From the Executive Director’s Desk: STEM Ecosystem Has National Focus

The development of a national perspective and respect for STEM's role as a national priority is expanding from its traditional haven within academic programs that produce the nation's mathematicians, engineers, technicians and scientists. The bellwether notes about US lower rankings in international STEM-related tests and the tendency of some to dismiss STEM-based information has led to the creation of the STEM Ecosystem. This industry, community, and government coalition is driving the discussion about equitable STEM education and federal STEM policy while addressing the critical issues about the number and STEM knowledge and skill quality of high school graduates. The strategy is to build all students’ STEM knowledge and expertise by integrating and reinforcing the efforts of schools, out of school programs, businesses, institutions of higher education, and STEM-rich institutions such as museums.

This national STEM Ecosystem approach shifted into high gear when STEM Ecosystem leaders

convened at the White House last month. At this workshop, these 27 inaugural groups selected by the STEM Funders Network appreciated John Holdren's, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, challenge “The President has called for all of us to think of creative and effective ways of getting all of our students engaged in STEM education.” And kudos! “It’s heartening to see so many communities working locally and together in response to the President’s call to action.”

Other speakers included; Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education; Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer; Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Roberto Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education Policy. A panel of Federal, Place-Based and STEM initiative representatives fielded questions about the resources (including some grants) that their programs offered. In addition to the offices listed above, the other organizations represented included the Economic Mobility, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Corporation of National Community Service, and the National Science Foundation. The underlying theme from these participants is the inception, development and expansion of STEM Ecosystems projects to optimize the impact of the many formal and informal STEM education programs to provide broader accessibility for all students by utilizing four strategies:
  • Cultivate Cross-Sector Partnerships
  • Creating and Connecting STEM-Rich Learning Environments
  • Equipping Educators
  • Supporting Youth Pathways

FLATE was invited to participate in the White House meeting as a member of the “Tampa Bay STEM Network”. This Network is spearheaded by the School District of Hillsborough Country and includes a wide array of partners including MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry, as a co-lead), the Florida Aquarium, the USF College of Education, the Coalition for Science Literacy, and the local STEM Funders Network member. The “Tampa Bay STEM Network” will use its first year seed funds to develop a plan of action for the community and determine how Hillsborough County can best leverage the many and diverse resources, organizations, and funds to create an effective and motivating STEM ecosystem to provide STEM educational content to all children and support educational pathways to STEM careers.

As an NSF ATE Center, one of FLATE's goals is to create, identify and emphasize efficient career paths through A.S. programs to rewarding careers in manufacturing. For us, providing energy and expertise to the “Tampa Bay STEM Network” is a win-win situation. We recommend that other ATE centers check out their nearest STEM Ecosystem because you will also have resources and expertise that is well invested in their efforts. The full list of inaugural STEM Ecosystems is available at: http://stemecosystems.org/community-of-practice. This site also provides information about the goal, adjectives and projects of these ecosystems.

Now let’s get to the other good stuff in this holiday edition of the FLATE Focus. We bring

you many exciting stories as we look to round off the year. Of TOP interest to you might be the story summarizing post event data from MFG Day 2015. We are proud to hold the #1 spot in the nation (once again) for hosting #FLMFGMonth15 and #MFGday15 industry tours and events, and would once like to thank our statewide partners for joining us in this effort. This month we are also resurrecting our mini-series on new engineering technology faculty, and have two stories about women educators who are doing their part in educating and training the next industrial athlete of the future. = This month’s sTEm puzzle, a special ‘North Pole Addition’ is hilariously challenging. Do get your ribs tickled while taking a crack at solving the puzzle! This and many more updates and stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus.

From all of us at FLATE, have a holly, jolly, happy and safe holidays & a prosperous 2016!