Share This Page

Teachers from 75 Western Pa. school districts urged to focus on sciences, technology, math

| Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Teachers in more than 75 local school districts were urged at a conference in Pittsburgh Monday to enhance the disciplines of STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — to prepare children for the job market of the future.

“To be competitive in a global market, we must be more than literate. We must be fluent,” said Cynthia Pulkowski, executive director of ASSET STEM Education.

The education nonprofit led the event with Norwin School District at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Students must learn to think critically, collaborate, articulate a complex idea and construct and deconstruct significant objects, Pulkowski told an audience of 500, including teachers, business leaders and government officials from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Kentucky.

They can demonstrate those concepts through engineering, technologies, research and the arts, she said.

The conference, “A vision for STEM education: Exploring, connecting, transforming,” is the second such event Norwin has held. A summit at the district last year drew about 350 educators and business representatives.

“(There is) a nationwide call to action ... improving STEM education and expanding opportunities for all students and teachers,” Superintendent William Kerr said. “The time for STEM education is now.”

The district administration recently pitched an idea to build the Norwin STEM Innovation Center, a learning and conference facility on its North Huntingdon campus that would include business partnerships.

Today's schools were designed around industrialism to dole out doses of subjects such as English and science, said keynote speaker David Burns. A STEM approach would redesign that model, forcing educators to work with each other and children to apply their knowledge, said Burns, the director of STEM Innovation Networks at Battelle, an Ohio-based research and development organization.

Schools can improve by “teaching kids how to think and how to be prepared for life,” he said. “We talk about college- and career-ready. I want my kids to be life-ready.”

Keynote speaker Dewayne Rideout said relevant application is crucial in STEM. He is vice president of human resources at All-Clad Metalcrafters, which offers a partnership with South Fayette School District for students to apply their problem-solving savvy at the company.

“Give them the opportunity to come down on the field and practice and see what it's like. See if they like it,” Rideout said.

Brennan McCann, a 10th-grade aspiring astrophysicist at South Fayette, said his work at All-Clad taught him about economics, space constraints, ergonomics, communications, business and engineering. In one activity, students analyzed consumer trends.

Event attendees chose from almost two dozen sessions on topics ranging from robotics camps to leadership style to algebra for the 21st century.

In a session on the need for girls in STEM, Colleen Smith of the Penn State Electro-Optics Center said girls' interest in math and science is shaped by their environment, and negative stereotypes impact females' gains in the field.

“These stereotypes begin very, very early,” she said. “Boys are typically given opportunities to explore things with gears (and) with motion that girls typically don't get.”

Another session led by Pine-Richland School District educators explained a new section in its high school dedicated to STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics. In one project, students design and build an electric guitar — a collaboration between technology education and physics classes.

UPMC, Thermo Fisher Scientific and RTI International Metals were among organizations manning booths at the event.

Eighth-grader Marina Novotnak and senior Joe Spinogatti led Norwin's booth.

Novotnak, who's involved with the robotics club and robotics team, said students learn how to build and program robots as part of STEM efforts. Spinogatti, who's enrolled in a computer programming course, said he'll likely pursue computer science or information sciences in college.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.