March 1, 2019, STEM in the Park hosted its 3rd annual STEM Industry Summit, “Connecting STEM Leaders with the K-12 Classroom.” Forty attendees representing 30 local organizations attended breakout sessions covering how to interact with students from an educator’s perspective, evidence-based methods and best practices for STEM outreach, volunteer mobilization strategies, and how to pitch your company to a K-12 audience. In addition to these sessions, Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games Lead at IBM, gave the keynote presentation.
Phaedra Boinodiris’s keynote talk, “Out-Think Old-School,” was about serious games and how games can be used as a medium to explain complex systems. She discussed how culture shifts within the classroom, including acknowledging students’ out-of-school learning, can help schools keep pace with technological innovation. By encouraging the use of design thinking and socially oriented problem solving, all students can engage with technology.
Rob Epler, principal of Brentwood Magnet Elementary School of Engineering*, and Adam Davidson*, engineering educator at Riverside High School, spoke to attendees about the educators’ perspectives and what organizations need to consider in implementing a K-12 outreach plan. Having events for educators can be just as good as student-centered programs; if you do work with children, keep them actively involved and tailor content to their level. Overall, schools are excited to partner with companies, and it can be great for both sides.
Speakers Malinda Faber and Alonzo Alexander of The Friday Institute highlighted successful education-industry partnerships and shared learnings from these experiences. In particular, they recommend developing long-term relationships and working with community assets and school needs, including state standards. When measuring program success, consider looking at students’ attitudes and beliefs about STEM – these are shown to be more strongly correlated with long-term commitment to STEM careers than achievement is.
Amanda Marvelle, Community Lab Manager at Biogen*, and Victor Weigman, Director of Translational Genomics at Q2 Solutions, discussed ways that organizations can mobilize their employees and encourage a strong volunteer presence in the workplace. Companies have different resources and capabilities for education and outreach, so deliberate, upfront planning of volunteer/outreach efforts leads to better tracking and use of funds, maximizing impact.
Teresa Pierrie, Director of Programs at WakeEd Partnership*, Jocelyn Corey, president of the Community Service Committee at Plexus, and Kyle Slightom, hardware design engineer at Plexus spoke to attendees about how they could pitch their organizations to a K-12 audience. Pierrie explained to the audience how WakeEd Partnership invests in teachers, then Corey and Slightom walked us through how Plexus plans outreach. Slightom exited with, “This experience is not about the knowledge that your audience may retain, it’s about the way that you leave your audience feeling.” This left Industry Summit attendees motivated to begin their own outreach planning process!
The Summit wrapped up with a new activity called Forward Thinking, based on STEM in the Park’s STEM Fest Think model. Attendees were able to take what they’d learned throughout the day and put it into action while it was still fresh in their minds. In small groups, STEM professionals discussed potential outreach activities for their own organizations and identified opportunities to collaborate. Participants in this session have the opportunity to win the STEM Industry Summit Impact Award at the 5th annual STEMmy Awards.
Attendees gave STEM Industry Summit a 4.88 out of 5 for how helpful it was to them, saying:
“It’s great to see so many businesses interested in improving K-12 education!”
“This experience and collaboration will have a positive impact on my abilities to connect with students and educators.”
“It left me feeling inspired to shake up some of our activities and bring some fresh ideas to the program.”
As part of our mission we were glad to convene key stakeholders for this event and are encouraged that the discussions, resources and connections made at the STEM Industry Summit will move the needle towards more company-led STEM outreach!
*=STEMmy award winners