Florida Industry Leaders Promote Science Education

By Ed Swallow and Ben Ingham
Representatives from Florida’s industry, academia and government communities came together at Northrop Grumman’s Orlando, Fla., office to form a united charge against the coming tide of science, technology, engineering and mathematics work force retirements.

The meeting included the Central Florida chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association and members of its STEM Workforce Division along with the Aerospace Industries Association’s work force committee.

STEM should not be an abstract term that is only spoken on a technical basis, but rather, it should be used as a verb, said Jimmie L. Davis, chair of the STEMflorida Business Steering Council. “STEMming” should be the vision for where public advocacy should be taken, said Davis.

Representatives called upon all members of their communities — from Tampa Bay to Daytona Beach — to become ambassadors for STEM and to reach out to young people who show interest in any of those fields.

Angela Baber of the National Governors Association’s center for best practices pointed out that the nation’s governors are integral to meaningful and lasting education reform. She described several successful public-private partnerships in STEM: Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s STEM Advisory Council; Minnesota’s “GetSTEM” website; the Dayton STEM Center STEM Fellows Program; and the Virginia Career and Technical Academies. When these programs and initiatives are set up correctly, the STEM pipeline grows, she said.

Representatives of Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector presented their “Worthwhile to Teach High School Youth” (WORTHY) program. It allows elementary school children to assemble small pieces of technology that serve a practical purpose. Seeing their imagination manifest in something tangible is significant to those children, and it will serve them well in their future endeavors, speakers said.

Raytheon representatives provided a reception and networking event where attendees and local students experienced the “Sum of all Thrills” attraction at the Epcot theme park. Visitors to the attraction virtually map out a customized rollercoaster, bobsled or airplane trip and then ride it in a computerized hydraulic arm simulator, which demonstrates the power of math and science.

Capt. William Reuter, commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, provided a military perspective of STEM education. The center sponsors several STEM programs for elementary, undergraduate, and post-graduate students such as SeaPerch; the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarships; and FIRST Robotics.

Susan Lavrakas, director of work force at AIA said, “This [meeting] is the best example of industry, academia, and government collaboration that we have seen in several years.”

Ed Swallow is the current chairman of the NDIA STEM Workforce Division and vice president of business development for the civil systems division at Northrop Grumman Information Systems. Ben Ingham is an intern at Northrop Grumman.

Topics: Research and Development

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