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Students will need 'STEM' for their future careers

September 1, 2008

by Mark Ollig

Gosh, another acronym for my readers to think about!

“STEM” stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

I admit math was one of my tougher “challenges” in grade school . . . however, I never would have learned those multiplication tables if it were not for my mother quizzing me using multiplication flash cards each evening after school.

Yes, dear readers, your humble columnist was not allowed to watch his favorite 1960s television show “Lost in Space” unless I was able to pass her multiplication quizzes.

This was a time when there were no home computers or electronic calculators. We needed to learn and retain information using the best processor on the planet . . . our brains.

I still have those multiplication answers stored in my neural hippocampus memory somewhere.

I am reminded of the line from the 1996 science fiction movie “Mars Attacks!” The Martians were chasing after the frightened humans calmly saying; “Do not run! We are your friends!”

Don’t be frightened and run from STEM!

Here is a comforting quote about math from Albert Einstein: “Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater.”

The STEM web site is located at http://www.mn-stem.com and is a Minnesota initiated educational web site to promote STEM courses for mostly high school students.

STEM is a learning resource intended for high school students, parents, and teachers.

The goal of STEM is to help students with their post secondary education and in pursuing of rewarding careers using innovative technology skills.

STEM is a statewide campaign started and supported by the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota High Tech Association, Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

The STEM web site has several motivating multimedia “tools” available on it also.

Some of the items in this “tool kit” include various study guides, including easy-to-read equation charts for trigonometry, geometry, physics, algebra and chemistry.

Downloadable conversion charts are also included in the STEM tool kit.

Advice from professionals who are working in high tech fields is given to students on the STEM web site, also.

One of these professionals, Kris Drake, is a digital photographer who was asked, “If you could invent one new thing, what would it be?” Drake responded with, “Software that combines Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver.” This is one example of where students can learn and apply STEM skills to some day build a software program to allow all the programs Drake listed to work as one.

Some of the technological course careers which STEM provides detailed information on includes: Automotive engineers, music recording engineers, game developers, architects and more.

There are also teaching resources for educators on the web site, too.

STEM provides many links to other resources which aid in learning as well. One of these links is to the Minnesota Academy of Science (MAS) which is a statewide organization dedicated to promoting interest in and appreciation of science.

The MAS is located 5 minutes west of Minneapolis near Highway 169 and Highway 7, just behind the Knollwood Mall.

Another local Minnesota link from STEM includes Science Math Minnesota or “SciMathMN.” The banner on their web site says: “Innovation. Collaboration. Technology. Information. As these forces change our world, they also change the face of science, mathematics and technology education.”

SciMathMN web site has a link to “Technology Literacy,” a term that can be defined as “. . . the ability to use, manage, assess, and understand technology.”

Understanding a specific technology also involves more than just facts and information; it also requires a person who can expand the ability to integrate information using innovative methods.

Today’s students will need to know how to apply these newly acquired STEM skills learned in school. By using technology wisely, today’s students will be able to successfully advance in their desired future careers.

A free 24-page booklet for parents and educators to help younger students from k-6 unlock the world of science and discovery at home and school is available on the SciMathMN web site. It is called “Science Matters” and can be downloaded. I shortened the lengthy URL name to: http://tinyurl.com/56ccfs (PDF file). This booklet is provided by the Medtronic Foundation.

The SciMathMN facility is located in the Science Museum of Minnesota building on 120 West Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul.

To see a PDF file description about SciMathMN, visit: http://tinyurl.com/6fwhv9 (link to a brief history about SciMathMN).

The Minnesota Department of Education web site is located at: http://tinyurl.com/6ms4a8. They have a link to the STEM web site under “Current Topics.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. said, “The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

As students begin moving into the new school year, I hope their learning and understanding of a STEM curriculum will provide a solid foundation for their future careers – and make known the new technologies of tomorrow.