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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

STEM Fields: Learning Today, Leading Tomorrow | Commentary

Written by Reps. Lamar Smith and Elizabeth Esty

While Americans hear mostly about gridlock and partisan fighting in Congress, the issues with strong bipartisan support often get overlooked.

Inspiring American students to pursue science and math education is a goal shared by Republicans and Democrats. The bipartisan STEM Education Act, passed by the House last month, strengthens science, technology, engineering and mathematics education efforts at federal science agencies. It also, for the first time, expands the definition of STEM to include computer science.
Computer science has become a crucial component of numerous industries, from banking to engineering to medicine. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computing and mathematics are among the top 10 fastest-growing major occupational groups with a growth rate four times that of overall industry growth.

The National Math and Science Initiative found that during the next decade, STEM job creation will grow nearly twice as fast as non-STEM positions. But STEM education is about more than job growth and ensuring good-paying careers for many Americans. The STEM students of today have the potential to develop life-saving technologies and generate new industries.
We have to inspire today’s young adults to pursue these careers. For example, even with this industry surge and the high pay-scale for STEM graduates, very few women pursue STEM degrees. The Census Bureau reported that while women make up nearly half of the American workforce, only a quarter of them work in STEM fields.

American students rank 21st in science and 26th in math. This must change for the country to compete globally. Now is the time to ensure our teachers have the proper training to prepare our students so they can succeed in a technology-driven economy. Whether we are educating students for advanced degrees in STEM or ensuring that young adults have the scientific and mathematic literacy to thrive in a 21st century technology based economy, the foundation for both of these begins in our K-12 schools. Strong support for STEM education in K-12 education will help our children attain good-paying jobs in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, health and biomedical industries, energy and information technology.

The ability to educate and inspire is a quality that all teachers should possess. Good teaching requires an additional and special set of knowledge and skills. The STEM Education Act ensures the Robert Noyce Master Teacher Fellowship program is open to teachers working toward a master’s degree in STEM subjects. The program allows them to bolster their math and science skills in order to become effective teachers and encourages more teachers to pursue advanced degrees.

The legislation also directs the National Science Foundation to continue to award competitive grants for out-of-school STEM learning experiences for both students and teachers. Career professionals in STEM fields should have opportunities to mentor the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians. There are numerous companies, foundations and nonprofit organizations doing their own part to successfully promote STEM education. Innovative public-private partnerships are a great way to leverage private sector expertise.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Opinion: Strengthening New Jersey's future through STEM

Written by Kim Guadagno

NEW JERSEY has long been a hotspot for innovation. Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity here. The light bulb, the phonograph, robots and LCD — all of these and more were invented in New Jersey.

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM, are critical drivers to prosperity in this state. Fourteen of the 20 largest biopharmaceutical companies call New Jersey home. New Jersey boasts the best STEM public high school in the country and is home to more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere in the world. In short, New Jersey is highly educated and perfectly located, and we aim to keep it that way.

The most successful and highest performing companies have incorporated technology into their core business models. Earlier this month, I joined the New Jersey Tech Council Conference for Chief Information and Information Security Officers and honored those members of our business community who use technology to protect their companies’ vital information. I have personally met with leaders of more than 700 companies, and the more I learn about New Jersey’s growing business community, the more I have come to understand that nearly every company is a technology company in one way or another, using it in their business or to connect people to their business.

Think about how many businesses and organizations have an app, or an interactive website. Think about how we use the Internet to pay our bills and file our taxes. Think about how often we use our smartphones and social media in every part of our lives — for example, I just announced an initiative to increase social media involvement in our tourism industry.

STEM is influencing every industry. In recent events with the agricultural community, I’ve learned how their work depends more than ever on technology. Once an industry that relied entirely on hand tools and tractors, agriculture now requires knowledge of hydrology, GPS technology, mechanization and animal and soil science. We’ve already begun seeing the rise of urban farms and greenhouse agriculture growing over once-blighted fields.

We recognize the role of STEM leadership in New Jersey and in the United States, but there is so much more to do. This year, the week of March 9 marked New Jersey’s inaugural STEM Week, highlighting how uniquely important STEM careers are to this state.

During that week, I attended a meeting of the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network, which has been spearheaded by Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks to increase collaboration between community organizations, higher education and industry to prepare our students for the highly skilled STEM jobs that will be waiting for them when they graduate.

In the past decade, STEM jobs outpaced non-STEM jobs 3-to-1, with 80 percent of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States dependent on STEM knowledge and skills. Having a strong STEM education and workforce system in place will continue to drive New Jersey’s competitive edge.

Our next step needs to be creating a system that supports both men and women with an interest in STEM. While girls in Grades K-12 are taking many high level math and science courses at the same rates as boys, there is a significant gap in the number of young women pursuing and receiving STEM degrees. On the national level, women receive far fewer computer science, engineering, physics and mathematics degrees than men, and the gap is even wider when it comes to minority women. Women comprise 48 percent of the United States workforce but fill just 24 percent of STEM jobs.

The employment gap is frustrating enough, but it becomes even more so when you consider that the gender wage gap in STEM fields is significantly smaller than in other occupations. What that means is that supporting women in STEM is not only important to our efforts to remain innovative and educated, but must be an integral part of the progress we make toward greater economic success and equal wage opportunities for women here in New Jersey and across the nation.

I was proud to address both STEM Week and Women’s History Month in my kick-off of the Million Women Mentors program in New Jersey. As we remember the leaders of the past, we prepare the leaders of the future by encouraging more high school girls to consider STEM studies in college, more undergraduate women to pursue STEM degrees, and more women into STEM careers generally.

We have committed to finding 6,000 mentors over the next three years — that’s three or four per municipality each year. It’s doable, and it’s necessary. I ask New Jersey’s teachers, researchers, business leaders and anyone with an interest in STEM to invest their time and expertise to help New Jersey remain competitive, achieve gender parity in the workplace and show young women the value of a STEM career.

This year’s inaugural STEM Week showed us great things about the state of STEM in New Jersey, but the biggest thing we learned is that we need more than a week to keep STEM in mind. We need to highlight STEM careers and encourage our young people to pursue them every week, all year long, to prepare our children and our state for a bright future.

Kim Guadagno is lieutenant governor of New Jersey.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Supporting STEM and Recycling: The Ultimate Robotics Competition That Celebrates Science and Technology

Written by Jessica Otitigbe

Troy, N.Y. – It’s all about robots, 3,000 pounds of metal, gears and electronics, and recycling. Get ready to see the ultimate display of science, mathematics, and technology in action as 36 teams of high school students put their robots to the test and compete in the New York Tech Valley FIRST®(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from March 19 to 21.

This year, 1,800 students representing teams from the Capital Region, as well as teams from New York state, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and an international team from Canada will participate in the regional event. Students will be supported by hundreds of teachers, industry and college mentors, and parents who will converge on the East Campus Athletic Village at Rensselaer for two days of matches.

“FIRST Robotics Competitions really bring the excitement of a sporting event to science and technology via robotics,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Rensselaer Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering Department and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE).

“The competition is as close to real-world engineering as a student can get,” Schoch said. “Students are engaged, inspired, and excited to participate in science and technology – a mindset that will last long after the competition and put them on a path to a successful career and bright future.” Schoch received the 2014 Woodie Flowers Award, which celebrates effective communication in the art and science of engineering and design. It was founded in 1996 to recognize mentors who lead, inspire, and empower using excellent communication skills.

Schoch and Mary Burke, manager of special projects at New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), are co-chairs of the 2015 New York Tech Valley competition.

Overall, 75,000 high school students from the United States and around the globe will compete in this year’s competition. This year’s FIRST game, titled RECYCLE RUSHSM, is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each. Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST® at the end of the season.

Prior to the competition, during a six-week time frame, students worked with professional engineering mentors to design a robot that solved a problem using a standard kit of parts and set of rules. Once the young inventors created the robot, their teams participated in competitions that measured the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

“As New York continues to grow its clean-tech economy under Governor Cuomo, building STEM skills in our future workforce is both important and necessary to ensure that businesses continue to have access to skilled employees,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO, NYSERDA. “This instructive and entertaining event is one way that New York's students can enhance their hard-science skills while having fun and preparing for the next generation of highly-technical jobs.”

Support for the FIRST Robotics competition is provided by several area and national organizations. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the regional lead sponsor. Co-sponsors include General Electric, GlobalFoundries, National Grid, Rensselaer, M+W Group, and Time Warner Cable. Sponsors provide resources including time and talent from professional mentors, services, equipment, financial contributions, and volunteers.

This season, participating FIRST students are also eligible to apply for more than $20 million in scholarships from 150 scholarship providers.

The New York Tech Valley Regional competition is one of four FIRST regional competitions in New York state and one of 100 regional events taking place across the country this month. Winners for design excellence, sportsmanship, teamwork, and more will advance to the FIRST championship competition in St. Louis, Missouri, in April.

For more information, visit:

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maker’s Day Showcases STEM and DIY-based Learning

Written by Jennifer Post

On March 21, the Cape May County Library held an all-day event called Maker’s Day. Locations all throughout New Jersey, including Atlantic County and Burlington County, have committed to be a part of Maker’s Day.

The goal of Maker’s Day, according to their website, is to enhance community engagement and develop connections among New Jersey residents by collaborating with multi-type libraries, museums, small businesses and others to promote and explore opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation and hands-on learning experiences. Some of the objectives include celebrating the culture of making in New Jersey, promoting the role of N.J. libraries in supporting makers and maker culture throughout the state, and fostering collaboration between makers and makerspaces across New Jersey.

The programs and demonstrations will provide STEM and DIY-based learning. STEM is any job that requires specialized knowledge in science, technology, engineering or math.

The term “maker” refers to people who create and innovate with their hands through workshopping. They produce things such as robots, computer programs, furniture, etc. Learning from these makers can be a great way for others to learn and can motivate someone else into becoming a maker and creating things on their own. DIY has been popular since the creation of Pinterest and people are eager to learn how to make crafts for themselves. The maker movement is a more contemporary take on that because it deals more with technology and electronic based DIY projects. Robotics and 3D printing are included in maker culture, but so are metalworking and woodworking.

There were events being held for all ages. There were 3D design challenges, an aviation station, Minecraft, quilting demonstrations, and a make your own light bulb station. The 3D design station allowed eager learners to design their own cereal box. They were given an example cereal box and instructions on how to build their own.

At the aviation station, anyone interested could learn how to fly a drone, and then look on a computer screen to see what was captured. Computers were all set up with Minecraft for computer gamers, and sewing machines were set up for a demonstration on quilting. While there are instructions for these demonstrations, and the hands-on part of the day, learners were encouraged to think outside the box and use their creativity to create something amazing.

The program leaders were watching over the people who attempted these activities, to make sure that everything was being done safely. Once the projects were complete, participants got to take their creations home with them.

Aside from the interactive aspect of the day, there were also demonstrations going on all day. Earlier in the day there was a Lego robotics demonstration, followed later by LittleBits, which are electronics kits to learn and build with. It allows people to make prototypes and they come in different kits that you can purchase to make as many as 18 modules. LittleBits is also a sponsor of New Jersey Maker’s Day.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Obama, wowed by young scientists, announces new STEM pledges

Written by Jim Kuhnheinn

WASHINGTON (AP) - The small Lego machine inside the White House whirred, and in a moment it was turning the pages of a story book. One page flipped, then another, ever faster as President Barack Obama marveled at its efficiency.

The contraption's eventual aim would be to allow paralyzed or arthritic patients to read books despite their disabilities.

"How did you figure this out?" Obama, impressed, asked its inventors.

"We had a brainstorming session," one of the five 6-year-old Girl Scouts replied.

The kindergartners and first graders from Tulsa, Oklahoma, were among 35 young science fair winners who came to the White House Monday to showcase breakthroughs ranging from spinal implants to carbon-dioxide powered batteries to a keystroke identity system that can backup computer password securities.

Obama used the science fair event to highlight private-sector efforts to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and math. He announced more than $240 million in pledges to boost the study of those fields, known as STEM. This year's fair is focused on diversity.

While awed by all of the displays, none seemed to delight Obama more than the Lego page-turner.

Obama allowed as to how the device might need a little adjustment given that, at the current speed, a reader might only catch three sentences in a page.

"It's a prototype," one of the Girl Scout designers replied matter-of-factly.

"Have you ever had a brainstorming session yourself?" one little girl asked.

Indeed, yes, the president replied.

"What did you come up with?"

"I mean, I came up with things like, you know, health care," he said, amused. "It turned out ok, but it started off with some prototypes."

The pledges the president announced include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls. Altogether, the new STEM commitments have brought total financial and material support for these programs to $1 billion.

"It's not enough for our country just to be proud of you. We've got to support you," Obama said later, addressing students and scientists in the White House East Room.

More than 100 colleges and universities have committed to training 20,000 engineers, and a coalition of CEOs has promised to expand high-quality STEM education programs to an additional 1.5 million students this year.

Obama launched "Educate to Innovate," his effort to encourage the study of science, technology, engineering and math, in 2009.

Obama said the fair is one of the most fun events held annually at the White House. "Every year I walk out smarter than when I walked in," Obama said.

Indeed, Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, joined the president during the tour of the displays, introducing himself to the young inventors and researches. "Amazing," he said. "These kids are so much more advanced than when I was in school."

At each of the 12 display stations, Obama quizzed the participants about their projects. At one, Anvita Gupta, a 17-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, described the special algorithm she had devised to identify other medical applications for existing drugs.

Obama turned to the group of reporters and photographers trailing him.

"Just saying, I don't know what you all have been doing," he said. "This is what she's been doing."

Click here to read from this article's source.

Monday, March 23, 2015

21st Century Community Learning Centers: Effective support for local afterschool programs

Written by Jodi Grant

For more than 15 years, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative has provided resources for local afterschool programs, which in turn support student success, keep children safe and are a lifeline for working parents. Not surprisingly, parents report that they are pleased with their children’s afterschool programs: close to 9 in 10 parents with a child in an afterschool program say they are satisfied with the program overall. Further, an overwhelming body of research shows that afterschool programs help increase school day attendance, improve grades, narrow the achievement gap and contribute to social and emotional well-being. In particular, afterschool programs supported by the 21st CCLC initiative are helping raise student achievement, as shown by more and more studies published each year.

I was surprised, therefore, to read that one researcher from a prominent think tank is harkening back to a controversial 21st CCLC study he led, released more than a decade ago to a critical response, as a reason to question federal support for the initiative. He also points to a meta-analysis of existing research on afterschool programs released earlier this month, even though the authors state that their results “…cannot be generalized to draw conclusions about the effect of after-school programs beyond the outcomes examined in this study.” Many of the outcomes examined in the meta-analysis were not even stated goals of the programs reviewed.

It is a proven fact that afterschool programs work incredibly well. New research from Dr. Deborah Vandell, previewed at the Society for Research in Child Development last week, shows that afterschool programs are on par with early childhood programs in supporting reading comprehension and math achievement. And a number of recent state-level evaluations of 21st CCLC make a convincing case that this federal initiative is succeeding in positively impacting students and families:

  • An evaluation of Texas 21st Century Community Learning Centers found that the initiative positively impacted students’ school day performance. Students attending afterschool programs—both students with low levels and high levels of participation—were more likely to be promoted to the next grade; the likelihood of being promoted increased by 43 percent for students with low levels of participation in the program and by 47 percent for students with high levels of participation. Additionally, afterschool students saw improvements in their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and math scores (American Institutes for Research, 2013).
  • Students regularly attending Washington’s 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs saw improvements in their reading and math achievement, as well as a positive impact on their overall GPA, compared to their non-participating peers (American Institutes for Research, 2014).
  • A statewide longitudinal evaluation of the After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program—California’s high school component of the 21st CCLC initiative—found that students participating in the ASSETs program received higher ELA and math assessment scores, and performed better on the ELA and math sections of the CAHSEE than non-participants (CRESST, 2012).
  • Teachers of students participating in Wisconsin 21st CCLC-funded programs reported that more than two-thirds improved their class participation, 60 percent saw improvements in their motivation to learn and 55 percent improved their behavior in class. Teachers also reported that 48 percent of students improved in volunteering for extra credit or responsibility (Wisconsin Department of Instruction, 2014).

Today’s afterschool programs use evaluations to continuously improve their offerings, as do the state education departments that administer 21st CCLC grants.

21st CCLC-funded programs are comprehensive afterschool programs, providing enrichment activities that include hands-on learning, science experiments, arts, music, dance, tutoring and homework help. To cut funding for the 21st CCLC initiative would be devastating to the 1.6 million children and youth participating in these programs and to their families and communities. We would see more children unsupervised after the school day ends, which is when juvenile crime peaks. We would see more students without the mentors, academic support, and learning opportunities that help them thrive in school. We would see more parents worrying about where their children are in the hours after school and before they get home from work. Without 21st CCLC funding, students, our education system and our country would suffer.

With House and Senate education proposals seeking to eliminate the dedicated afterschool funding stream, the future of federal funding for afterschool is in grave danger. Your voices can save the program: now more than ever, parents, educators, and friends of afterschool programs are encouraged to reach out to their Members of Congress to share their experiences of how afterschool programs and 21st CCLC have helped their children and families.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Join us in Participating in NJ Makers Day TODAY - SATURDAY 3/21/15

NJ Makers Day enhances community engagement and develop connections among New Jersey residents by collaborating with multi-type libraries, museums, small businesses and others to promote and explore new opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation and hands-on learning experiences.

  • Celebrate the culture of making in New Jersey
  • Foster collaboration between makers and makerspaces across New Jersey
  • Host a program/event on the same day at all participating New Jersey makerspaces
  • Promote the role of NJ libraries in supporting makers and maker culture throughout the state
  • Schedule at least one event in every county in New Jersey
  • Contract with vendors based in New Jersey whenever possible
  • Create projects with low or no barriers of access, including one or two statewide projects live streamed
  • Create a Google Map of makers and makerspaces in New Jersey
Visit them on the web at:

Friday, March 20, 2015

LETTER: New Jersey remains a STEM leader

This is an important designation because New Jersey is a STEM dynamo. Its reputation as the “medicine chest of the world” gives it an equal place among other states, like California with Silicon Valley and North Carolina and its Research Triangle. As the state’s oldest organization of its kind, the Council is uniquely positioned to promote New Jersey’s distinguished legacy both through our members and programming.

One initiative is showcasing the research of the Governor’s STEM Scholars, a unique public-private partnership among the Council, Governor’s Office and the state’s leading institutions that promotes the state’s STEM economy. In its inaugural year, this highly selective program took 50 of the state’s best and brightest high school and college students and gave them a comprehensive introduction to New Jersey’s STEM economy through a series of conferences, field trips, and internships.

The Council is also working with the Million Women Mentors initiative to mobilize our state’s government, corporations, and higher education sectors to mentor young women in STEM fields. Although young women have made a lot of progress over the past decade in filling STEM jobs, far too many of them do not have the support to pursue careers in a traditionally male-dominated industry. By working with Million Women Mentors, the Council is helping ensure that New Jersey does not miss out on all that these bright young women can achieve with a little encouragement.

Another way the Council is celebrating STEM in New Jersey is through the Edison Patent Awards, which just began its application process. Now in its fourth decade, these awards recognize both the year’s best inventors and the lifetime contributions of prominent New Jerseyans. Held annually at the Liberty Science Center, the awards are a unique way that New Jersey shows how much it values the professionals who do so much to make the state a STEM leader. At last year’s awards, we recognized 13 research organizations and celebrated over 50 inventors.

The Council knows that strong STEM states lead the world in developing life-saving medicine, protecting the environment, and driving the innovation that improve all of our lives. Unlike other states, New Jersey has the people, institutions, and infrastructure that drive research and development. What we don’t have is widespread public awareness of the fact that it was New Jerseyans who gave the world the light bulb, the three-way catalytic converter, and the lifesaving drugs Januvia and Gleevec. Our state is now doing more to shine the spotlight on the people and institutions that not only make New Jersey a STEM powerhouse, but a leader in making the world a better place.

Kathleen W. Scotto
Research and Development Council of New Jersey

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

PPPL hosts Young Women's Conference to spark interest in STEM education

Written by Nicole Mulvaney

PRINCETON — Anshela Jaramillo's long black hair rose from her scalp Thursday morning as she touched a Van de Graaff generator set up at Princeton University.

Electrical charges were passing through Jaramillo's body as she stood in a circle in the lobby of the university's Frick Chemistry Laboratory, clasping her classmates' hands.

"It really hurt, but it was fun at the same time," said the eighth-grader from Melvin H. Kreps Middle School in Hightstown. "As long as you're together holding each other, the circuits will keep on going through everybody until the end."

The U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, located in Plainsboro, hosted its 14th annual Young Women's Conference at Princeton University Thursday as way of sparking students' interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Not only does it give the students the appreciation for the sciences, but it gives them career ideas, and it makes them see that it's not just working in a lab. There's some exciting things you can do in STEM," said Shannon Greco, PPPL's science education program leader. "It's also just to give them an appreciation and an understanding of science so they're just effective citizens in the world."

Only about 25 percent of computer and math scientists in 2013 were women, according to the National Science Foundation. About 15 percent of engineers and 12 percent of physicists and astronomers were women.

Nearly 500 students traveled Thursday morning from 60 middle and high schools throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland to participate in hands-on activities and tour various laboratories on campus where researchers were working.

"It's a good opportunity for girls to learn more about science," Jaramillo said. "If they want a career in science, they can learn more about that field here."

About 25 exhibitors were set up inside the Frick building, showcasing everything from 3-D printers to hydrogen gas-powered model cars. The event's keynote speaker was Kerstin Perez, an astrophysicist at Haverford College studying dark matter.

Among the exhibitors were students from Robbinsville High School, who computer-programmed a robot named Nao to dance the macarena.

"We bought him assembled already, but we programmed him. He acts like a human. He has an eye sensor, also hearing, and he's also got a touch sensor," said senior Claire Breyta, a member of the school's Girls Who Code club started by junior Rithika Korrapolu.

Members of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization, introduce younger students to the basics of computer science. Breyta said their goal is to expand their education outreach to the elementary and middle schools.

"I had a lot of background in it, so it wasn't too difficult to code him," Korrapolu said of Nao.

STEM careers should not be overwhelmingly represented by men, Jaramillo said.

"We all have an opportunity to do something important," she said. "I believe that women should get a chance, because we're all together in this."

Click here to read from this article's source.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Newark Elementary Students to Meet With Verizon Employees

Written by Eric Kiefer

Students at the George Washington Carver Elementary School in Newark will meet on Thursday, March 19, with 150 Verizon employees, who will visit the school to lead several hands-on activities focused on STEM - science, technology, engineering and math - to engage the students and to teach them the value of creativity, critical thinking and teamwork.

According to a release, the Verizon participants in the day-long volunteer project - organized by Jersey Cares - are members of a group of newly hired college graduates who are part of the Verizon Leadership Development Program. The volunteers will spend time on several revitalization projects at the school, painting STEM-themed murals in the school’s new science room, brightening the school’s blacktop area with line games and enhancing the school’s courtyard by assembling new raised planter beds for the gardening club.

The volunteers will lead a workshop where students can learn about solar energy, create a solar oven out of a pizza box, and assist students with building a robot that vibrates, spins and holds markers to doodle a drawing on its own. The volunteers also will run a “Fit and Fun” workshop to engage students in active games.

The event was organized by Jersey Cares, a Newark-based nonprofit organization, and the Verizon Foundation.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Experts Share Four Key Strategies to Inspire Girls in STEM

Written by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

Computer science and inquiry-based science classes have become popular in classrooms across the country, and educators are encouraging both young men and women to take on STEM.

At a recent conference at SXSWEdu titled, "You go (far), girl! Inspiring Girls in STEM", Jackie Bastardi and Adele Falco of Curious on Hudson shared four key ways to get girls excited about STEM. Curious on Hudson is an organization that "produces classes and workshops on science, technology, engineering, math and applied arts for students in K-5 and middle school," according to Kanoe Namahoe, writer for

In this blog post, Namahoe writes about the four key strategies that Bastardi and Falco shared with attendees. The first key was to "emphasize the fun of the journey." Falco shared that enthusiasm was a critical element to getting students in the groove.

"When talking about the training involved in STEM fields, let students know how much fun they’ll have on this journey. Don’t spend all your time focusing on rigorous course work and required skill sets."

Bastardi tells the girls about her engineering training at RIT, emphasizing the fun experiences she had, such as building a solar oven with her sorority sisters or building hammers with her freshman classmates. These examples help change how the girls perceive engineering, taking it from boring to 'cool.' She is honest with them about the work involved [and the occasional boring class that they will encounter] but she emphasizes this work as part of the fun.

“I tell them that there’s a balance between work and play,” Bastardi said, according to Namahoe. “You have fun but you’re also learning, putting all your heart and soul into learning engineering.”

The second key strategy Namahoe shared was to "create personal connections."

"Let the girls see your human side, Bastardi recommended," Namahoe wrote. "Girls are often intimidated when they first learn that she is a mechanical engineer. To break the ice, she talks with them about her hobbies – bike riding and spending time with her dog – as well as the hobbies of other STEM women. The tactic helps the girls relax and open up."

“Sharing these personal stories takes away some of that intimidation,” Bastardi said at the conference. ”The girls are able to start learning, exploring and feeling comfortable. They make personal connections.”

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Start early to have girls consider STEM careers

Written by Mariandl M.C. Hufford

The United States is in dire need of more workers for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), as well-paying jobs in those areas are growing at a faster rate than in other fields. And as STEM opportunities grow, we should ensure that women and minorities are fairly represented.

Data provided by the National Science Foundation paint a stark picture of how few women and other underrepresented groups enter and persist in STEM careers. A recent report by researchers at the University of California, Columbia, and Emory details the pervasive bias women (and especially women of color) encounter in STEM workplaces.

While, based on these studies, the forecast for women in STEM careers may appear gloomy, there are many of us who are committed to upending the status quo and combining our resources to address this pernicious problem. A conference scheduled for March 19 and 20 at the Agnes Irwin School will examine some proven ways to improve the engagement and retention of girls and women in STEM.

One aspect that will be examined is curriculum design and the preparation of teachers at all levels of the educational pipeline. We know that teachers are the number-one factor in encouraging the persistence of girls in STEM subjects. Yes, teacher bias can have a negative impact on a girl's belief in herself as a scientist or mathematician, but that same powerful influence can be used to ensure that girls remain curious about science and math.

Girls often respond positively to the idea that they can contribute to the greater good with their actions; making sure they understand how STEM subjects improve the world can help persuade them to persist in these fields. Therefore, we must educate our teachers in effective curriculum design, but also help them understand how their own biases might affect students.

Another way to increase the number of girls and women in STEM fields is by exposing them to role models and mentors. The expression "You can't be what you can't see" perfectly captures the concept. Girls and women need exposure to female scientists, mathematicians, technology workers, and engineers who can help them envision themselves in these careers and show them how to access opportunities for advancement.

Those pathways to success start in the elementary years, with bulletin boards that highlight the accomplishments of women in science. From there, a combination of curriculum, teachers, and mentors can support and help guide young girls and women as they embark on their careers.

I recently heard a STEM expert say that we know what we have to do; we just have to figure out a way to do it. He might be right. Indeed, a lot has been written about this. For example, the American Association of University Women is scheduled to publish a report on March 26 on how to increase the number of women in engineering and technology.

And yes, a lot has been done that has been successful. The Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is one example of a program that has made a real difference in increasing the participation of women and minorities in STEM fields.

However, as the STEM expert explained, we have not consistently marshaled our resources. We have not, across the silos of our industries, effectively and consistently combined our collective wisdom and shared our solutions. We, together, can be greater than the sum of our parts.

We must commit to truly becoming the transformative force that girls and women need to gain the equality we seek and from which our entire society will benefit.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dresses' flashing lights aim to attract girls to STEM

Written by Marco Santana

OVIEDO, Fla. — Melissa Saelzer thinks she has found one way to attract more girls into technology careers: fashion.

The 32-year-old Oviedo resident has started work on a line of clothing embedded with sensors, lights and other components she hopes will get girls curious about how they work.

She expects her efforts will be just as much a recruiting tool as they are a fashion statement.

“I’m doing this because it will help girls build confidence so when they want to go into the industry, they already have experience and know how to approach things like programming,” Saelzer said. “This will bring more girls into tech. I want to build a team out with girls who can get excited about doing this.”

Statistics point at an imbalance of men and women in STEM fields. A 2012 National Science Board study reported that despite 47 percent of the population being women, they make up 27 percent of STEM workers.

Saelzer, a systems engineer at Lockheed Martin, said she is excited about jumping into the growing wearable-technology field with her clothing items. Among them are a dress lined with flashing lights timed to music and a lace nightgown embedded with lights that allows the wearer to set its color, brightness and other qualities.

Saelzer said getting girls interested in STEM is a matter of showing them that it applies to many industries, including fashion.

“This is just a small part of it,” she said.

Shayla Mark, a STEM educator in Orange County Public Schools, says keeping girls interested in STEM becomes tougher as they grow older.

“Some don’t think it’s cool to be smart,” she said. “They are more into fashion and those kinds of things. Some also look at what’s being taught in schools and don’t see how it can apply to what they want to be in the future.”

Since 2012, Mark has run Mount Dora-based Stem Chicks Inc., which offers workshops and educational opportunities for girls and women. She said Saelzer’s approach can be part of the solution.

“That is just one angle to approach this with,” she said. “There are those girls interested in fashion, but it doesn’t have to be all sparkles and glitter.”

However, Mark says all of those efforts will only help close the gap between women and men in STEM.

Chief among them is highlighting and promoting women who already have made it in science careers.

“They have this perception of what scientists look like,” she said. “But when children see someone that looks like them, they can relate to them and they understand that it’s possible and attainable.”

Saelzer could be one of those examples. Before she joined Lockheed in October 2012, she worked as an intern in the space industry and as an electrical engineer at General Motors.

Several meetings are set to show off her connected clothing coming up. But, ultimately, Saelzer said her goal is to bring girls and women into the STEM conversation.

“When I give a demonstration, the guys jump right in and try it out,” she said. “For girls, it’s very different. I sometimes have to grab them by the hand and pull them into the conversation.”

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Douglass women seek success in STEM futures

Written by Cheryl Makin

NEW BRUNSWICK – Sciences have always played an important role in the history of Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, all of its incarnations and its women. In recent years, this importance has become an emphasis, said Assistant Dean Elaine Zundl, who also is director of The Douglass Project for Women in Math, Science and Engineering.

While Douglass caters to students' interests in a wide variety of studies, it offers a specialization for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) majors. Since her first appointment as dean in 2010, Jacquelyn Litt has renewed the focus on women and STEM majors, Zundl said.

Since its inception as a college in 1918 as the New Jersey College for Women, the institution, now known as Douglass Residential College, has focused on giving women an education that will take them forward in life. At a time when a "woman's place was in the home" was commonplace, Douglass offered majors in sciences, including chemistry, Litt said.

"Douglass and science has had a remarkably strong and exciting history," she said. "It is now the only major public research university with a women's residential college and it also is dedicated to scientific advancement of women and advancement of women leaders."

And in the past few years, that interest in STEM majors for Douglass women has exploded, Zundl said.

"In terms of student engagement, we have more participating in Douglass that are STEM majors," she said.

In 1986, at the inception of The Douglass Project, the college had 180 students in STEM majors, Litt said. Nearly 30 years later, Zundl said, half of the 2014 fall's incoming class were STEM majors.

"That is about 250 new STEM students this year," she said. "Overall, about 800 to 1,000 students participate in The Douglass Project each year."

The support of The Douglass Project

The Douglass Project helps women who are interested in the STEM fields excel and reach their goals. One of the first of its kind in the country, Litt said, The Douglass Project was created with retention and gender gap in mind.

Partnering with Rutgers' science and engineering schools, The Douglass Project offers custom, professional and leadership development programs designed to advance women in STEM. Included in this experience is Project SUPER, a program that offers monthly workshops on careers and opportunities, an introduction to scientific research course, a STEM Research Experience stipend and mentoring support.

These programs help create support systems that encourage women to pursue their educational goals and eventual STEM careers, Zundl said.

"When they get to Rutgers, we make sure that they get a peer mentor, they are put in touch with faculty in their department. We make sure they have access to research programs," Zundl said. "We make sure that they are learning about what a STEM career will be like so they are more likely to stay."

A sophomore physics major, Jennie Coulter, of Manasquan, enrolled in Douglass at the end of her first year. She credits the support of The Douglass Project as having a positive impact on her experience as a student and a woman.

"I feel that the responsiveness of The Douglass Project staff members helped me find my place at Rutgers," she said. "The support for women in STEM not only gave me the chance to become involved in the research community at Rutgers but also has allowed me to connect and guide underclassmen STEM students. I think the leadership skills I've gained through The Douglass Project programming will make me better able to support younger women throughout my career in physics."

Initially, Coulter said, she had doubts about her ability to compete in the physics field. It was support from Douglass that gave her confidence.

"It gave me the ability to understand my academic strengths and also connected me with women in similar majors who understand what it feels like to go to lecture and sometimes be one female in 20 students," she said. "Knowing that there are other women with the same experience has been confidence-inspiring."

Immediate involvement in research

Coulter said she was especially excited about the help Douglass gave her in finding research opportunities. As the recipient of a New Jersey Space Grant Consortium Academic Year Fellowship, Coulter does research on solar materials with Dr. Dunbar Birnie of the Materials Science and Engineering department.

"The kind of support that we offer our students while they are engaged in research is very unique," Zundl said. "We personally match the students with the professors based on common interests and the students' prior knowledge. Because of the mentoring we do and the support program, they are paired with a faculty member that makes sure that they are getting the most out of the experience in the lab."

Sophomore Ameema Zubairi, of East Brunswick, who is majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry, knew she wanted to do research as soon as possible but wasn't sure how to start.

"The Douglass Project provided me with a platform to achieve this goal," she said. "I participated in Project SUPER. I even had the opportunity to present my research at a Poster Session with all of the stipend recipients where professors and other guests were invited to learn about our projects."

Now as a STEM ambassador, Zubairi works with a group of student leaders to implement professional development workshops and programs, networking opportunities and social events for women in STEM. She also had the opportunity to volunteer with the Fourth Grade Science Stars program and teach students from New Brunswick science concepts in a fun and interactive way.

"One of the reasons I was able to achieve this much and continue to actively pursue a career in STEM is because of the valuable advice I have received from the advisers at The Douglass Project," she said. "These advisers are truly invested in your success and constantly strive to provide you with resources that will lead you to it, while giving constant encouragement to attain your goals."

Living-learning communities

Under the umbrella of The Douglass Project are living-learning communities that create cohorts of women studying the same topical area, such as engineering or environmental science, Zundl said.

"These really get women engaged and, in the first year of study, they have established great relationships with other women in their majors that help them to persist to graduation," Zundl said.

Under Litt's time as dean, the Douglass Engineering Living-Learning Community was created in 2012. Located in a dorm on the Busch campus, this community provides engineering students with the chance to live together and take a hands-on engineering course together with a Rutgers faculty member.

"The first year, this involved 20 students living together and supporting each other," Litt said. "All of them asked to continue living together the next year. The chancellor found us a dorm. Now, they enrolled for a third year and all wanted to be together again. Now, we have 70 women engineers all living together in the Douglass Engineering living-learning community excited to be engineers."

"We are almost at the point of having to turn people away," she added. "This year, we had more than 30 first-year students join."

There also is the Bunting-Cobb Residence Hall on the Douglass campus that offers a similar community for women in science and offers graduate mentoring, tutoring, study groups, specialized workshops and a special in-house Exploring Careers in Science course. A future cohort program for computer science students also is in the works, Litt said.

"These learning-living communities build in a sense of community, as well as build their own identities in the field," she said.

The need for women in STEM majors

Litt said that data suggests that Douglass students make a wise choice.

"Our partnership with Rutgers' School of Engineering has increased both the recruitment and retention of women engineering students to record levels," she said. "Research has documented that Douglass students exhibit higher levels of global awareness and engagement than do Rutgers women generally."

There is a need for women in STEM majors and STEM careers, Litt said. According to the state Department of Labor Workforce Development Division of Workforce Research and Analytics, there will be a need in the New Jersey workforce for qualified STEM professionals. By 2022, the department anticipates that 22 percent of the projected employment will be in computer and math (15 percent) and architecture and engineering (6 percent).

Nationally, job demand for engineering and computer science also is expected to grow, Litt said.

"We know there is a problem with women being underrepresented in most fields of STEM," Litt said. "It is a problem in New Jersey and nationally. But, we are not seeing women, especially minority women, rise up through the ranks in the field. In the last few years, The Douglass Project targeted the fields of engineering computer science and chemistry. Our students worked with companies such as PSE&G, AT&T and Verizon.

"They want our women students," she added.

Getting into Douglass

Each year, Douglass Residential College enrolls approximately 500 out of the more than 4,000 new women students who are admitted to Rutgers. Approximately 2,000 students are currently enrolled in Douglass

Women undergraduates from any Rutgers–New Brunswick school can enroll, and current Rutgers students can also join Douglass anytime from their first year through their third year.

Douglass pay the Rutgers tuition. For New Jersey students (tuition, fees, room and board), it is approximately $25,500; for non-New Jersey students it is approximately $40,300.

Special scholarships are available to students for international travel, science education (STEM), graduate study, and tuition

Douglass traditions include the annual "moving-up-of-the-classes" Sacred Path celebration, Yule Log ceremony, Fall Convocation welcoming new students and their families, and Convocation, a ceremony for graduating seniors that takes place the day before Rutger's commencement.

All Douglass women take the Women's Leadership Course, a three-credit course that helps students develop an awareness of themselves as women in today's society.

For more information or speak to a representative of Douglass Residential College, contact the Office of Recruitment and New Student Programs at 848-932-9500 or

For information about admissions to Rutgers University, visit or call 732-445-4636.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Boonton Twp. Board of Ed. hears presentation on STEM

Written by Gail Bottone

John Henry, New Jersey School Boards Association’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Sustainable Schools specialist, discussed the topic of "Student Achievement through an integrative STEM Approach" at the Boonton Township Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 25.

Henry was asked by the Board to give this presentation because in the beginning of the school year, when the Board was writing goals and objectives, the topic of forming a STEM lab in the school’s library was brought up.

In the light of this, the Board is searching for a better understanding of the program and its implementation.

No decisions have been made as to whether the school will proceed with the program.

Henry began his presentation by saying "when employers were asked to identify job applicant’s common deficiencies, most industries reported a lack of mathematics, computer, and problem-solving skills."

This new approach to learning will close the gap on these deficiencies.

The integrated STEM approaches to learning are "design-based learning approaches that intentionally integrate the concepts and practices of science and/or mathematics education with the concepts and practices of technology and engineering education.

It may be enhanced through further integration with other school subjects such as language arts, social studies, art, etc." When it is integrated with the arts, it is called STEAM.

The approach requires students take an active part in the learning process. It is a hands-on approach whereby students apply their know-ledge to problem solving in real-world situations.

The iSTEM literature says, "Students need to practice solving problems and making informed decisions, rather than merely warehousing collections of facts. Research tells us that students learn best when encouraged to construct their own knowledge of the world around them."

It is a method that fosters applied academics rather than just the theoretical. There are open-ended questions and activities related to topics that allow students to brainstorm, read, demonstrate, discuss, use technology, practice doing, and teach others.

An important question was raised by Board member Adrienne Charlton. She asked, "How does this approach fit in with the Common Core curriculum?"

It was explained that Common Core dictates what is to be learned but not how it is to be learned, and teachers would not be expected to keep to the letter of their lesson plans for the day. It allows for creativity and flexibility.

RVS parent Melissa Signore, regional curriculum coordi-nator for Pascack Valley Regional School districts, has been involved in iSTEM for three years and spoke to the Board on the benefits of such a program.

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Monday, March 9, 2015

NJ must work to improve STEM skills in urban communities | Opinion

Written by Erin Sweeney

Those of us in New Jersey know that our state is a stronghold for the nation's science technology engineering mathematics (STEM) economy. According to the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, the Garden State is home to an incredible intersection of industry, academia and government entities, yielding "the highest concentration of scientific professionals in the nation." It is no surprise, then, that Gov. Chris Christie is publicly recognizing this by naming March 9-13 STEM Week.

However, New Jersey's important role in STEM may not last. As the council rightly noted, by 2018, New Jersey will need to fill nearly 270,000 STEM jobs. The need is critical in order for us to remain a national STEM leader.

As urban communities like Newark and Jersey City continue to struggle with high unemployment rates, the time is ripe to focus our efforts on helping train, prepare and employ unemployed and underemployed individuals in high-skill, STEM jobs. Preparing for such jobs is not only dependent on learning necessary technical skills, but developing the soft skills and hands-on experience needed for success to obtain and retain high-skilled jobs in competitive markets.

Various workforce development programs throughout the nation strive to build coalitions and partnerships with corporate entities, higher education institutions, community-based organizations, and government agencies in an attempt to fill this gap. In our own program, I have seen young adults who have gone from part-time, low-wage work to permanent high-wage Information Technology employment in a matter of months. I have seen veterans who were struggling with adjusting to civilian life go from feeling hopeless to hopeful, receiving IT positions that leverage both their military experience and tech training. Our program lifts people up, fosters their inert drive and curiosity, and helps set these adult learners in a new direction with higher wages, higher skill, and opportunity for upward mobility. Our program literally changes lives while helping meet the high demand for IT jobs in our community.

I know it is possible for us here in New Jersey to fill the widening skills gap by preparing our veterans, young adults, and other individuals in our urban communities for rewarding careers in STEM. It is up to all of us together to make it happen, make the connections, provide the training, and fill in the skills gap. We need to believe in the power of our young adults who want a chance to enter the tech industry and our veterans who want a chance for a new career.

I challenge all employers, training programs, and community organizations to make STEM job training and preparation a priority to help fill the state's rising demand for high-skill employees while reducing our high unemployment rate.

Join us in our effort to train our state's future IT leaders. Together, we can keep New Jersey a national leader in STEM and help provide life-changing opportunities for our state's unemployed and underemployed individuals.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Join us in Participating in NJ Makers Day! SATURDAY 3/21/15

NJ Makers Day enhances community engagement and develop connections among New Jersey residents by collaborating with multi-type libraries, museums, small businesses and others to promote and explore new opportunities for entrepreneurship, innovation and hands-on learning experiences.

  • Celebrate the culture of making in New Jersey
  • Foster collaboration between makers and makerspaces across New Jersey
  • Host a program/event on the same day at all participating New Jersey makerspaces
  • Promote the role of NJ libraries in supporting makers and maker culture throughout the state
  • Schedule at least one event in every county in New Jersey
  • Contract with vendors based in New Jersey whenever possible
  • Create projects with low or no barriers of access, including one or two statewide projects live streamed
  • Create a Google Map of makers and makerspaces in New Jersey
Visit them on the web at:

Monday, March 2, 2015

9-Year-Old Entrepreneur Launches Tooth-Friendly Lollipop Company

Written by Adam Toren

It’s said that great things come in small packages, and that’s certainly the case for young entrepreneur Alina Morse and her healthy, delicious invention, Zollipops. This 9-year old entrepreneur came up with the idea for a lollipop created from healthy ingredients that was just as good for you as it was to eat.

I had the opportunity to speak with Alina to find out more about Zollipops and how she got started creating this delicious sweet treat you’re as likely to see on the shelves of Whole Food as at your dentist.

What inspired you to come up with Zollipops?

I wanted to make a difference and help people and make lives easier for guardians, and mostly moms. I got the idea when I went to the bank one day with my dad. The teller asked me if I wanted a sucker. My dad always told me that I should not eat candy, because sugar is terrible for your teeth. So on the car ride home I asked my dad if we could make a healthy sucker that was good for your teeth. I kept asking him, and finally we made the first batch.

How did you create the first one?

We did a lot of research to see what our main clean teeth ingredients were. We went to stores. We asked dentists and hygienists. We checked online. Then we made our ingredient list and found the perfect plant to make our Zollipops. It took many trials to get the ones we have today.

When did you know you had a great product?

I gave one to my little sister Lola, who is very picky about what she eats, and she thought it was great! She knows great suckers. Then Lola called them Zollipops, which was a great name that fit for a great product. We loved how the flavors fit together. When I shared with other friends and they loved them too, we knew we had a great product.

How did it go from a project to a business?

I focused on it with my dad as our top priority. We designed packaging and presented it to a retailer, and the retailer really liked them.

How did you get the initial meeting with the Whole Food buyers to get Zollipops in stores?

I worked on a presentation with my dad and submitted it to Whole Foods Markets buyers regionally and nationally with samples. We also got the product approved by the Whole Foods Whole Body quality.

How have your parents been involved in the Zollipops business?

My parents are very encouraging, and willing to help. They volunteer suggestions on flavors, colors and packaging. My dad is my consultant. I am the idea person. I ask him questions, and he helps me find answers. My mom helps me manage my time and also gives me suggestions about marketing to moms.

How do you balance school and business at 9 years old?

By splitting my time after school, one third for homework, one third for business updates or projects and one third for organizing and playing with my sister.

What would be your advice for other young entrepreneurs who want to create?

You can accomplish big things, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Follow your dreams. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. Even if adults don’t think kids can make big things happen, you can, just believe in yourself.

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