In February ComEd launched its Solar Spotlight program, designed to expose African American high school students to opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) as part of its annual Black History Month celebration.
During ComEd’s Solar Spotlight, more than 60 high school students participated in the two-day educational sessions where they interacted with STEM professionals, including ComEd engineers and executives, and learned more about solar energy, famous African American STEM leaders and careers.
The Solar Spotlight curriculum includes live solar demonstrations and new this year, the students helped assemble portable solar suitcases in conjunction with the team from We Share Solar. The portable suitcases included solar cells that generate energy and can become a back-up power source during emergencies for lights, cell phones and computers. The suitcases assembled by the students will be sent to local community centers and some will be sent beyond Illinois’ borders to locations like Haiti and Puerto Rico, which have been impacted by hurricanes that caused massive power outages.
The Solar Spotlight educational events took place on February 10 at the ComEd Training Center in Bridgeport, and on February 17, students visited the Illinois Tech’s (IIT) campus. While at IIT, Solar Spotlight students were given a tour of the facility and introduced to current IIT students.
Anne Pramaggiore, President and CEO of ComEd noted that the company was “ honored to celebrate Black History Month and help African-American students in our communities learn more about career options that could make positive impact on their future.” She said “In the next 10 years, the workforce will need 1 million additional STEM jobs and these jobs are growing faster in terms of opportunity and pay. It’s critical that we create awareness of these career opportunities and help to build a diverse workforce of the future. My hope is that one day these students will return to join the ComEd team.”
The educational events are part of ComEd’s effort to cultivate the next wave of STEM talent and create the workforce of the future. While African-Americans make up 14 percent of college students, they represent only 8 percent of general engineering, 7 percent of mathematics and 5 percent of computer engineering majors. To urge the students toward STEM careers, ComEd engineers, employees and members of the Exelon African-American Resource Alliance (EAARA) serve as the students’ mentors for the programming.
To help ensure the Solar Spotlight program is engaging and memorable for its high school participants, ComEd has also enlisted the support of local organizations like Blue Studios, who are committed to building STEM pathways for kids of every age and background, and music personalities J Niice of B96 and DJ OddCouple. For more information about ComEd’s Solar Spotlight program, visit ComEd.com/SolarSpotlight
Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
When Tara Chklovski, an aerospace engineer from India, came to the United States to pursue her Ph.D, she noticed a lack of interest in technology.
“It was interesting to see that the same drive in technology [in India] wasn’t here,” Chklovski said. “Girls are not encouraged to go into engineering and tech.”
It soon became apparent to her that something needed to be done about that. So she decided to give young people from underserved communities, particularly girls, the opportunity to become innovative leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
And in 2006 in Los Angeles, she founded Iridescent to do just that.
Since then, about 100,000 children, parents, mentors and educators have participated in the organization’s two international programs: Technovation and Curiosity Machine.
Technovation, which is for middle and high school students, gives girls the chance to learn necessary skills to become leaders and entrepreneurs in the tech world.
Girls in the program are encouraged to find a problem in their communities and are challenged to solve them by creating a mobile application, Chklovski said. In teams and with the support of mentors and a curriculum, the girls go through several stages of introducing their own mobile app startup.
Then there is Curiosity Machine, a family science program where children and their parents participate in a weekly design challenge. In it, they explore everything from computer science to biomechanics using simple household items like popsicle sticks or cardboard.
A few weeks ago, the nonprofit launched its Artificial Intelligence Family Challenge, in which students ages 8 to 15 and their families learn the basics of artificial intelligence technology by building projects together.
“The big challenge is that AI is changing the world in big ways,” Chklovski said, and “the education system is going to take many years to react and respond.” This challenge intends to prepare young girls for it.
Although the AI challenge is still in the developing stages at some schools, STEAM coordinator for local district east of the Los Angeles Unified School District Craig Sipes said he is seeing a lot of excitement from teachers, principals and parents.
“[The project] is really fun and engaging and thought provoking for kids,” Sipes said. “Kids love to do hands-on projects, and by introducing the engineering design process, we help students structure how to solve problems.”
The program is teaching kids that when things don’t work out, it doesn’t mean they failed; instead, it’s showing them that failure is an opportunity to grow, Sipes said.
But what makes these programs unique, Chklovski said, is their family design.
“A key part [of the success of these programs] is engaging parents; it’s a two-generational approach. It’s really important for the child and parent to learn [about STEAM],” Chklovski said.
But these programs, Chklovski has found, do more than provide children an opportunity to bond with their families and be mentored by STEM professionals; they’ve also bettered the individuals who participate in them.
“Often, kids who do well in the family challenge struggle academically. Once they find a creative and imaginative environment, they really try,” she said.
For many students, creating designs is the first time the child feels like he or she could be successful in something, Chklovski said.
But Iridescent hopes to reach beyond helping young children blossom; it hopes to help their parents and guardians, too.
“If some of these stay-at-home moms are not working because they are taking care of children, it’s a big loss of potential,” Chklovski said. But if the millions of stay-at-home mothers in the U.S., many who don’t take the academic path, take on an entrepreneurial route after the program, big things can happen.
“If you can open new horizons for 60 million [stay-at-home mothers], we can change the world.”
In an effort to encourage young people to pursue and succeed in STEAM careers (Science, Technology Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), Ford announced a new quarterly column dedicated to showcasing opportunities in STEAM. The column will appear on BlackPressUSA.com and will be available to NNPA members through the NNPA Newswire.
The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies, operating in the United States; the member publications reach more than 20 million readers, combined, in print and online every week.
The new column will begin in March.
“Rest assured, this will not be a self-serving platform,” said Renah Carlisle, a sales zone manager for Ford’s Phoenix Region. “Both Ford and the NNPA support STEAM initiatives and it is a reminder to our children, that the impossible is possible.”
This year, there will be more than 8 million jobs available in STEAM and the federal government alone will need an additional 10,000 workers for information technology and cybersecurity, Carlisle said.
“In tandem with other programs and initiatives, with the launch of this new STEAM column, we’re excited to not only put a focus on an important issue impacting our youth, but to also offer [another avenue] to increase awareness, consideration and participation in exciting, dynamic career opportunities available to all young people everywhere,” said Carlisle, in a press statement about the new STEAM column.
NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., said that the NNPA was excited to join Ford in this important conversation about the future of our youth.
“Across the country, our members serve as the voice and advocate for the communities they serve,” said Chavis, in a press statement about the new STEAM column. “The unsettling fact that every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school should be impetus enough for leaders, mentors and all who care about the future of our youth to develop a pipeline for future leaders in STEAM careers.”
The statement continued: “Both NNPA and Ford share a mutual commitment and support for STEAM initiatives and are excited to support innovation, differentiation and opportunities that help our youth ‘Go Further’ in tech,” and explore the limitless potential of the future.
London and Philadelphia — Is virtual reality finally ready to make inroads in K-12?
Technology companies are making a fresh push, and some market dynamics could provide them a tailwind. But there’s plenty of reason to remain skeptical.
That’s the takeaway from Education Week’s reporting from two conferences last month: Bett, a global ed-tech trade show hosted in London, and EduCon, a gathering of progressive educators and technology enthusiasts in Philadelphia.
Reasons to be bullish include new hardware advances, falling prices, and a wave of districts that will soon be looking to replace their existing computers and laptops. As a result, more than 15 percent of U.S. schools will have virtual-reality classroom kits by 2021, predicts Futuresource Consulting, a U.K.-based market-research firm.
“You’re going to see increasing adoption of this immersive technology,” said Ben Davis, a senior analyst for the group.
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan leads the nation in FIRST Robotics teams, and $2.5 million in state grants will help even more students benefit from the experiences of working with professionals and being inspired by seeing real-world applications of STEAM subjects, said Roger Curtis, director of the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development.
The grants, awarded by the Michigan Department of Education, are part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s continued investment in FIRST Robotics, which has students learning about applications of science, technology, engineering, arts and math through building robots for competitions – with the World Championships headed to Detroit in April.
“FIRST teaches students the skills that prepare them to be successful in the economy of our future,” Gov. Rick Snyder said. “Michigan is already first in FIRST, and these grants will go a long way in ensuring that advanced talent development continues.”
FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — was formed in 1989 to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills that inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded life capabilities, including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.
“We want as many students as possible to have access to great programs like FIRST that will build their interest in STEAM careers,” said Curtis, who serves as co-chair of the FIRST Robotics World Championships Detroit Steering Committee.
“Michigan already has more than 500 FIRST high school teams. When you watch a competition and see the excitement and the partnerships with experts working in the fields, you know you are watching the next generations of our state’s engineers and leaders.”
The $2.5 million was divided between public and non-public schools, with nearly $2.3 million awarded to 423 public schools and $157,700 to 39 non-public schools across the state. Programs received grants ranging from $100 to $9,000 to help grow programs. The list of schools awarded the grants is available on the Education Department’s website.
Michigan has invested $12 million helping schools start and strengthen FIRST teams since 2014.
“FIRST Robotics provides a perfect partnership to bring industry and education together to help students understand and learn the skills needed to land one of the many 21st Century jobs here in Michigan,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said. “Beyond that, FIRST exposes students to multiple career pathways, something critical to creating a Top 10 education system and helps build a robust talent pipeline for the thousands of jobs being created.”
FIRST has been a transformational program for many students and continues to be a leading catalyst for growing student interest in good-paying and high-demand careers currently going unfilled.
Students participating in FIRST programs across the state are two times as likely to major in science or engineering in college, and more than 75 percent of FIRST alumni are currently in a STEM field as a student or professional.
Michigan also has invested in the Square One Education Network and Skills USA, other programs that encourage students to work with mentors and apply real-world skills in competitions.
“We want to lead the world in talent development,” Curtis said. “This investment by the Michigan Department of Education is just another way Michigan is working toward that goal. The grants are a smart investment in Michigan’s continued economic growth.”
Curtis co-chairs the World Championships Detroit Steering Committee with Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe and Gail Alpert, president of FIRST Robotics in Michigan.
The World Championships, planned for April 25 through 28, are expected to include nearly 60,000 students and 700 teams to Ford Field and Cobo Center with four levels of competition. Last year, two Michigan teams were part of the winning alliance at the World Championships in St. Louis.