Watson Chronicle


Watson College News

WCE Hosts STEM Events; Speakers discuss Jobs, Skills for the Future

Saturday, January 10, 2015

STEM Event

Back-to-back events at the Watson College in January were designed to lend support to STEM education leaders and K-12 teachers in the region. Speakers at the STEM Leadership Summit and the STEM Education Conference shared their vision for preparing students to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

STEM Leadership Summit

“The skills students need today for the jobs of tomorrow” was the topic of a STEM Leadership Summit on Jan.8. Fifty-five educators attended the event sponsored by Discovery Education. Cindy Moss, director of Global STEM Initiatives at Discovery Education, was keynote speaker.

STEM is a commonly used acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education, but Moss encouraged educators to also think of STEM as “Students and Teachers Energizing Minds.”

“STEM is a culture to build, not a class to attend,” Moss said. “As educators, we need to create the culture by finding ways to make STEM engaging and fun, so we involve more students and equip them with skills for the future.”

North Carolina will have 229,000 STEM jobs in 2018, Moss said. In addition to positions for computer scientists and engineers, new opportunities are emerging for students with strong STEM skills and a two-year technical degree. As an example, Moss mentioned Mechatronics, a relatively new approach to product design and development that combines mechanical engineering and electronics.

Cestem Conference

Moss encouraged educators to consider the “Four Cs” – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity – when establishing STEM learning targets. These are skills sought after by employers that need to be practiced over time, she said. Moss advised educators to begin in pre-K when children are eager to solve problems, and to give students of all ages hands-on learning opportunities and permission to fail. She said she uses FAIL as an acronym for “First Attempt in Learning” because it helps students learn the value of persistence.

A lunch panel at the Leadership Summit featured regional STEM experts Sandra Brown of Duke Energy, Patrick Hogan of Cape Fear Community College, Ralph Reda of General Electric Power & Water, William Sterrett of the Watson College of Education  and Lynore Young of Corning Optical Communications LLC. Dennis Kubasko, director of CESTEM, moderated the panel discussion.

Kubasko asked panelists, “What jobs will be in demand in southeastern North Carolina in the next five to 10 years, and what skills will students need to fill them?”

Young’s answer was automation. She’s working to help Corning keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and in Wilmington. To prepare for these positions, “middle and high school students need to learn STEM vocabulary so they can read technical manuals and materials,” she said.

Hogan also mentioned manufacturing. “Jobs are coming back to the U.S. Workers have aged out and we need to train young people to fill these jobs,” he said.  He cited Vertex Rail, which recently announced creation of a new manufacturing facility in Wilmington, as an example of a future local employer.

Reda, who is an advanced manufacturing program manager with GE, sees a need for individuals with strong analytical skills. Companies like GE store large amounts of data and there’s a growing demand for data scientists and individuals with knowledge of statistics, he said.

Brown, a nuclear professional with Duke Energy, recommends that educators “teach scientific method and inquiry, then find real world examples that make it fun.”

The summit was coordinated by CESTEM in partnership with the Southeast Education Alliance (SEA), WCE’s Professional Development System (PDS) Office and Discovery Education.

Cestem SpeakerSTEM Education Conference

On Jan. 9, the college hosted a STEM Education Conference. More than 150 teachers attended the inaugural event sponsored by the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center (SMT).

The purpose of the conference was to support K-12 teachers by introducing integrated STEM activities that can be used in the classroom. Teacher participation in the conference was the focus of a story on UNCW’s home page on Jan. 16. www.uncw.edu/articles/2015/01/uncws-watson-college-of-education-faculty-engineer-new-learning-opportunities-for-stem-teachers.aspx

Sam Houston, president of SMT, was keynote speaker at the full-day conference.

Houston began his address saying, “Teachers, even at the elementary school level, are work force developers but most don’t view themselves that way.” Educators spend too much energy “getting kids to give us back an answer that they’ll forget by the next grade,” he said.  Houston drove home the point by showing a YouTube video of an old comedy routine by Father Guido Sarducci (a fictional character created by comedian Don Novello in the 1970s)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4.

In the skit, Father Sarducci shares his idea of a five-minute university in which a person learns in five minutes what the average college students remembers five years after he or she is out of school.

In today’s rapidly changing world, teachers need to prepare students for jobs that may not yet exist. For students to succeed, educators need to move beyond a focus on content and assessment and “empower kids to become their own pilots of learning and career development,” he said.

Houston encouraged educators to focus on three things: making sure students have the skills they need to become independent learners, teaching them to be thoughtful rather than thoughtless and helping them “know what to do when they’re not sure what to do.”

Students need to learn to think creatively, so they will be successful when faced with new situations in college, in their careers and in their lives, Houston said.

Lisa Rhodes, a SMT senior program officer; Steve Saucier, executive director of the NC Grassroots Museum Collaborative; and Todd Boyette, director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center joined Houston during the lunch presentation.

Boyette spoke about the “educational ecosystem,” a need for supplemental learning opportunities outside of schools and the North Carolina Science Festival he helped to launch in 2010 to promote STEM resources available in the state. Last year, 330,000 people participated in events in 95 counties. They hope to continue to grow the event this year, Boyette said. The Science Festival will be held April 10-26. Events can be found atwww.ncsciencefestival.org.

The NC Grassroots Museum Collaborative is a partnership of 38 museums including Cape Fear Museum, The Children’s Museum and Museum of Coastal Carolina in the greater Wilmington area. The organization is dedicated to promoting science education in North Carolina, with an emphasis on experiential learning.

The conference was coordinated by CESTEM in partnership with SEA, WCE’s Professional Development System (PDS) Office and the North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center.

Participant feedback after both events was very positive, and plans to hold similar events are already underway, said Kubasko, SEA executive director Linda Lowe and WCE’s PDS director Somer Lewis.

Additional Information

Discovery Education: www.discoveryeducation.com/STEM

North Carolina Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center:  www.ncsmt.org

NC Grassroots Science Museums Collaborative: www.ncscience.org

North Carolina Science Festival: www.ncsciencefestival.org

The Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (CESTEM):www.uncw.edu/cestem

Southeast Education Alliance: www.southeasteducationalliance.org

WCE’s Professional Development System: www.uncw.edu/ed/pds

Media Coverage of the STEM Education Conference

UNCW’s home page

WECT, Jan.  9:

Port City Daily, Jan. 12: