Stressing STEM

Lynne Campbell, Iowa State University STEM hub manager, spoke about the Iowa’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiative as guest speaker of the Fort Dodge Noon Rotary Club Monday.

“I was a science teacher. But I see how all of these things make more sense together than independently,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to create opportunities for students to really integrate these four disciplines.”

Campbell urged businesses to become more engaged in the initiative, saying it benefited economic development.

“How many of you have positions you have a hard time filling?” she said. “What we’re trying to do is figure out how we can help kids so they’re ready for these types of careers.”

The goal of STEM, Campbell said, is to increase interest, awareness and student achievement, and to improve the state’s work force.

“We’re going to see that. I think we’re seeing some real significant changes happening,” she said.

STEM had 12 programs its first year, nine its second, and this year had 10 programs. For its fourth year it will feature those same 10 programs and possibly add five more.

Programs include “A World in Motion,” which focuses on engineering and features glider and gravity cruiser projects; KidWind, an agricultural project which allows students to build turbines; as well as Hyperstream, Project Lead the Way, and PEERS (Partnership for Engineering Educational Resources for Schools), in association with Pella Corporation.

“The goal of this program is not to fund every last school for every last program they need,” she said. “In fact, it’s more of a startup. And we’re trying to get in placed where it’s not.”

According to Campbell, STEM programs impacted 100,000 students its second year, in 2013-14, and showed an 87 percent increase in interest in STEM topics and 51 percent increased interest in STEM careers.

“We want real world experiences, and that’s where businesses come in,” she said. “How can you help us either create some real world experiences? Or, how can we get kids out to see your business? I’d like to figure out ways to even simulate things that are happening.”

Campbell showed a chart of practices for math, science and English language arts used in STEM programs, including problem solving and analyzing and interpreting data.

“As employers, I’d like you to take a look at these things and see if these are things you would like to see in the folks that you hire,” Campbell said. “This is what we want in our classrooms. I would challenge you, go visit some classrooms. See what it’s like. Help us figure out what we want to do and what we can do as part of the solution so we can work collaboratively on them.”

To help become involved in the initiative, Campbell said to connect with area STEM leaders and to share time, talents and resources with area students.