Overcoming the STEM Opportunity Gap

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By Donald E. Bossi, President of FIRST

Our communities – and our classrooms – are more diverse than ever before. In fact, Generation Z and Millennials, who make up nearly half (48 percent) of the United States’ population, are more multicultural in their race and ethnic compositions than previous generations. As demographics continue to shift, so does the opportunity to build a uniquely diverse and innovative workforce – one that can truly address the challenges facing today’s world. However, for this to happen, the faces in the professional pipeline must change and mirror those of our schools and neighborhoods.

As educators, parents, and business leaders, we have a responsibility to offer all students – especially those who are underserved and underrepresented in STEM – equitable opportunities and pathways to success as contributing members of the workforce. It’s no secret that employers are looking for young talent with STEM skills and digital literacy. Moving forward, nearly every career – whether in product development, manufacturing, marketing, or the arts – will be more reliant on tech skills. By 2021, 69 percent of U.S. executives expect to choose job candidates with data science skills over those without. The students best prepared to fill these roles and find success after graduating high school will be those who experience meaningful STEM engagement opportunities throughout their K-12 years.

The foundation of any prosperous society lies in providing accessible advancement opportunities for its citizens. For today’s students, hurdles abound, whether financial, cultural, or geographic. Our responsibility is to ensure all kids have access to the tools they need to secure sustainable, living-wage jobs. Critical to accomplishing this is early exposure to high-quality, hands-on, STEM learning experiences that engage and inspire students. An example of where this type of early exposure is already being offered and is making an impact can be seen in the efforts of a nonprofit organization that I lead called FIRST. FIRST offers a progression of programs beginning at age 6 and continuing through high school that engages kids in a series of mentor-guided robotics competitions and innovation challenges, connecting STEM learning to exciting, real-world activities. In addition to STEM exposure, students in FIRST programs meet mentor role models and learn about innovation, entrepreneurship, and 21st-century skills like teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Research has shown FIRST programs are game-changers for kids, opening them up to a world of opportunity. Additionally, STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants help make these programs available and accessible to underserved communities and underrepresented students, while committed supporters also make more than $50 million in scholarships available annually to graduating FIRST seniors to pursue higher education.

Schools are also recognizing the value that curriculum and environmental changes can have in making a positive impact on student advancement. Across the country, school systems are working hard to ensure all kids feel welcome, have a voice, and receive an equal shot at finding success. In a model worth emulating, a Ypsilanti, Michigan-based school with a large population of underserved students created STEM-centric programs based on the concept and ethos of FIRST. Since making this format change, the school’s graduation rate has jumped from 69 percent to 97 percent. Daily attendance is up from 84 percent to 92 percent, and suspensions have plummeted from 35 percent to the low single digits. At Ypsilanti STEMM Middle College, the STEM-focused curriculum is making tangible differences in the lives of students. One young man overcame a troubled home life to become valedictorian of his class, while another student, dealing with the emotional ramifications of her mother being deported, found a place to explore her interest in science. Thanks to the school’s changes and new concentration on STEM, students can pursue their passions in an affirming environment and gain the skills they’ll need in the modern workforce.

The responsibility to empower students from diverse backgrounds to succeed doesn’t rest solely on nonprofits and schools; it also falls on companies. As a management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton understands this, having recently refreshed its values to include “Collective Ingenuity” or the ability to harness the power of diversity. Booz Allen Hamilton reflects Collective Ingenuity in its hiring practices, its community-support efforts – including supporting many FIRST teams – and how it approaches client challenges. They and other companies have a critical role to play in bolstering diversity in STEM, whether by providing scholarships to underserved and underrepresented students, offering relatable mentors for female and minority students, or awarding internships to students who otherwise wouldn’t have those prospects. They realize we shouldn’t be leaving talent on the table and are taking the necessary steps to ensure we don’t.

Together, businesspeople, educators, and nonprofit leaders can ensure we aren’t ignoring the potential of our diverse student population when it comes to STEM outcomes. That starts with investing in your community: Get to know the young faces in your local schools and neighborhoods. Find out what they need for success, and connect them with resources and youth-serving programs – like FIRST – that can help them get there. We need kids of all backgrounds, capabilities, and social circumstances to contribute and participate in addressing the world’s toughest challenges. With equitable access to opportunity, relevant mentorship, and engagement, any student can build a foundation for a bright future.

A Leading Voice in Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

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Wayne Sutton

Wayne Sutton is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Change Catalyst and its Tech Inclusion programs. Change Catalyst is dedicated to exploring innovative solutions to diversity and inclusion in tech through the Tech Inclusion Conference, training, workshops and the Change Catalyst Startup Fellows Program.

Sutton’s experience includes years of establishing partnerships with large brands to early stage startups. As a leading voice in diversity and inclusion in tech, Sutton shares his thoughts on solutions and culture in various media outlets, where he has been featured in TechCrunch, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal. In addition to mentoring and advising early stage startups, Sutton’s life goal is to educate entrepreneurs who are passionate about using technology to change the world.

Wayne has over 14 years’ experience in technology, design, and business development. Wayne has been recognized as one of the Silicon Valley 100 coolest people in tech, one of the 52 hottest new stars in Silicon Valley, one of the 46 Most Important African-Americans In Technology by Business Insider and one of the Top 100 most influential black people on social media in 2014.

In 2014 Wayne co-founded BUILDUP, a non-profit designed to support an inclusive ecosystem of entrepreneurs through educational workshops and fellows program for underrepresented tech founders. In 2011, Wayne co-founded the NewMe Accelerator, the first minority led startup accelerator/incubator in Silicon Valley which was featured in CNN Black in America 4. Prior to NewMe he worked in media in Raleigh, NC for NBC17 and the News and Observer. In 2009, Wayne was the co-founder of TriOut, a mobile location-based startup in Raleigh, NC which exited. Wayne has worked with large brands, Inc 500 companies and advises several technology startups. With a passion for community Wayne has organized Social Media Conferences, tech meetups, and hackathons such as the world’s first Food Hackathon, which assembled leading food innovators, chefs, developers, designers and entrepreneurs to collaborate on solutions in the food ecosystem.

Wayne has been featured on CNN, BBC, USA Today, TechCrunch, Mashable, Black Enterprise, and various online media outlets. Being an early adopter, Wayne was one of the first 1000 users on Twitter, which has led to a loyal following not only on Twitter, but also Facebook and Google+. His blog SocialWayne.com has been ranked one of the 50 best technology and social media blogs in the world over the years.

Wayne is a past TED attendee in 2012. With a passion for education and storytelling, Wayne has spoken at several universities and major internet and technology focused conferences, such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, Duke, UNC, NC State, TEDx, World Wide Web(WWW) Conference, O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo, South By South West (SXSW), DockerCon 2015 and for the U.S. Embassy Jamaica during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015.

Source: socialwayne.com

STEM: K-8 Engineering

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As more K-8 programs focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, teachers are finding that chaos creates learning opportunities.

The project was not exactly going as planned—Carrie Allen had a classroom overrun with fruit flies. Her first graders were studying composting, and they were getting more of an ecology lesson than they’d expected. But at Richfield STEM School, an inquiry-based K–5 school in Richfield, Minnesota, both teachers and students take fruit-fly invasions in stride.

“The kids came up with the idea that we should make traps for the fruit flies,” explains Allen. Students then tested to see which traps worked the best—giving them a chance to incorporate the classic engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve).

“I can’t imagine not teaching like this anymore,” says Allen. “It just opens up so many other possibilities for the kids.”

STEM has been a hot topic lately, as politicians and business leaders worry over the lack of qualified workers in the sciences and engineering. Though much public discussion focuses on higher education and high school curriculum, educators and others are realizing that for students to really get hooked on the sciences, STEM instruction has to start early. That’s where Richfield STEM and other newly minted K–8 programs come into play. Elementary educators need not fear the shift in emphasis. In fact, as generalists, they are uniquely qualified to lead inquiry-based STEM lessons.

Blur the Lines

As the head of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Yvonne Ng is used to taking the intimidation factor out of STEM. She has found that one of the main challenges for teachers new to the curriculum is overcoming their discomfort with math, science, and, especially, engineering. The best STEM instruction is open-ended and inquiry-based, but this format, she says, can seem chaotic to elementary teachers.

Monica Foss advises that teachers embrace the chaos. “It’s always messy in here,” says Foss, an engineering specialist at Cedar Park Elementary STEM School in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Teachers need to let go of the idea that they always have to have the answer, says Foss. “They have to be willing to live with mess and muddiness.”

Good STEM instruction blurs the lines between subject areas. As a consequence, STEM projects can be integrated into lessons in language arts, culture, and history.

In the Richfield district, all students are required to go through a unit on Duke Ellington; the STEM school adds another level, explains Principal Joey Page. After listening to Ellington’s music, students answer questions such as “How does sound work?” or “How did they make that instrument?” Page says the school is hoping to have students take apart one of its decommissioned pianos as part of the unit.

Hilburn Academy, in Raleigh, North Carolina, is in its second year of making the transition from a traditional curriculum to a STEAM school (the A is for arts). Elements of the traditional classroom remain, says Principal Gregory Ford, but the engineering-design process is used for all subjects. For example, guided reading groups may be tasked with coming up with solutions for a problem posed in their informational texts.

The biggest challenge for Ford’s teachers is finding time for open-ended learning. So they, like their students, work in groups to find solutions.

“It requires lots and lots of planning and collaboration with your teammates,” Ford says. “There’s really no existing inventory of these highly integrated STEAM lessons.”

And how does Hilburn Academy define STEAM?

“STEAM is a philosophy of education, not a program,” Ford says. “It is not the ‘what’ of curriculum; it is actually the ‘how.’”

Look Outside the iPad

It takes work to develop a STEM program. But districts don’t have to be flush with cash and expensive digital technology to implement it.

“Pretty much anything around us is technology,” says Richfield’s Allen. “That’s one thing we’re teaching the kids, too: Everything around us was created or engineered to solve a problem.”

Sophisticated STEM projects can be built around a simple tool such as a temperature probe, says David Carter, coauthor of a number of lab manuals, including Elementary Science With Vernier. For example, third graders could set out to create a vessel that keeps water as warm as possible. The science part comes into play as students learn the concept of heat transfer; the engineering side involves designing the best thermos. The temperature sensor itself allows students to record data, track their experiments, and improve their designs.

The motion-sensor project is another favorite of Carter’s. “They get the concept that this graph is telling a story,” he says. “They’re seeing this mathematical concept.” That, he explains, gets to the real advantage of STEM: “It’s easy because kids love it.”

At Dr. Albert Einstein Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey, technology can be as simple as a doorstop. Teachers often struggled to prop open heavy classroom doors, so they tasked students to design a better way to do it. (One early version was a sand-filled water bottle flattened in the middle. Another version made use of a cork-and-magnet device.) Tracy Espiritu, a science coach at the K–8 STEAM school, says a lot of teachers start with the question: “What is technology?”
The school has three criteria for teaching STEAM (here, the A is for architecture): Projects should be about solving a problem; students must apply the engineering-­design process; and technology should be considered a resource, not a subject.

Perhaps the most important lesson they learn along the way: Failure is part of the process.

Rethink Failure

The key to STEM (or STEAM) education is reinforcing the engineering-design process, says Espiritu, who worked in aerospace engineering before teaching middle school science. “Engineers, they don’t get it right the first time,” she says.

The learning process is a cycle. With each iteration, the design improves, says Espiritu. “Students get frustrated because they want the answer right away. You need that frustration. That’s how you learn.”

It took Allen a while to grasp the necessity of letting her kids fail. You want students to feel good about the experience, she says, but it’s okay for them to feel the discomfort that comes when something is not working.

Students at Minnesota’s Cedar Park Elementary face their first design challenge in kindergarten by building a boat out of clay, says Foss, the engineering specialist. Introducing kids to the engineering process—having them start again and fix the mistakes—at that age is much easier because they haven’t yet developed a fear of failure.

“We definitely need more scientists and engineers,” says Foss, but more than that, “we need a population that understands science and the engineering process.”

“This Is What We Need to Do Today”

STEM is continuing to gain steam, but will it sustain momentum?

Ng has seen increasing demand for her organization’s elementary STEM teacher certification program, which is offered through St. Catherine University, but still, she says, “whether it’s here to stay is a really good question.”

As with any new approach, challenges remain.

Public education needs STEM to remain relevant, says Ford, of Hilburn Academy. And students immediately grasp that relevance. He recalls one second-grade teacher remarking that students used to come into class and ask, “What are we doing today?” Now they say, “This is what we need to do today.”

STEM Resources

Start with the basics. You don’t need a cartload of iPads to teach STEM. Begin by looking out your front door. Does your school have a courtyard? Start a garden. Try a “tech take-apart” lesson by disassembling old TVs or VCRs. Students can build bridges out of manila folders or boats out of clay (see above); they can incorporate the engineering-design process (ask, imagine, plan, create, improve) into a variety of art projects.

Reach out to local institutions. Whether there’s a nature center or a tech company next door to your school, your neighbors are the best folks to start with when you’re seeking resources for STEM initiatives. And be sure to cultivate partnerships with local businesses and colleges, too.

See what the state offers. Many state education departments have set up websites with STEM resources. Visit stemconnector.org and click on “State by State” to find links to organizations in your area. The site serves as a clearinghouse of resources offered by corporations, nonprofits, and professional organizations.

From the Math Magazine, Scholastic.

Karlie Kloss and Teach for America team up to help 1,000 girls learn to code

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Karlie Kloss’ passion for coding hasn’t faded. And to prove it, the 25-year-old model and entrepreneur is taking her nonprofit coding program to the next level.

After taking a coding class herself, Kloss launched Kode With Klossy in 2015 in the hopes of making coding lessons more accessible to young girls and inspiring them to pursue careers in the tech industry. Now, the program is expanding its reach by launching 50 coding summer camps in 25 cities across America.

As a result, Kode With Klossy will be able to serve 1,000 girls this year between the ages of 13 and 18. The nonprofit is also partnering with Teach For America in a new initiative to train educators, so they can bring coding curricula back to their own communities.

“I initially took a coding class because I wanted to understand what this language I kept hearing about was,” Kloss said, explaining that she didn’t originally set out to start a nonprofit.

But after realizing what a powerful role coding plays in creating technologies that can transform society, she knew it was something she wanted to expose others to.

“I realized coding is amazing and thought, ‘How did I not have access to these skills sooner?'” she said.

“I wanted to offer that experience and that kind of learning to other girls who also might not have access to it,” she added, “because it’s going to continue to be relevant in the world that we live in.”

A day in the life of a Koder

The 1,000 girls that will get the opportunity to attend Karlie’s coding camps this summer will ultimately learn how to build a mobile app or website by the end of the two-week program.

Kode With Klossy currently teaches different “tracks,” including back-end and front-end development, allowing kids to learn the fundamentals of programming languages such as HTML, CSS, Ruby, and Javascript.

“This year we’ve also got a really exciting new track on Swift, so the girls at our camps not only learn the ABCs of code, but real-world examples of tech that touches our lives today,” Kloss said. “They’re learning what a loop is or how to interpolate using concepts or ideas that touch their lives, like Instagram, Twitter, or Postmates.”

Continue onto Mashable to read the complete article.

The Future is STEM—5 Top STEM Jobs

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As more and more jobs come under threat from automation, many Americans, particularly college freshmen, would be wise to enter a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) field, according to one workplace authority.

“Technology is advancing at a record-setting pace, and the workforce needs to reflect this trend. The jobs of the future, no matter the industry or level, are no doubt going to involve at least a rudimentary knowledge of technology. Those who enter a STEM profession will have a leg-up in the new economy,” said John Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to the Department of Education (DOE), studying science or math in college leads to a higher employment rate and salary than other majors after graduation. Indeed, the STEM fields have shown an increase in total postings over the past several years. In fact, in May 2015 there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs or 6.2 percent of US employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Employment in STEM occupations grew by 10.5 percent, or 817,260 jobs, between May 2009 and May 2015, compared with 5.2 percent net growth in non-STEM occupations, according to the BLS. Computer occupations and engineers were among the categories of STEM with the highest job gains, too.

The STEM group that has the highest projected growth is the mathematical science occupations group, at 28.2 percent growth, compared to the 6.5 percent average projected growth for all occupations. This group includes occupations such as statistician, mathematicians, actuaries, etc.

Computer occupations make up the highest representation of STEM jobs. In May 2015, they made up nearly 45 percent of STEM employment, with engineers following in second making up 19 percent. Computer occupations also show the highest projected job openings according to the BLS. “The computer occupational group is projected to yield over 1 million job openings from 2014 to 2024, with the smallest number of projected job openings in the architect, surveyors, and cartographers group, at only 52,500 projected openings.”

While women are increasingly prominent in medicine, law, and business, they are underrepresented in STEM fields.

“Women are an important aspect of any workplace, as is all diversity hiring. According to McKinsey, companies with a racially and ethnically diverse workforce outperform industry standards by 35 percent, and those with high gender diversity outperform by 15 percent.

“Companies, especially those who primarily recruit from one of the STEM fields, would be wise to invest in implementing diverse hiring practices, as well as programs that encourage women and minorities to enter STEM fields,” Challenger said.

The wages for STEM occupations vary vastly, but the national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, according to the BLS. This is nearly double the average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700). Additionally, 93 percent of STEM occupations had wages higher than the national average mean wage. The highest paying STEM occupation is petroleum engineers with an annual mean wage of $149,590—more than $100,000 higher than the national average across all occupations.

Challenger offered a list of the top five STEM jobs.

  1. Computer Systems Analysts – Implement and design computer systems for an organization.• 118,600 Projected Jobs
    • $85,800 Median Salary
    • 2.4% Unemployment Rate
  2. Statisticians – Collect and analyze data to solve problems or create efficiency within an organization.
  • 10,100 Projected Jobs
    • $80,110 Median Salary
    • 0.8% Unemployment Rate
  1. Software Developers – Create programs that allow people to work more efficiently or perform new tasks.
  • 135,300 Projected Jobs
    • $98,260 Median Salary
    • 2.0% Unemployment Rate
  1. Mathematicians – Apply mathematical techniques to analyze data. These workers typically work for the federal government and public and private engineering and science research.
  • 700 Projected Jobs
    • $111,110 Median Salary
    • 0.8% Unemployment Rate
  1. Financial Advisors – Advise consumers and businesses on best ways to manage assets.
  • 73,900 Projected Jobs
    • $89,160 Median Salary
    • 2.0% Unemployment Rate

Source: challengergray.com

Why Parents Should Help Kids Focus On Turning Their Dreams Into Reality

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Toymakerz

REIDSVILLE, NC –  Each year there are kids who hang up what they love and walk away. They leave the sports behind, stop playing their favorite games, quit drawing, building, and more. They are led to believe that unless what they are doing is seen as constructive and fits into the boxes that have been set for them that they are simply wasting their time. Many of those kids are walking away from what they are passionate about, rather than being taught to follow their dreams. One celebrity, David Ankin, who followed his passion and dreams has set out on a mission to inspire kids to do the same.

“There is a reason why we all have things we are passionate about. Those are your calling and you should do anything but turn your back on them,” says David Ankin, inventor and star of the hit show ToyMakerz. “I’ve met with many kids around the nation and I try to inspire them to follow those passions. I want them to turn their dreams into a reality. The rest of the world is waiting for what it is that they have to offer. Only when they embrace it will they be able to bring it to the forefront for everyone else to enjoy.”

Ankin doesn’t just talk the talk. He’s a living example of turning a dream into a reality and the importance of following one’s passion. Having a passion for creating one-of-a-kind custom hot rods and cars, considered to be adult toys that are built for fun or speed, he took his love for these machines and built an empire. That dream turned into a reality when he started a company called ToyMakerz, where the adult toys are made, and has also been turned into a hit television show, where people can tune in and see him work his magic.

Committed to giving back, Ankin routinely gives talks to kids and their parents, with the theme focused on inspiring them to follow their dreams. Whether giving these talks at city events or at schools, his mission remains the same. He wants to let kids and their parents know that it’s OK to have a passion and that they don’t have to give it up simply because they become adults. Rather, they should embrace it and see where it will take them.

Here are 6 reasons why Ankin believes that parents should help kids focus on turning their dreams into reality:

  • Happiness. We are happiest when we are following our passion and doing things that excite us. By getting kids to follow their passion, they will have more joy in their life.
  • Creativity. Those who follow their passion will find their own way in the world. They can’t be told that what they want to do isn’t possible. They will use their creativity to navigate the way, even if it means clearing a new path.
  • Support. The world has a way of trying to hold people back from reaching their dreams. Parents who support their kids in pursuing theirs will help to create confident kids who won’t be held back by limitations.
  • Work ethic. No matter what a child’s passion may be, it will take hard work to turn it into a career. Teaching kids to work hard for what they want is a great way to build a strong work ethic.
  • Adventure. Many adults find themselves at a standstill and wish there was something more. Kids who are taught to follow their dreams will feel as though they have been given a ticket to adventure. They are more likely to grow up to be adults who have passion for what they do.
  • Exploration. By letting kids follow their dreams they will dive into exploring a topic they are interested in. Giving them the ability to learn more about whatever field it is they are interested in can go a long way toward sparking their creativity and expanding their education. Places like WonderWorks (a science focused indoor amusement park) is a great place for exploring STEM education and letting the imagination run wild.

“If I hadn’t followed my passion and turned my dream into a reality, I’d not be where I am today,” added Ankin. “I know the importance of following your dreams and it feels so good to do so. I’m committed to helping parents see the importance of supporting their child’s dreams and encouraging them to dream big. This is what I teach my son and hope that I’m able to inspire others.”

ToyMakerz was founded by David Ankin, who is a former stuntman WonderWorks_ToyMakerzwho used to do stunts with motorcycles, racecars, and also at Universal Studios for their Batman and Water World shows. Watching his father use metal to build things when he was growing up inspired him to go on to do the same. Today, he has earned praise for the eccentric one-of-kind street machines that he’s built. There is nothing idle about his work. Ankin has surrounded himself with a top-notch team, starting with David Young, who is his business partner. Young manages the business side of ToyMakerz and serves as its President and CFO.

ToyMakerz partnered with Source Digital to develop an app, which is helping fans connect with the show. Enhancing the viewer experience with new digital brand integrations, the ToyMakerz app lets fans connect with the cast, score exclusive deals on anything they see on the screen while they are watching the show live, and share pictures of their own rides!

The ToyMakerz TV show is currently re-airing episodes from season 2 On Demand on Velocity. ToyMakerz season one is also available on iTunes and Amazon. ToyMakerz is produced by Los Angeles based production company, Lucky13Cinematic. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

# # #

About ToyMakerz

ToyMakerz is a company that makes adult toys built for fun and speed. Some of their creations can be seen on the ToyMakerz hit television show focusing on the life and creations of Dave Ankin, a former stuntman who now makes toys for big boys. The show features the one-of-a-kind street machines that he builds. ToyMakerz is currently being aired weekly on Velocity. For more information about ToyMakerz, visit the site at: http://toymakerz.com.

About Source Digital
Source Digital (www.sourcedigital.net) specializes in content monetization strategies letting viewers dive deeper into their favorite programs. Industry-leading experts developed the Source Digital platform, offering a data driven, cloud-based engagement platform connecting a new generation of content viewers. The platform allows content owners to design and fulfill personalization and monetization strategies against their broadcast or streamed programs directly connecting to viewers, allowing them to instantly access and discover related experiences from their favorite device – smart phone, tablet, computer and TV.

Power Up: Computing Student Publishes Hand-Drawn Game on Google Play

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women in stem

Prior to taking the game modification development course taught by University Lecturer D.J. Kehoe last spring, computer science major Angela Vitaletti ’18 had never developed or programmed a videogame before.

“I would always bite off more than I could chew, and never finish,” said Vitaletti, who is from Middlesex and transferred to NJIT from Northampton Community College in Pennsylvania. “I took game mod as a way to motivate myself because it has real deadlines and projects that D.J. helps make achievable.”

To guide the learning process and create a culture of accountability, Vitaletti worked side-by-side with Kehoe to determine her individual project deliverables.

“We feel that this approach is a good analogue for working in industry and gives students a sense of ownership of the work that they do,” said Kehoe, who graduated from NJIT in 2009 with an M.S. in computer science. “It’s nice to give students portfolio-building projects that they can feel proud to show off.”

Upon completion of the course, not only was Vitaletti armed with work samples for her portfolio, she managed to publish a game on Google Play.

It’s called Doodle Doo, a digitally hand-drawn mobile game that puts players’ short-term memory to the test. The scribbles that live inside students’ notebooks inspired the concept. Offering four levels of difficulty, Doodle Doo personifies the youthful joy and reckless fun of high school, where wacky hijinks and tomfoolery abound.

Level one requires you to memorize which students hurled paper balls behind a teacher’s back before the pesky pupils scatter back to their seats, while level four transports you to a gymnasium during a power outage. When the lights come on, you must remember and identify what has disappeared from the space.

“The scenarios are ridiculous, but a lot of fun,” said Vitaletti, who drew the entire game by hand, down to the font. And while she’s ear-to-ear smiles now, the journey to complete Doodle Doo was often challenging.

“I spent nearly every single day developing the game,” she recalled. “I would spend hours trying to work out what seemed like a simple problem. There were a lot of times I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. I kept going.”

This display of perseverance, along with salable skills, project management experience and a strong work ethic, is exactly what Kehoe wants the students to take away from the course.

“The game development projects are substantial and daunting,” he admitted. “But after getting through them, our students can face a large project and complete it.”

Continue onto the New Jersey Institute of Technology Newsroom to read the complete article.

Google Doodle Celebrates Astronomer Guillermo Haro

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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 105th birthday of astronomer Guillermo Haro, who discovered a new class of nebula and helped promote astronomical research in Mexico.

Haro, born on March 21, 1913, discovered a type of nebula now known as Herbig-Haro objects. These bright clouds form when jets of ionized gas from young stars collised with nearby clouds of gas and dust. Herbig-Haro objects are short-lived by astronomical standards; they last just a few thousand years, and they change dramatically over just a few years. Haro was one of the first to realize that these objects were the result of the cosmically violent process of star formation; astronomer George Herbig, working independently, came to the same conclusion at around the same time, so the two astronomers share the honor of the name.

And Haro also discovered a type of star, now called flare stars, which flares bightly across the whole electromagnetic spectrum for a few minutes at a time, on apparently random intervals. Today, astronomers believe that most flare stars are dim red dwarf stars, although there are some more massive exceptions, and their flares are high-intensity versions of solar flares, caused by changes in the stars’ magnetic fields. Our two nearest neighbors, Proxima Centauri and Barnard’s Star, are flare stars.

In addition to new classes of astronomical objects, Haro also discovered several planetary nebulae, a number of young variable stars called T Tauri stars, a supernova and ten novae, and a comet. He also spent much of his career composing a catalog of blue stars toward the north galactic pole and a list of blue galaxies.

When he wasn’t looking skyward, Haro advocated for astronomical research in Mexico, and in 1959 he became the first person from Mexico to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. He died on April 26, 1988.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Mae Jemison: Diversity In STEM Isn’t A Nicety, It’s A Necessity

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The first African-American woman in space discusses her agricultural science initiative.

Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, knows firsthand the importance of exposing kids to STEM topics early. She also knows the significance of having kids see themselves in movies, on TV, and in certain careers.

“It means making sure that people get those images that show they have those things available to them,” Jemison told HuffPost.

Jemison is collaborating on “Science Matters,” an initiative to encourage kids of all ages and backgrounds to pursue agricultural science from pharmaceutical and life science company Bayer and youth development organization National 4-H Council. Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer, knows the field of agricultural science can sound intimidating, but she and Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO and president of the National 4-H Council, have set out to change that.

Digging into agricultural science can be as simple as asking, “Where does my food come from?” An increasingly popular way to kick-start this sort of interest is through urban gardens, Jemison explained.

“There’s nothing more exciting to see something growing ― and you can eat it!” Jemison said. “That’s something parents can do with their kids as well.”

Sirangelo agreed, noting that agricultural science is more than horticulture and animal science and has huge applications for our future.

“The need to produce more food with fewer resources over the coming decades is going to push our science even further,” she told HuffPost.

As Jemison put it, we need to prepare our kids “to not just survive, but thrive.”

Bringing more children into STEM topics like agricultural science isn’t enough, though. Diversity is imperative, especially for women and people of color, groups underrepresented in these fields, Jemison said.

“We’re losing talent and we’re losing capability by not including them,” she told HuffPost. “When people think about why it is important to have a diversity of talent in a field, they think of it as a nicety. No, it’s a necessity. We get better solutions.”

Continue onto the HuffingtonPost to read the complete article.

Odette Harris named America’s second female African-American neurosurgery professor at Stanford

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black female neurosurgeon

Odette Harris M.D. ’96 has made history by becoming America’s second African-American female professor of neurosurgery.Stanford’s department of neurosurgery announced her promotion on Tuesday.

Harris joins Lu Chen as the second female professor in the department of neurosurgery at the School of Medicine.

Harris, who specializes in traumatic brain injury, has served as the director of brain injury in the department of neurosurgery and the associate chief of staff of polytrauma and rehabilitation at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System since 2009. Harris is also a Clayman Institute Faculty Research Fellow and was awarded the William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship Award from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Harris said she developed a passion for the physical sciences and chemistry while studying at an all-girls high school.

“All those cliches about girl schools and empowering girls and women, I think they’re true,” Harris said in an interview with Stanford Medicine.

During her undergraduate years at Dartmouth College, Harris said she sought to surround herself with “strong women.”

It was not until she attended Stanford School of Medicine that she said she experienced a “turning point both in terms of gender and race.” Harris was the only black woman in the School of Medicine’s class of 1996. She was also one of only two women during her neurosurgical residency at Stanford University Medical Center.

Nonetheless, Harris described her experience in medical school and residency as a positive one.

“My mentor was a white man who is blond and as East Coast as can be,” Harris said. “His skin color was irrelevant, as was mine to his experience of mentoring me.”

Continue onto Stanford University’s Newsroom to read the complete article.

These Top Tech Companies Are Hiring First, Training Later

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tech associates

Pinterest, Airbnb, LinkedIn, and others are giving apprentice engineers with nontraditional backgrounds a shot at tech jobs–and paying them to learn.

Madelyn Tavarez doesn’t have a computer science degree. She studied economics in college and interned in finance-related roles before taking a 10-month coding course called Access Code, with C4Q. Now Tavarez works for Pinterest–as an Android engineer.

But first, she started as an apprentice Android engineer.

Despite high demand for tech talent, big-name employers tend to pick their new hires from predictable talent pools in their own backyards. A recent analysis by Paysa found that companies like Snap and Apple recruit heavily from Stanford, while Microsoft and Amazon stick to Seattle’s own University of Washington. Not exactly a recipe for a workforce to mirror these firms’ global user bases.

So the odds were high that Tavarez would’ve wound up just another millennial barista with a bachelor’s degree, instead of one of three candidates chosen out of hundreds for Pinterest’s new apprenticeship program–an approach to training nontraditional tech talent that other businesses, including Airbnb, LinkedIn, and Visa are now testing out.

A SEA OF POTENTIAL

Pinterest launched its apprenticeship program in early 2016 to widen the 1,200-person company’s access to self-taught coders, coding bootcamp grads, and others who may not have had the advantage of attending top schools or working at brand-name businesses. According to Pinterest diversity chief Candice Morgan, Tavarez and two others made the cut due to “promise, passion, and a stated interest.”

To get there, Tavarez went through several rounds of interviews, first remotely and then in person. The latter included a tech screening with a Pinterest staffer present in a mentorship role, allowing Tavarez to show she knew the basics in a lower-pressure environment. But she also had to go through a full day’s worth of showcasing her knowledge of software architecture, coding, and algorithms, just like any other tech hire.

LinkedIn’s “REACH” apprenticeship program is similar. According to the initiative’s executive sponsor, Mohak Shroff, who also serves as SVP of engineering, applicants had to submit a portfolio software project, then do a take-home technical assignment, followed by in-person interviews. With more than 700 applicants, Shroff admits narrowing down to 31 apprentices was “agonizing.” This first-ever cohort of 29 started a six-month tenure at LinkedIn in April. The company hasn’t yet announced how many were offered full-time jobs.

Last June, Airbnb started “Airbnb Connect” for its engineering and data science teams. Apprentices were all people from underrepresented backgrounds who had two to five years’ experience in non-technical fields. Three apprentices in engineering were sourced, like Tavarez, from C4Q, while Galvanize, another tech education company, helped Airbnb recruit for eight additional data-science apprenticeships.

A company called Andela, which launched in 2014, is tackling the apprenticeship idea from a supply side. It helps connect talented engineers from across Africa with some 100 partner companies like Viacom and Gusto, so those firms can build distributed teams. Much as an in-house apprentice program might, Andela trains its developers extensively over a six-month period before placing them at employers.

Continue onto Fast Company to read the complete article.