. for Hispanic’s being 76.3% and 72.5% for Black students. However, nationally these percentages are not representative of the number of minority students enrolling in colleges, 17% Hispanic and 14% Black.

The mismatch in the numbers does cause one to wonder how this has come to be.  I wonder if today’s high school graduates have determined that they will yield less of a return on their investment in a college degree if it is not in a STEM field.  Additionally, I wonder if high school graduates see more of an income advantage in forgoing a college degree and going directly to work in a blue-collar STEM field.  Looking further into gender numbers, there are more females enrolling in college than males.  The low enrollment numbers of males in college suggests that they experience more pressure to earn wages right after high school as opposed to females. The practicality of forgoing college long-term, in most instances, is not good. Such decisions create economic gaps and stagnation.

A growing trend are student success programs that colleges are putting in place to increase minority student enrollment and completion rates.  There are designated institutions such as HBCUs, MSIs, and HSIs that are intentionally and thoughtfully creating environments to improve their overall numbers.  And, there are groups such as AHSIEHBCU Faculty Development Network, and PennGSE Center for Minority Serving Institutions that are sharing best practices to help move the needle.

A recent presentation of C-STEMs research on minorities and females attitudes towards STEM education and careers at an AHSIE conference was fairly consistent with common themes being expressed by colleges from across the U.S.  We are not short on problems to solve, are working to eliminate the mismatches, and are increasingly using technology to identify and trigger responses to student academic and social challenges, sooner rather than later.

Brookings STEM Report

STEM Cell Economy Humor

 

The Brookings STEM Report offers an analysis of the occupational requirements for STEM knowledge.  How does “The Hidden STEM Economy” impact you?

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