Carnegie Mellon, China's Sun Yat-sen University launch joint engineering institute


Carnegie Mellon University and China’s Sun Yat-sen University are launching a graduate engineering program that will see the creation of a Joint Institute of Engineering between the two schools and the Shunde International Joint Research Institute with Shunde District, Foshan City.

The new programs furthers CMU’s international reach, which has been growing in recent years with various joint or dual degree programs.

“We are honored to partner with Sun Yat-sen University, as its distinguished history and educational strengths make it one of China’s leading institutions,” said CMU President Jared Cohon, in a written statement. “We look forward to bringing CMU’s strengths in innovation, technology and creative problem solving to the institute, which we hope will be the beginning of a long and productive collaboration between our two universities.”

The Joint Institute of Engineering will be co-chaired by CMU professor of engineering, and head of the Data Storage System Center, Jimmy Zhu and SYSU professor and assistant to the president Li Wenjun. The institute is meant to push education in engineering and undertake cutting edge research in China.

“The education and research program will focus on many important areas so endemic to Carnegie Mellon to help build a top-notch engineering program in China,” said Zhu, in a written statement.

For SYSU and the surrounding community the institute and the joint research is expected to help build the local research community in product development and industry improvement.

“We see this joint institute as a way to enhance engineering education in China, develop innovative engineering education programs and educate tomorrow’s leaders,” said Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, CMU’s interim dean of the college of engineering, in a written statement.

SYSU is a research university with schools in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, medical sciences and engineering. The university has 53,000 students on four campuses in Guangzhou and Zhuhai.


Middle school Earth science teachers discover new teaching methods at Brandywine

More than 50 middle school teachers from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland joined Penn State Brandywine for the inaugural Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association (PAESTA) Annual Conference on October 12 and 13.

PAESTA is the state chapter of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and was formed in 2011 by Brandywine Associate Professor of Earth Sciences Laura Guertin and University Park Professor of Geoscience Tanya Furman, who also serves as assistant vice president and associate dean for undergraduate education. 

PAESTA was formed as part of the $9.2 million National Science Foundation grant, “Targeted Math Science Partnership: Middle Grades Earth and Space Science Education.” Furman serves as lead principal investigator while Guertin serves as the current president of the organization.

The conference, titled “Linking Earth and Space Science Instruction to Career Opportunities,” began Friday evening with a showing of the documentary Switch, which features Geologist and University of Texas at Austin Professor Scott Tinker answering today’s most controversial energy questions as he travels the world exploring leading energy sites, from coal to solar, oil to biofuels--most of them highly restricted and never before seen on film.

Saturday kicked off with keynote speaker Heather Houlton, outreach coordinator at the American Geosciences Institute Workforce Program, who spoke about career opportunities and future employment outlook in the geosciences.

The conference had 12 technical sessions for people to choose from, including “The iPad as an Instructional Tool,” co-led by Guertin and Brandywine Instructional Designer Matt Bodek, who demonstrated free apps relating to Earth and space science for teachers to utilize with students. Teachers were also provided iPads to use during the session.

“Half of the teachers said they had never touched an iPad before and now want more sessions and information on how to use iPads with students,” Guertin said.

Another session featured one of Brandywine’s own students, senior Eileen Fresta, who co-presented with Philadelphia middle school teacher Theresa Lewis-King in Cumberland Cemetery across from campus on “A Cemetery as a Site for Multidisciplinary Teaching.” The session provided teachers with lesson plans and exercises to do with students with tombstone data.

PAESTA President-Elect Kelly Hunter, a middle school Earth science teacher at Snyder-Girotti Middle School in Bristol, said, “I think the first PAESTA conference exceeded all of our expectations! We wanted to create a true community for Earth science teachers where they could actively work together and make connections in their field. As we continue to develop PAESTA, we want this community to grow and extend beyond the conferences and workshops. With the help of Penn State, we are continuing to get closer to our goals for the future. 

For more information about PAESTA, visit online.




Penn State Behrend announces $21.7 million software gift

Penn State Behrend is in the middle of a technology push, now offering some of the latest design, engineering and animation software to students on almost 1,000 computers across campus.

And the school didn't pay a dime for it.

School officials announced a gift of software -- valued at $21.7 million -- from San Rafael, Calif.-based Autodesk on Tuesday morning.

That gift is the largest ever for Behrend and the first of its kind for the software development company.

"It is a unique, one-of-a-kind gift that gives students in each of our four schools ... unprecedented access to Autodesk software," said Ralph Ford, director of the college's School of Engineering. "Penn State Behrend is the only institution of higher education in the world to receive such a generous gift."

Autodesk's gift will put three of their most prominent software packages on 950 computers across the campus off Station Road in Harborcreek Township. Two of the packages will be used to bolster the engineering program -- one of the college's most high profile -- while the other will help create a new program in digital media arts and design.

The Autodesk Education Master Suite, which features design and engineering analysis tools, will be used to create simulated prototypes. Simulation Moldflow will be used by plastics engineering students to create injection molds.

Ford described the software as the industry standard, and plastics engineering student Emily Bowser said experience using it will only benefit her after graduation.

"It will make me a much more attractive candidate for prospective employers," said Bowser, a junior from Saltsburg.

The Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suite will give the school more capabilities in animation and game design. The software was used in special effects for movies like "Avatar," Happy Feet" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Software engineering senior Stephen Chalker, of Transfer, said he's disappointed he won't be around to see the new digital media program grow.

"This software meets the highest possible standards of the video game industry," Chalker said. "I honestly wish I wasn't graduating just yet."

Tim Maloney, director of worldwide simulation sales for Autodesk, said the partnership was originally proposed by Matt Jaworski and Jeff Higgins, a pair of Behrend alumni now working for the company.

He said it wasn't a hard sell because having more successful Behrend students means a better pool of job candidates.

"We have hired numerous Behrend graduates," Maloney said. "And I think it's important for industry and education to partner for the future."

Maloney's boss, Tom Cameron, vice president of the company's worldwide manufacturing sales, was also in attendance Tuesday.

The presentation included a two-minute video showcasing what Behrend students can do with the software, including designing a bolt and creating a three-dimensional model of Chancellor Donald Birx's head. People were given a chance to have their own head turned into a computer model after the announcement.

Birx said he wasn't sure what to make of the larger-than-life, computer generated version of himself. But he did say it indicates new opportunities for the college.

"This is the start of something we've really been dreaming about the last couple of years," Birx said.



Penn State branch campuses virtually linked through hybrid classes

A new Penn State University program has taken the college classroom, blended it with online learning, added a mix of students from across the state in a virtual environment, and put live professors at the front of the class to create a hybrid college experience called the Penn State Video Learning Network (VLN).

The courses—which could become a model for how state universities can reach adult students who have nontraditional needs—are taught by professors at one of 20 participating Penn State campuses across the state.

Participating campuses are located in Altoona, Berks, Brandywine, DuBois, Erie, Fayette, Great Valley (two VLN classrooms), Greater Allegheny, Hazleton, Harrisburg, Lehigh Valley, Mont Alto, New Kensington, Schuylkill, Shenango, University Park, and York, Pa., and the Lewistown and Williamsport learning centers.

Students taking the course sit at their local Penn State campus one night each week in a special classroom outfitted with video conferencing equipment that delivers live courses from one Penn State campus to up to three other campuses.

In the classroom, there’s also a special audio button in front of each student that, when the student pushes the button, an in-room camera zooms in on the student, giving them a live connection with the instructor on the other campus.

“It’s as close to being in the classroom with the students as you can be,” said faculty member Michelle Kline in a promotional video prepared by the university.

“At the same time, they are seeing what is going on the other classrooms. They’re seeing their classmates, even though those classmates might be 200 miles apart. They’re seeing them and they’re interacting with them. They’re forming a relationship with these other classmates.”

The professor and every student at every campus can hear the questions each student asks, as well as the professor’s answers. Questions and comments get an instant response. There is no time lapse between the student asking the question and the professor’s answer. The system provides for interactive discussions in real time among students spread across that state at various campuses.

In addition to the weekly on-campus class, course work includes a traditional online learning component. Between classes, students can reach instructors through eMail, online video chat, cell phone, and virtual office hours.

“It’s a blended learning environment, so a student can attend a class with a faculty member and their peers one night a week, go home and continue to study online at their convenience, and then come back the next week,” said learning network faculty member Jeff Werner in the university’s informational video.

Currently available courses include business essentials for the professional, labor studies and employment relations certificate programs, and a pilot: registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing degree cohort.

Rosemarie Piccioni, director of the Video Learning Network, said the system was developed “to serve adult learners that need to earn credentials and degrees at their hometown Penn State campus.”

“Every credit has to count, so our courses run for seven-and-a-half weeks, and credits earned often can be used for a certificate and also applied toward a degree program,” Piccioni said. “We also offer general education credit courses to help an adult student begin their journey.”

The unique program has been awarded the 2012 Shirley Davis Award for Excellence in Synchronous Distance Learning, presented by the National University Technology Network, which recognizes institutions that provide synchronous distance learning of a superior nature.

“It’s about accessibility. It’s about support. It’s about presenting them with all the opportunities of a great university like Penn State,” Werner said.

“The adult learner has many demands in their life. But the adult learner also knows the value of an education. The Video Learning Network offers a venue for adults to return to the classroom on their own terms.”



PA Cyber STEM education project manager speaks to Pittsburgh Ivy League group

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 12, 2012 --  Science education in Pennsylvania public schools "can become relevant to real-world needs and lead students toward productive careers" if regional technology-based corporations become involved, PA Cyber's new STEM project manager said.

Eugene "Geno" Thomas made his comments as the monthly speaker at a lunch lecture series sponsored by the Allegheny HYP Club and Harvard Club of Western Pennsylvania in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

"Our students need to be prepared for technology jobs that may not even exist yet," said Thomas. "To meet this challenge we have to bring industry inside the educational system."

PA Cyber's plan includes collaboration on curriculum and program design with working scientists and technologists from regional corporations, and with educators from area institutions of higher learning.

"The overall concept of getting these corporations together and devising a plan on how we can move forward is really the key," said luncheon attendee Bob Martin. "There are a lot of corporations that believe in these goals. Maybe PA Cyber can be the glue that brings it together."

Martin said he knows from his contacts within large regional corporations that several are committed to finding ways to promote STEM education. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and founder and COO of North Shore Technologies, an information technology staffing provider.

Questions asked at the luncheon showed that many well-educated people are still learning about online education, Martin added.

PA Cyber's STEM Initiative was announced one year ago at the 2011 Pittsburgh STEM Summit. Thomas, who has held top administrative positions in both traditional school districts and charter schools, was tapped four months ago to head PA Cyber's STEM project.

Thomas said PA Cyber would make use of its statewide network of regional offices to provide hands-on, project-based STEM experiences.  New STEM curricula is being developed for grades K-12. A proposed STEM education facility in the Cranberry area, northwest of Pittsburgh, is conceived as a training and laboratory site.

The acronym "STEM" conventionally stands for "science, technology, engineering and math." Thomas said PA Cyber defines the "M" in STEM as "medicine" to connect with Pittsburgh's great medical centers and biotechnology companies, and because math is already integral to science, technology and engineering.

A native of New Castle, Pa., Thomas has been a teacher, principal and educational administrator, serving in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania schools. He served as superintendent of three school districts, and founded and led four charter schools.

He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Slippery Rock University and a Master's Degree in Education Administration and Supervision from George Mason University. He had the opportunity to study English at Oxford University in England, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Youngstown State University.

Thomas was invited to speak by Ed Breaux, a member of the All Ivy Network of Western Pennsylvania and a PA Cyber mathematics teacher.

Thomas said PA Cyber's 250 online courses already include a wide menu of basic and advanced math, science and technical courses, many of them not offered in traditional school districts. An original series called Cutting Edge Science includes such courses as emerging genetics, forensic science, biofuels and engineering land speed vehicles.

The school has established a collaborative relationship with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratories. They have consulted on curricula and regularly meet online with students in the PA Cyber Cutting Edge Science Club.



Penn Hosts First Ivy Plus STEM Symposium

Penn hosted the first Ivy Plus Symposium and workshops for diverse scholars, a national conference designed to encourage exceptional undergraduate students to pursue advanced training in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields. 

The 2012 Ivy Plus STEM Symposium for Diverse Scholars welcomed nearly 100 underrepresented undergraduates with outstanding academic records from schools across the United States to Penn’s campus.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia delivered welcoming remarks on Friday evening at the opening reception and dinner.  The dinner keynote speaker was Derrick Pitts, the senior scientist and chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute Science Museum.  Since 1978, Pitts has designed and presented many of the museum’s programs and exhibits.  As the planetarium director, he has written and produced many planetarium programs and was recently invited to the White House for the first White House Star Party.

During the course of the weekend, participants gained insight into interdisciplinary science and how overlapping research fields create innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Attendees met with faculty from the nation’s leading universities and heard about their research in emerging fields; attended seminars, personal meetings and panels with graduate admissions representatives; and learned more about pursing research degrees.  In addition, students presented their own work to faculty members in a research poster session. 

One first-place winner in the research poster session was Jesus Ayala Figueroa, a biology major from the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao.  His poster depicted his research into a protein’s important role in controlling how fast cells divide in ectodermal tissues.

“This was a culmination of all of the internships and conferences I attended,” he says. “And, this marks the beginning of my graduate school experience.”

He attended the symposium to get more information about the graduate schools – and was able to find top-notch graduate institutions in one place.

“I was familiar with what they offered, but this gave me the opportunity to talk face to face with admissions representatives and not only find out ‘inside information’ about each school but also get more of a feeling for each school,” Ayala Figueroa says. 

He plans to apply to Penn, Brown University, Vanderbilt University and New York University.

“This conference is great for underrepresented groups in the STEM fields,” Ayala Figueroa says. “As a Latino who wants to be a scientist, we often hear how this is something that’s out of our reach, how we can’t get there.  This event shows that schools are trying to reach out so that we can have a more diverse research environment.”

Ayala Figueroa also has a tie to Penn.  He completed a summer research internship with Meera Sundaram of the Biomedical Graduate Studies program here in 2011 with The Leadership Alliance.

Susan Ross, Penn’s associate dean for Biomedical Graduate Studies and poster judge, says that the students and their research impressed her.

“The students were all very committed to research careers and it showed in the outstanding poster presentations,” Ross says.  “All the students did a great job describing their projects and demonstrated a level of understanding that is more typical of senior graduate students.”

The symposium gave Ross and other faculty members an opportunity to interact with undergraduate students in an intimate setting. 

“The students that I met were all excited to be able to attend this conference, to present their research and to learn about future opportunities at the Ivy Plus institutions,” Ross says.  “This type of symposium is important for introducing a diverse group of students to institutions where they can fulfill their goals of pursuing research careers.”

Sheila Thomas is the assistant dean of diversity and minority affairs for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and a professor at Harvard University.  As a part of the steering committee, she helped to plan and organize the first Ivy Plus STEM conference. She also served on the admissions panel and as a poster judge.

Thomas says that diversity equals excellence and it’s important to build relationships between institutions, admissions personnel, faculty and program directors in order to achieve diversity in the STEM fields.

The Ivy Plus STEM symposium is valuable for everyone.  The best and brightest students are exposed to new schools and faculty, but, just as importantly, faculty are exposed to students from many different schools.  This emphasizes that there is great talent everywhere, and it is an eye-opening experience for all of us,” Thomas says.  “Events like this show us that we should keep our minds open, so that we’re attracting outstanding students from all schools, and this is one way to do that.”

“This is an outgrowth," says Andrew Binns, Penn’s vice provost for education, “of the Penn president’s and provost’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence, to help train, mentor, and encourage the faculty of the future, especially in the STEM fields.  These are areas in which faculty members and graduate students are historically underrepresented.”

The event was opened to a select group of students participating in college-level STEM “pipeline” programs, which produce a growing stream of strong academic achievers from underrepresented groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, first-generation college applicants, students from low-income households and women.

Martha Dua-Awereh will graduate from Brooklyn College in May 2013.  She’s a double major in biology and physics, but she’s also a Penn alum who graduated with a degree in philosophy in 2008.  Just a few months ago, she was on campus for the Summer Undergraduate Internship Program through Penn Biomedical Graduate Studies, which is how she found out about the symposium.

She wasn’t around many Ph.D.s or scientists growing up and didn’t feel as though she was needed.  What’s more disheartening is that she felt as though she didn’t belong in the sciences.  But, at the Ivy Plus STEM symposium this weekend, Dua-Awereh received a powerful message of encouragement: We need you. 

“It was encouraging to hear it from so many people that I bring something special to the table,” she says. 

At the conference, she met up with admissions representatives from the schools in which she plans to apply, including Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, the University of Chicago and Princeton University.

“I have a lot of knowledge now about the application process and the STEM fields.  And, now that I know that I’m needed in the sciences, I can help others also feel as though they are needed, too,” she adds.  “The knowledge that I have –- I have to share it with others.  By sharing that knowledge, I’m not only strengthening the STEM community, but I’m also contributing to the academic pool and bringing in others so that they can add to the pipeline, too.”

Dua-Awereh says to up-and-coming researchers, “If it’s something that you want to pursue, don’t feel discouraged about the roadblocks.  They’re there to build character and strength so that you can really be prepared for what you want to do in life.”




FirstEnergy Announces Education Grant Winners in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

READING, Pa., Oct. 9, 2012 - FirstEnergy announced that 18 teachers representing 15 Pennsylvania schools and clubs have been awarded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Grants.  The grants, of up to $500 each, will be used for a variety of hands-on projects, workshops and teacher development programs throughout the school year.

Grant winners include:  Jason Zalno, Exeter Junior High School, Exeter; Brian Hastings, Spring Grove Area High School, Spring Grove; Bonnie Blatt, Monocacy  Elementary Center, Birdsboro; Sid Harwood, Daniel Boone High School, Birdsboro; Shannon W. Helzer, Daniel Boone High School, Birdsboro; Lindsey S. Dahl, Diehl Elementary School, Erie; Doreen Petri, Northwest PA Collegiate Academy, Erie; Michael Beiter, Central Tech Career and Technical School, Erie; Michele Stubenbort, Our Lady's Christian School, Erie; Jeffrey J. Kuntz, Punxsutawney Area Middle School, Punxsutawney; Barbara E. Knecht, Boys & Girls Club of Somerset County, Somerset; William H. Hughes, Park Forest Middle School, State College; Shaun R. Valente, Laurel Highlands Middle School, Uniontown; Pete Cardamone, Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology School, Latrobe; Renee Reich and Tammy Fleming, Jeannette Mckee Middle School, Jeannette; Lisa Gray, Colfax Upper Elementary School, Springdale; Sue Melton, Colfax Upper Elementary School, Springdale.

"FirstEnergy is proud to provide these grants to our winning teachers to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics for our students," said Dee Lowery, vice president of Corporate Affairs and Community Involvement and president of the FirstEnergy Foundation.  "Each year, we receive outstanding applications and again this year had a difficult time choosing the winners." 

FirstEnergy offers grants up to $500 to individual teachers and administrators at schools served by its electric utility operating companies and where it has facilities.         

Grant recipients are recommended by local educators who make up FirstEnergy's Educational Advisory Council.  As part of the program, recipients must furnish a written summary and evaluation of their projects that can be shared with other educators in FirstEnergy's service area.



The Franklin Institute Recognized For Leadership And Innovation With Awards For A Series Of Highly-Competitive Federal Grants

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 8, 2012 -- The Franklin Institute has been awarded seven highly-competitive federal grants totaling over $9 million, reaffirming the Institute as a national leader in innovative approaches to science education and community outreach.  The Institute's nationally-recognized track record of producing effective informal science education programs, many of which are collaborative efforts, has earned it a position as a longtime recipient of important and competitive federal funding.  The latest round of multi-million dollar projects range from urban climate change awareness to science and literacy learning for early childhood and families.  These opportunities bring a significant amount of federal funding to the museum and the City of Philadelphia and reinforce The Franklin Institute's dedication to science education, research and collaboration. 

The recently awarded grants include five National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant and a federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) award.  

The NSF-funded grants consist of:

$5.8 million for Climate and Urban Systems Partnership, designed to promote climate change education among urban residents.

$1.9 million ($330,346 to The Franklin Institute) for Broad Implementation of Science Festival Alliance, a collaborative effort to expand upon and sustain science festivals nationwide.

$993,705 for Integrating Science into Afterschool, which will engage underserved children in a variety of city-wide afterschool science programs.

$815,123 for LEAP into Science: Engaging Diverse Community Partners in Science and Literacy, which will leverage partnerships and collaborations to augment an existing program that connects children's literature and hands-on science in out-of-school environments.

$499,873 ($82,860 to The Franklin Institute) for Transforming STEM Competitions into Collaboratives, a project that engages students in technology-rich collaborative environments that are alternatives to other types of science fairs and robotic competitions. 


Additionally, NASA has awarded $799,546 to The Franklin Institute for City Skies, a project which will incorporate newly-formed Franklin Institute astronomy programs with NASA's existing resources to spark an interest in astronomy among urban populations in Philadelphia.  Lastly, IMLS has awarded a $249,534 grant, LEAP into Science: Cultivating Early Learning in Science and Literacy, which will enhance an existing program and incorporate children's literature and hands-on science into early childhood learning.

"The established success rate of The Franklin Institute in this highly-competitive arena, where only a very small number of grants are awarded to major institutions, recognizes the Institute's excellence in developing effective and innovative educational programs," explains Dr. Dennis M. Wint, President and CEO of The Franklin Institute. "This funding will allow the Institute to broaden its reach nationally through partnership collaborations, engage the community in meaningful science learning opportunities, and reinforce Philadelphia's position as a leader in STEM education."

The following are more detailed descriptions of these recently awarded grants:

CCEP-II: Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) – The National Science Foundation has awarded a $5.8 million grant to The Franklin Institute for a five-year, multi-city project focused on engaging urban residents in community-based learning about climate, climate-change science, and the prospects for enhancing urban quality of life through informed responses to a changing Earth.  Led by The Franklin Institute, and working through networks of community-based organizations in four urban centers—Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, and Washington, DC—CUSP will deliver coordinated programs and messages through interlinked community platforms that reach city residents in neighborhoods, online, and at city festivals.  This collaborative project is supported by the National Science Foundation's Climate Change Education Partnership Program (CCEP), which aims to increase public understanding of global climate change and prepare the next generation of scientists and educators.   The CUSP project was 1 of only 6 funded nationally in this round of competition.   Dr. Steve Snyder is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total: $5,882,653

Broad Implementation of Science Festival Alliance – This three-year collaborative effort between four key partners—Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Franklin Institute, University of California at San Francisco, and University of North Carolina/Morehead Planetarium and Science Center—builds on the findings of the National Science Foundation-funded National Science Festival Network to establish, support and develop new science festivals, create online tools and educational resources, and craft an overall long-term sustainability plan.  The Franklin Institute will focus on, among other things, identifying Science Festival programming that engages new audiences.   Dr. Steve Snyder is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total:  $1,999,904 ($330,346 to The Franklin Institute)

Integrating Science into Afterschool:  A Three-Dimensional Approach to Engaging Underserved Populations in Science – In an ongoing effort to transform the role of science in the lives of underserved youth and families in Philadelphia, Integrating Science into Afterschool will engage underserved minority children in grades 3-5 in city-wide out-of-school time programs through collaboration with the Philadelphia Out-of-School Time (OST) Program, funded through the City of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC). This three-year project, funded by the ITEST program of the National Science Foundation, will engage participants in year-round project-based science learning and exposure to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through multiple access points to demonstrate a three-dimensional model of science learning afterschool, at home, and in community.  Dr. Dale McCreedy is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total: $993,705

LEAP into Science: Engaging Diverse Community Partners in Science and Literacy is an elaboration of the LEAP into Science model funded by the National Science Foundation and developed by The Franklin Institute in collaboration with The Free Library of Philadelphia. The LEAP into Science program has successfully promoted student and family engagement in science and literacy in Philadelphia for over five years, and more recently in ten collaborations nationwide.  This new three-year effort will leverage components of that pilot program to engage new community audiences, offer enhanced professional development, and, through partnerships with the University of Washington and the University of Delaware, study the efficacy of the program in different out-of-school time contexts and populations.   Dr. Dale McCreedy is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total: $815,123

Transforming STEM Competitions into Collaboratives: Developing eCrafting Collabs for Learning with Electronic Textiles – Led by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, this two-year project supports the development of technological fluency and understanding of STEM concepts by implementing design collaboratives that use eCrafting Collabs to work with middle and high school students, parents and the community.  eCrafting projects involve the incorporation of embedded computers, sensors, and actuators into soft materials such as fabric and felt in order to create an e-textile. The activity merges principles of electrical engineering with craft skills such as sewing and quilting. eCrafting Collabs are a modern interpretation of the traditional sewing circle where eCrafters work side-by-side and share their resources and knowledge. Dr. Karen Elinich is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total: $499,873 ($82,860 to The Franklin Institute)

City Skies: Linking Neighborhoods with NASA through Urban Astronomy – Funded through support from NASA and led by The Franklin Institute's Chief Astronomer and NASA Solar System Ambassador Derrick Pitts, City Skies is a four-year, city-wide astronomical observing program designed to stimulate interest and engagement in NASA's missions and resources among residents of Philadelphia's inner-city neighborhoods. Developed by The Franklin Institute, the program engages 30 community-based organizations in neighborhoods across Philadelphia, and all School District of Philadelphia middle schools, to introduce students, families and neighborhoods to observing astronomical objects in day and night skies, and to NASA's online resources and citizen scientist research opportunities.    Grant total: $799,546

LEAP into Science: Cultivating Early Learning in Science and Literacy – Extending The Franklin Institute's ongoing work to engage underserved children and families in science and literacy through an existing program called LEAP into Science, this project will enhance program resources for early childhood audiences.  Funded by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as a National Leadership Grant, this project supports the goals of IMLS's national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. To reach underserved populations with this innovative program, The Franklin Institute will partner with the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children (DVAEYC), The Free Library of Philadelphia, and 10 national sites that include partnerships with public libraries, science museums, children's museums, school districts, afterschool providers, and public television.  Dr. Dale McCreedy is The Franklin Institute's Principal Investigator. Grant total:  $249,534



McGraw-Hill Education Announces Winners of the 2012 STEM Innovative Educator Awards

McGraw-Hill Education today announced the winners of the Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Innovative Educator Awards (STEMIEs), a competition that honors innovative educators in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lance Schwartz, an eighth grade technology teacher from Selinsgrove, Pa., has been named the first-prize winner. Tricia Fuglestad, a fifth grade technology teacher from Arlington Heights, Ill., and Jim Emmert, a high school technology teacher from Pella, Iowa, were awarded second and third place prizes.

Teachers entered the contest by submitting a short video that demonstrates innovative teaching methods in their STEM classrooms. Thirty finalists were selected by teachers and a panel of guest judges, and were uploaded to the STEMIE site to encourage teachers to review, share and vote on other lessons. In total, over 22,000 votes were cast for extraordinary teachers from all across the country.

"It's inspiring to see our country's great teachers in action, and we're delighted to be able to give this award to such a dynamic and captivating teacher," said Lisa O'Masta, vice president of STEM, McGraw-Hill School Education. "The energy and creativity captured in Mr. Schwartz's video entry is an inspiration to all of us in the STEM learning community, and we sincerely hope that the prize will not only help Selinsgrove Area Middle School continue to support exemplary STEM education but serve as a platform for teachers to share effective teaching strategies."

Mr. Schwartz's winning video, which can be seen at, shows how his students use STEM concepts to design, build, analyze and race CO2-powered race cars. Selinsgrove Area Middle School will receive $15,000 to further enhance classrooms for STEM learning. A total of $25,000 will be awarded to three winners and five honorable mentions throughout the country.

For more information on McGraw-Hill Education's Science, Technology, Engineering & Math Innovative Educator Awards, please visit: 


NAPE Education Foundation Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Increase STEM Access for Underrepresented Groups

COCHRANVILLE, Pa. — The National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity’s (NAPE) Education Foundation has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue and grow its STEM Equity Pipeline™ initiative.

NAPE launched STEM Equity Pipeline™ in 2007 with funding from the National Science Foundation’s Gender in Science and Engineering program. Through this new NSF grant, NAPE’s STEM Equity Pipeline, currently working in 12 states, will be able to expand to 10 additional states.

The project works with both state- and local-level educators to develop policies and programs to ensure equity is integral to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiatives being developed in the state. The project will also provide intensive professional development to state and local administrators, counselors, and faculty to implement research-based practices designed to increase access, success, and postsecondary transition of girls and other underrepresented groups in STEM.

Pat Elizondo, Senior Vice President, Xerox Corporation, Chair of the NAPE Business and Industry Advisory Council, and member of the NAPE Education Foundation Board of Directors, says, “This is a very important award that solidifies our ability at NAPE to execute on our aggressive plan for 2013 and beyond. NAPE is making measureable progress in changing the face of the STEM workforce.”

Noting that women in STEM occupations earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and that the wage gap between men and women in STEM jobs is significantly smaller than in other fields, Mimi Lufkin, Chief Executive Officer of NAPE, asserts, “Increasing the diversity of the STEM workforce is good for business and individuals. Business benefits from increased innovation and competitiveness while individuals can become economically self-sufficient by participating in a high-skill, high-wage career in STEM.”

For more information about NAPE and the STEM Equity Pipeline™, visit




NASA Selects Teachers To Fly Student Experiments In Reduced Gravity Aircraft

Teachers from six NASA Explorer Schools (NES) have been selected to receive the 2012 School Recognition Award for their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

The teachers selected are from Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Glendale, Calif.; Franke Park Elementary School, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Mountview Road School, Morris Plains, N.J.; Corpus Christi Catholic School, Chambersburg, Pa.; Fairport High School, Fairport N.Y.; and Forest Lake Elementary Technology Magnet School, Columbia, S.C.

In April 2013, three teachers from each school will travel to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. There they will have the opportunity to fly aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft and conduct experiments designed by their students. The experiments will examine the acceleration and inertia of objects, how fluids with different viscosities behave in microgravity, and how the absence of gravity affects mass and weight.

"Congratulations to the NES teachers selected for this innovative NASA experience. The reduced gravity flights allow teachers to conduct scientific investigations in a microgravity environment, similar to how experiments are conducted on the International Space Station," said Cecelia Fletcher, acting program manager for primary and secondary education at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This experiential learning opportunity helps to spread the excitement of STEM education with teachers and students throughout the NASA Explorer School network."

A team of NASA personnel reviewed many applications before selecting these six schools for their exemplary classroom practices and innovative uses of NES resources to engage a broad school population. These schools were chosen from more than 470 schools that are registered participants in the NASA Explorer Schools project.

The NASA Explorer Schools project is the classroom-based gateway for students in grades 4-12 that focuses on stimulating STEM education using agency content and themes.

For more information about the Explorer Schools Project, visit:

To watch a four-minute video that provides project information and shows previous winners aboard the reduced gravity aircraft, visit:

For more information about NASA's education programs, visit:



Esperanza College of Eastern University Opens New Wing, Focuses On STEM Education For Minorities

Esperanza College of Eastern University officially opened a new wing, designed to provide math, science, and technology education to the largely minority population of Hunting Park in Philadelphia. The new wing was made possible by the award of a competitive Title V grant from the federal Department of Education, and also received funding support from Wells Fargo, Citizens, and Aetna. 

Esperanza College is one of only two federally-recognized Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the state of Pennsylvania, and primarily serves Hispanic and other minority groups that have disproportionately low levels of academic and career achievement in the STEM fields.  The new wing will help address this challenge and increase the numbers of Hispanic and African American students in these fields, by adding four new math or science-related concentrations to the college's portfolio of academic offerings, including:  Accounting, Medical Assisting, Teacher Education – Science, and Teacher Education – Math. 

The new facility contains six new classrooms, math and science laboratories, and a robust student development center that will provide more intensive supports to promote student success.  It is Esperanza's goal to spur a widespread cultural shift in the Hispanic and other minority communities of Philadelphia, and to open up new access for minorities to STEM career paths.



Workforce Development Hearing Features Technical School Leaders

A local state representative met with business and career education officials last week in the Alle-Kiski Valley to address job creation.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland/Armstrong) hosted a hearing of the House Majority Policy Committee in an empty storefront in the Hillcrest Shopping Center to find ways that state government can help the private sector spur job growth.

“The purpose of today’s hearing was to hear first hand mostly about workforce development issues – how we can help our employers find the best skilled workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow,” Evankovich said. “There needs to be, and there can be, a real partnership in how we train a workforce that is career-based, ensuring that those employers will be able to find the skilled workers they need. As far as legislation goes, there are things we can do here in Pennsylvania to make our Career and Technical Schools more effective and more efficient.”
The hearing, which took place in an empty storefront in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, was organized into two panel discussions, with the first representing a local trade union and manufacturer, and the second on educational and training organizations.

Participants in the trade union and manufacturer’s discussion emphasized the need to focus on career and technical training programs.

“My company has a tremendously skilled workforce,” said Jeff Kelly, president of Hamill Manufacturing in Penn Township. “My biggest concern is finding the next generation of workers to fill the pipeline. I suggest that a third party be tasked to look at career and technology training programs around the world and report back to lawmakers on the best practices that are out there.”

During the panel discussion on educational and training organizations, Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and Lenape Technical School leaders told lawmakers there needs to be more emphasis placed on promoting the benefits of a vocational education.

That began with Northern Westmoreland’s Administrative Director Kurt Keifer.

“Enrollment in career and technology centers has been dropping,” Keifer said. “Students are interested, but we’re losing them through the back door. They’re starting with us and then leaving for a variety of reason before they graduate.”

Lenape Tech’s Administrative Director Dawn Kocher-Taylor also testified at the hearing

“Pennsylvania’s Career and Technical Centers are developing a workforce that meets the needs of our business and industry partners today, and workers who recognize that learning is a lifelong process and is necessary to prepare them for the jobs of the future.  Our graduates help Pennsylvania businesses compete in the global marketplace,” Kocher-Taylor wrote in her testimony.

She also asked legislators for help to promote high priority occupations in manufacturing and in funding streams.

“We need you to help modify our State’s perspective on what defines success, and to recognize achievement can be measured by more than a standardized academic exam.  We need a system that recognizes growth of students while enrolled in a CTE Programs and that also recognizes their ability to pass a written and demonstrative certification exam, prior to graduation that has value to employers, Kocher-Taylor added.

“In the case of Lenape, our juniors did not meet the State targets on the PSSA exam in 2011-12; however, ninety percent of our graduating seniors passed an industry certification exam at a competent or advanced level.”

House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said there needs to be equal collaboration on both ends to progress.

“Part of the struggle has been that we have folks who are unemployed (with) jobs that are available, but they don’t necessarily mesh well together. And that’s part of the responsibility of the State, school districts, universities and trade schools,” Reed said. “We need to match those two categories up better so we have folks employed, gainfully taking care of themselves and their families, and we can move Pennsylvania forward.”

Similar job creation hearings have been held throughout the state in recent months.

In addition to committee chairman Rep. Reed and Evankovich, three other local state legislators also attended the hearing: Reps. Brian Ellis (R-Butler), Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango/Butler) and Jim Marshall (R-Beaver).

Rep. Evankovich will host a town hall meeting at 7PM Tuesday, September 18 at the Parks Township Municipal Building in Vandergrift to address Armstrong County taxpayers, including those in Bethel, Cadogan, Gilpin and Parks Township.





Carnegie Mellon spinoff’s toys teach technology by making it fun
An imagination geared toward making robots from cardboard boxes can quickly fade once the lure of playtime is replaced with a fear of science and technology learning. But a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers are betting that a toy designed to bring cardboard friends to life could be the tool that makes creating technology just another part of play.
The Hummingbird—a kit featuring electronic sensors, motors, and everything else required to turn a craft project into a robot—was unrolled for commercial sale in July after six years of research.
The kit, which was developed through CMU’s CREATE Lab, also features simple programming software that allows students who are just learning the ins and outs of technology to customize their robots with distinct sounds, movements, and other defining features. The kits are being sold for $119 through a CMU spinoff company, BirdBrain Technologies.
“We want students to become inventors of technology rather than users of technology,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, CMU robotics professor who leads CREATE Lab, in a press release. “Hummingbird feeds a student’s natural curiosity about technology by enabling her to incorporate robotics into something she is making that is meaningful or useful.”
Initially created for CREATE Lab’s Arts & Bots program—an initiative to encourage interest in technology among middle school students—Hummingbird has been through several iterations before reaching its current stage, said CREATE Lab senior research associate Emily Hamner.
The original idea was to create robots that express emotions and feelings to draw interest from young girls. The idea was that girls would keep a diary, and the robot would act out feelings expressed in their entries.
After a series of workshops with girls at the Sarah Heinz House, the idea of sharing diary entries was soundly dismissed, although everyone seemed excited by the notion of an emotive robot.
“They liked that a robot could be expressive and tell stories. That’s much different from a robot that launches Ping-Pong balls,” Hamner said.
With emotional expression, dancing, and general flexibility in movement being some of the key requests from students, CREATE Lab narrowed down what types of tools and equipment could be used to help students create the robots of their desires.
BirdBrain CEO and CREATE Lab alumnus Tom Lauwers said each kit contains DC motors and a master controller to manage movement but also features motion-detecting sensors and servos to allow for specific ranges of movement (raised arms or eyebrows), sound detectors, and color-changing LED lights, which are typically used to change eye color.
“Everyone knows red eyes means you’re angry,” Lauwers said.
Early tests with students at St. Louise de Marillac Catholic School in Upper St. Clair, Pa., and The Ellis School in Shadyside, Pa., which both participate in the Arts & Bots program, demonstrated a range of ideas that surprised researchers and instructors.
Human anatomy and physiology students at The Ellis School used the kit to build a model of the human arm using flexible plastics and servos that moved elbow and wrist joints.
“A lot of the girls said it helped them see where muscles attached,” said teacher Terry Richards in a press release. “They really had to think about where the muscles could attach on their models. Even in high school, students aren’t usually introduced to this technology unless they’re on the robotics team.”
Zee Poerio, a teacher at St. Louise de Marillac, said building a replica of a mythical Greek monster engaged students in ancient studies in a way that extended even beyond the school year. The Gorgon coin featured tri-color LEDs to create glowing eyes that change from blue to red, distance sensors that recognized when students were near, and a servo that wagged the monster’s tongue. Students only programmed the coin to make a roaring sound in response to certain actions this year, but were offering suggestions to have it tell the myth of Medusa next year.
Outside the classroom, she said students began noticing the use of electronic sensors in devices all around them.
“One student made the observation about the distance sensor on the automatic soap dispenser in the restroom and came to the conclusion that it needed to be adjusted to a shorter distance so soap wouldn’t be wasted. A younger student had an ‘aha’ moment after activating the distance sensor on the Gorgon robot and said, ‘Now I know how those sliding glass doors magically open when you walk up to them or when you go into a store, there’s a distance sensor in there, right?’” she said in an eMail.
In addition to schools and organizations around the Pittsburgh area, Hummingbird kits are being used at Marshall University in West Virginia and in programs in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.
If the response from early testers is an indication of the future, the kits could take off in a big way.
“At the end of the school year I polled students about what they wanted to learn more about next year, [and] more robots was a popular response from boys and girls at all levels,” Poerio said.


Partnership encourages local districts to launch their own cyber schools

In an effort to help Pennsylvania school districts recoup money and keep students in the district, two local parties have teamed up to offer districts the ability to launch their own cyber schools.

The Learning Lamp and In-Shore Technologies, a Johnstown, Pa.-based technology support company, are offering Blended Learning Technologies (BLT), which provides curriculum, teachers, hardware, and tech support for half the cost districts pay when a student enrolls in one the state’s 13 cyber charter schools.

Currently, when parents enroll their child in a cyber charter school, the resident district no longer has any responsibility for the education of that child, but is responsible for paying that child’s tuition. That can range from $10,000 to $18,000 depending on the needs of the child.

“This is truly a win for school districts,” said Heidi Rizkalla, the Learning Lamp’s education director. “Not only can schools now control the content and course options for their cyber students, they can save a significant amount of money.”

BLT uses curriculum from the nonprofit, which is aligned with state academic standards.

The online classes are taught by qualified state teachers, and the Learning Lamp—which has worked for years with school districts across the state providing full-year and credit-recovery courses—is responsible for providing teachers.

In-Shore Technologies provides all the technology such as computers, routers, and printers and addresses any technical issues that should arise.

Students who enroll in BLT will receive a diploma from their home district and will be able to participate in all extracurricular and club activities and sports in the district.

“Districts can monitor students and see their progress,” Rizkalla said. “They are fully invested and have access to these kids, so this is another way to educate and an extension of that school district.”

Conemaugh Township School District created its own cyber academy this past school year, and Superintendent Gary Buchsen said it’s been a positive addition and something he encourages other districts to consider.

“In the spring of 2011, we had 38 students enrolled in state cybers, and we have been able to get that number down to 15,” he said. That means Conemaugh Township now loses less money in state aid.


When the academy started, classes were available to students in grades 6 through 12. Beginning this fall, the program will expand to include kindergarten through grade 12.

Last year the district paid $9,716 per student and $17,439 per student with special needs to state cyber schools, so by regaining those 23 students it is saving more than $220,000.

“The challenge for schools is to be able to provide that cyber model that will keep students in their system because it is a great benefit,” Buchsen said.

BLT is ready and can be rolled out as soon as this upcoming school year.

Information detailing the program was sent out to districts in Cambria, Somerset, Bedford, and Indiana counties.

Rizkalla said no local district has gotten on board yet, but there has been interest from schools that want to explore it further.

“Cyber education is for highly motivated and disciplined families and students. It’s not for everyone, but it is a viable option for parents,” she said. “This is the trend in education and every district is working on ways to combat deficits in budgets, so it seems natural for them to investigate this.”


Camp a fun twist to learning science in Upper St. Clair
It's really about global competitiveness, but don't tell the students that. For them, Panic at the Point, a weeklong camp combining science, technology, engineering and math (known jointly as STEM) at Upper St. Clair High School provides a fun way to learn and to get career information about those fields.
The program will be co-presented by Carnegie Science Center and the school district from Monday to Aug. 3.
"STEM subjects are a concern because we don't have enough students being trained in those areas. It's an economic imperative. There are a lot of initiatives under way to raise our achievement levels because we lag behind other nations," said Linda Ortenzo, director of STEM programs at Carnegie Science Center.
Panic at the Point is a mock bioterrorist attack during a fireworks display at Point State Park. The science center is piloting the program with Upper St. Clair High School through the center's Teacher Excellence Academy, part of the Chevron Center for STEM Education and Career Development. Beyond student involvement, the workshop also is a professional development opportunity for teachers who will do many of the same activities, learning inquiry-based, hands-on teaching methods to bring the subjects to life for students.
The science center launched the Chevron program in November to address the need for effective STEM education. One of the four aspects of the Chevron center is "great teaching." As part of that priority, the Carnegie center began the Teacher Excellence Academy.
"School districts came to us and asked us to look at their STEM offerings and give our opinion. School districts are under pressure to deliver good STEM education because of the economic imperative, and budget cuts make this more challenging," Ms. Ortenzo said. "Also, kids are always asking, 'why do I have to learn this?' These projects are inquiry-based."
Instead of teachers imparting facts and students learning them, students become investigators, she said.
In the fictional story line for the workshop, the fireworks are contaminated with shrapnel and biological and chemical agents; they explode over the crowd. The mission is to retrieve and test any unexploded material, identify the contaminants, access the risk of exposure to the crowd and identify the perpetrator.
The scene will be set during a mock press conference. To discover the perpetrator and the material that was used, students will then break into three labs: biotechnology, chemistry/materials science and robotics/engineering. Teams will design and build a robot to retrieve unexploded material, test the metals and other samples, analyze the evidence and debrief each other for information. On the last day, students and teachers will participate in a final press briefing to report results and solve the case.
The workshop is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with lunch provided. The cost is $350. During lunch, students can listen to speakers in STEM careers, including epidemiology, robotics, chemical engineering and crime scene investigation.
"In our region, at any given time there are 2,000 positions that go unfilled because of a lack of skilled applicants. The estimated need for STEM graduates is about 1 million nationally over the next decade and 150,000 in our region," Ms. Ortenzo said.
For this reason, with funding from the Heinz Endowment, the science center will convene partners from informal and formal education, higher education, businesses, other nonprofits and state government to define, establish and endorse criteria for STEM education.
"When school districts employ these elements, everyone can know that the program is good, like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," Ms. Ortenzo said.
Panic at the Point is one of the first projects in this effort. Combining formal and informal learning, it involves teachers and students, who will be learning together. "There is evidence that combining formal and informal education is effective. We are going to do our own investigation of this," Ms. Ortenzo said.
The Chevron center also aims to stimulate collaboration with others in the region to create experiences for students.
Instructors for the each lab include an Upper St. Clair teacher, a science center staff member and STEM education master's program students from California University of Pennsylvania.

The workshop is open to students from all districts. For more information, call the science center at 412-237-3400. 


Rep. Fattah Lauds Obama for New STEM Education Initiative, Inspires Summer Science Camp Students

Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), the top Democratic appropriator for science agencies and a leading advocate of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education, declared that President Obama has taken "a major stride today to assure American scientific and technical superiority" by establishing the $100 million STEM Master Teacher Corps.

"These Master Teachers -10,000 strong within a few years - will be inspiring and shaping the next generation of young scientists and engineers," Fattah said. "President Obama's innovative plan will help our nation win the future in science, technology and innovation."

The White House announced the plan for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps comprised of some of the nation's finest educators in STEM subjects. Obama said he will launch the Corps with $100 million immediately from the Teacher Incentive Fund and will request $1 billion from Congress to expand the program to develop 10,000 STEM educators over the next four years.

Fattah's comments on STEM education came on a day that was filled with science and technology advocacy, in both the halls of Congress and in Pennsylvania.

This morning, Fattah offered inspiration for 50 cheering middle-school students from low-income backgrounds attending the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp in suburban Philadelphia:

"You are the future scientists, engineers, medical researchers and science teachers. You are the future leaders of this country," the Congressman said. "We are hoping many more of you will decide that this is what you want to do. What you're doing here at Science Camp is very important."

The two-week camp, now in its fifth year, is run by Temple University and uses the dorms and facilities at Gwynedd Mercy College in Gwynedd Valley, PA. The students are sixth, seventh and eighth graders from Philadelphia city schools. 



Bayer's Rebecca Lucore Named to '100 Women Leaders of STEM'


Bayer USA Foundation Executive Director Rebecca Lucore has been named as one of the 100 Women Leaders of STEM by STEMconnector. The honor includes the publication of a compilation of women across all industries in the United States that have demonstrated leadership and advocacy for STEM education.

100 Women Leaders in STEM is the first annual publication that features and profiles CEOs, presidents from the public and private sectors, leaders in education and key government officials who have demonstrated vision, leadership and progress in advancing STEM education. As part of her inclusion on this exclusive list, a feature piece written by Lucore, titled "American Women More Than Ready to Take Their Place at the Nation's STEM Table," is featured on the STEMconnector website. In the feature, Lucore explores the underrepresentation of females in STEM fields, detailing findings that prompt discouragement -- including "weeding out" classes -- and offers real-time examples for solutions on how to effectively reverse the trend.

In addition to her role in the Bayer USA Foundation, Lucore is the chief of staff of Bayer MaterialScience LLC (BMS). Previously, she was head of corporate social responsibility at Bayer Corporation and head of internal communications and employee engagement at BMS. In these capacities, she has been responsible for directing Bayer's STEM education partnerships and was the driving force behind the creation of Bayer's national award winning Making Science Make Sense(R) program.

Lucore, who joined Bayer in 1994, has worked with several school districts across the United States to assist them in partnering with local nonprofits and the private sector to implement systemic science education reform. She is Board President of Achieving Student Success through Excellence in Teaching (ASSET) Inc. In addition, Lucore serves as an advisory committee member for the National Governors Association's STEM Center and chairs the Diversity and Underrepresentation Committee for Change the Equation.




NASA Offers Links to Space Station to Enhance STEM Education


Elementary, middle and high school students will have the opportunity to speak with Expedition 31 flight engineers Don Pettit, Joseph Acaba and Andre Kuipers aboard the International Space Station at 10:35 a.m. EDT, Tuesday, June 26.


The event will take place at Philadelphia University in Philadelphia.  It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and include video of the space station residents.


The event will be hosted by Destination Imagination, a non-profit organization that provides education programs for students to learn and experience creativity, teamwork and problem solving.


Pettit, Kuipers, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Konenenko arrived at the space station on Dec. 23, 2011.  Acaba and Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin completed the six-person crew on May 17.


This in-flight education downlink is one in a series with educational organizations in the United States and abroad to improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning.  It is an integral component of NASA’s Teaching From Space education program, which promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of space and NASA’s human spaceflight program.


The exact time of the downlink could change. For NASA TV downlink, schedule and streaming video information, visit:




Gannon gets grant for STEM programs


The National Science Foundation has awarded a second grant to Gannon University to support science, technology, engineering and math scholarships.

Gannon was awarded $600,000 through the National Science Foundation's S-STEM program, the same amount Gannon received from the foundation in 2008, for Gannon's Scholars of Excellence in Engineering and Computer Science scholarship program.


Gannon has provided more than 60 scholarships from the 2008 grant and expects to provide more than 20 this year, in the fourth and final year of the grant.


With the new grant, Gannon will begin awarding scholarships for the 2013-14 academic year to students in the university's mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, environmental engineering, biomedical engineering, information systems and computer science programs.


The university will work with the Erie School District and local Talent Search programs to identify and recruit students with financial need to STEM fields. Recruiting "underrepresented and minority groups" will be a focus of the scholarship program.


The grant will also focus on retaining more students in STEM programs and providing scholarship recipients with professional development opportunities.


 NW PA STEM Conference

On Tuesday, May 15, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Edinboro will host the 4th annual NW PA STEM Conference. The conference will be focusing on the theme: “STEM Skills for Today: Economic Vitality for the Future.” The conference sessions will address a diversity of topics focused on the importance of developing competence in critical STEM areas, and is appropriate for K-12 educators, higher education professionals, business and industry, legislators, WIBs, and agencies or organizations concerned about workforce in the NW region.
Conference Registration is $99 prior to April 16 and $119 beginning April 17 until the day of conference to attend at either Edinboro University or one of the satellite sites. A district electing to send (20 or more teachers) will receive a reduced rate of $75 per person. College and high school students are welcome to attend at a registration rate of $55. Registration: Conference registration will be open on Wednesday, February 15th.
For more information or to register, contact Dr. Ken Borland at or 814-449-6477.

Bayer Unveils New Report Examining State of U.S. STEM Education and Innovation Workforce Pipeline 

Washington, April 18, 2012 – Bayer Corporation today unveiled a new report titled, “STEM Education, Science Literacy and the Innovation Workforce in America: Analysis and Insights from the Bayer Facts of Science Education Surveys 1995- 2011.”
 The report, the newest component of the company’s award-winning Making Science Make Sense® program, became available today at Bayer’s STEM Diversity and Higher Education Forum held in Washington. "STEM" stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  
The report is a compilation of 15 years of Bayer Facts of Science Education public opinion research surveys, which have taken the pulse of American attitudes about timely issues related to science and technology, science education and more recently STEM diversity and underrepresentation. The surveys have polled various audiences, including the nation’s Ph.D. scientists and science teachers; STEM department chairs at the country’s leading research universities; Fortune 1000 STEM company CEOs, corporate human resource directors and other business leaders; and deans of colleges and universities, as well as parents, students and the general public, among others.  
“Taken together, the surveys offer an important snapshot of American public opinion on virtually every phase of the STEM continuum from elementary school through undergraduate/graduate education and the STEM workplace,” said Rebecca Lucore, Executive Director, Bayer USA Foundation, and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Bayer Corporation. “The new report identifies key intersections of thought, belief and concern among these diverse stakeholders and we believe the trends that have emerged are important and instructive for those working in the STEM arena.”  
In mapping the nearly two decades of research, the report reveals 15 beliefs held universally by the stakeholders polled, including:  
#1: Science literacy is critical for all Americans young and old, scientist or non- scientist.  
#2: U.S. global economic leadership and competitiveness are intrinsically linked to a robust science and technology innovation pipeline and workforce.  
 #3: America’s future STEM leadership is dependent on the country’s ability to recruit and retain more women, African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians (underrepresented minorities) in STEM fields.  
#4: Science interest and ability are color-blind and gender-neutral: from an early age, boys and girls of all races and ethnic backgrounds are interested in science.  
#5: Parents and teachers are critically important to nurturing children’s science interest, even if they themselves are not scientists or don’t have all the answers.  
 #6: In elementary school, science should be the “4th R” and given the same emphasis as reading, writing and mathematics.  
#7: A hands-on, minds-on approach to science education is the best way for students to learn science and build crucial science literacy skills, such as critical 
thinking, problem solving and the ability to work in teams.  
#8: Students and teachers benefit from having direct access to scientists and engineers on a regular basis in the classroom.  
#9: America’s leading research colleges and universities should rethink how they define academic success when it comes to undergraduate STEM students.  
#10: America’s STEM industries and communities need to more effectively communicate with all of today’s students about a range of issues including job 
opportunities and the fact that they are wanted and needed in these jobs.  
To learn the remaining five beliefs and to access an online version of the full report, please visit  

Duquesne among those retaining women, minorities in STEM

WASHINGTON -- Student bioethicist Patrice Starck didn't have to look far to find a role model. She's the daughter of the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate in biology from Purdue University.

 Now the University of Maryland senior is about to enter a bioscience doctorate program herself at Harvard University.

 A lot of other women and minorities in the sciences, however, don't have such easy access to role models. That's because so few of them are in the field.
Bayer USA Foundation wants to change that. It convened a conference of university professors last week to discuss ways to help women and under-represented minorities complete degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, known by the acronym STEM.
The aim is to encourage colleges to adopt programs that have proven to be successful on other campuses.
Duquesne University was among those invited to explain innovative programs that Bayer hopes will spread to other campuses across the country. Duquesne's program, supported by an $800,000 gift from Bayer, provides four-year scholarships, summer lab work, paid internships, academic guidance and mentoring for 20 women and minorities studying chemistry.
The mentoring part is key, said conference panelist David W. Seybert, dean of natural and biomedical sciences at Duquesne.
Miss Stark, who attended the conference, agreed.
"If you don't see someone who looks like you doing what you want to do, it's really daunting," she said. "You need someone who is relatively like you saying, 'Hey, I did it. You can do it.' "
Miss Starck, who grew up in New Orleans, is a tutor and mentor to other University of Maryland students, and said it's important for her to be a good role model to counteract discouragement that comes from stereotypes of the scientific abilities of women and minorities. One transfer student she mentors said a white male professor at another university told her she was better suited to be a model instead of a chemist.
That kind of discouragement is not uncommon, said Rebecca Lucore, executive director of the Bayer Foundation, which sponsored last week's panel and has conducted research on STEM education.
"One of the most startling things we've found is that a very large percentage of [women and minorities in STEM programs] say they've been discouraged at the college and university level," she said. "They choose to go to colleges and universities to pursue a career in that field, and they're being discouraged by their professors, they're not getting support and they don't have role models."
Even Duquesne -- which Bayer holds up as a model for its scholarship and mentoring program -- has had trouble attracting role models. The chemistry department tried for 20 years to hire female professors, but there were so few in the field -- and even fewer who wanted to be the only woman in a department of men, Mr. Seybert said.
A few years ago, two jobs opened up and the university was able to fill both with women. Since then, more have been hired for a total of five, including associate professor Ellen Gawalt, who now mentors students in the Bayer Scholars Program.
Mentoring isn't the only thing universities can do to help women and minority STEM students, said panelists, who included Clemencia Cosentino de Cohen of Mathematica Policy Research; Mary Frank Fox of the Center for Study of Women, Science and Technology at the Georgia Institute of Technology; S. James Gates of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; James Hicks of the National Science Foundation; and Ran Libeskind-Hadas, computer science chairman at Harvey Mudd College.
"We're going to have to figure out how we're going to change things," said panel moderator Mae C. Jemison, a physician and chemical engineer who was the nation's first African-American female astronaut. "Something is happening at colleges and universities that prevents them from completing [degrees]," she said.
Panelists suggested immersing students in research, allowing them to choose their own projects and encouraging students to work together so they learn from each other.
"We need to look in the mirror and see what we can do differently, get the culture of the campuses to rethink things," Mr. Hrabowski said.
Many panelists advocated for an end to courses meant to weed out students.
"That's not a hospitable climate for students. Let's teach students to move along rather than have them sink or swim and be weeded out," Ms. Fox said.
If a college accepts a student, it has a responsibility to help that student succeed, not to weed out that person, Mr. Hrabowski said.
Ms. Lucore said she hoped the discussion will result in real changes in college culture and in higher graduation rates for women and under-represented minorities.
"We are a science-based company and we need scientists in our future pipeline to innovate. We need STEM graduates and there just aren't enough of them," she said. "Bayer, like every company, wants more diversity ... because the more diversity, the more you can innovate and the more creativity that comes out."


Home-Grown Economic Development

Dr. Mel Schiavelli is president of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in Pennsylvania and a charter member of the Manufacturing Institute's Education Council. Founded in 2001, Harrisburg University is the only STEM-focused comprehensive university between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  
The engines powering economic growth tend to sputter initially, hesitate, and then gradually accelerate.
Judging by recent advertising campaigns for iPads, iPhones, and computers that feature innovations such as computer text to speech, the cellphone camera, and the ever-increasing array of apps that give users abilities such as making payments on store purchases, the national economy is gaining speed, a reflection of consumer fascination with the latest and greatest as much as the evolution and pace of manufacturing.
There's no doubt that we are in the innovation age, of developing new technologies, and of taking existing technologies to the next level. This cycle will drive the 21st century economy.
Behind the enticing imagery, though, of a dynamic economy and thriving marketplace lie some hard truths. The high-tech gadgetry, equipment, and devices that have served the ever-consumptive population well have required—and will continue to require—the front-end manufacturing and science expertise necessary to keep this nation competitive in the global economy.
In other words, a new kind of workforce, highly skilled and educated so that upon hiring, employees can hit the ground running, anticipate marketplace demands, and develop professionally so as to define and continually redefine their jobs, and not be rendered obsolete.
This obsolescence, unfortunately, is marring the national template for economic development. Take the so-called rust belt of manufacturing, where unemployment hovers around 9 percent. But lack of jobs is not the culprit.
What's missing are the skilled workers needed to fill them. A recent report by Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute, based on a survey of manufacturers, found that as many as 600,000 jobs are going unfulfilled. Although the stigma of manufacturing jobsand the widespread perception that manufacturing is a "dying industry" are certainly factors in this dearth, the primary element in the employment gap is the shortage of competent, highly qualified workers.
This means, for example, that companies need specialists who can program computer numerically controlled machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, not tool and die makers.
Skilled workers educated in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) area are desperately needed to fill these valuable positions that will have a direct impact on the competitiveness of companies and the surge of the economy.
Harrisburg is answering this call and, as a result, is establishing an "economic development supply chain" for the global marketplace—a STEM hub in which business and education team up to provide a steady stream of workforce-ready, technically proficient workers.
Facing the reality of a post-industrial decline of the 1980s, Harrisburg, through the vision and courage of its corporate, government, and community leaders, reinvented the region by focusing on the future and being committed to staying ahead of the curve. In 1997, a group of corporate, government, and community leaders called for the creation of a regional task force that would identify strategies to guide central Pennsylvania through its next 20 years.
With the support of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, this group of community leaders formed a 150-member task force that studied issues of government, private sector leadership, education, quality of life, economic development, and regional infrastructure and interviewed over 1,000 individuals in central Pennsylvania during the course of its work. The report of the task force, ENVISION Capital Region—a Focus on Our Future, identified four measures of regional success, one of which was educational achievement in the region's population, and the report emphasized the need for a partnership between business and education to create workforce-ready graduates.
It was clear to the group that higher education and new skill sets were needed for job growth as the age of emerging technology and new materials brought more sophisticated products and processes to industry, the business office, and the retail environment. Manufacturing was no longer a low-skill, repetitive process, but involved a high level of technical knowledge coupled with strong decision-making and team-building skills. Collars were no longer blue or white, and workers would have to embrace lifelong learning to continue building new skills and to thrive in the workplace.
The reality of the 21st century business world—where companies' abilities to succeed rely on a workforce that excels in the STEM disciplines—certainly hastened Harrisburg's rebirth. From the time Harrisburg's leaders recognized the urgency to link business with education, and established Harrisburg University of Science and Technology to focus strictly on the fields this century now demands—science, technology, engineering, and math—till now, the objective has been to spearhead new ways of catalyzing education so innovation and a dynamic economy naturally follow.
Innovative thinking, a willingness to reinvest locally, and a calculated risk to link business with education are the key chapters rewriting the history of Harrisburg. It's a story that, throughout the nation's history, is what has always helped propel the economy forward—and is doing just that in central Pennsylvania.

New Report on Technical Skill Attainment in Pennsylvania

The National Research Center for Career and Technical Education (NRCCTE), supported by a grant from OVAE, conducts research on a variety of issues related to career and technical education. NRCCTE recently posted the new report, Technical Skill Attainment and Post-Program Outcomes: An Analysis of Pennsylvania Secondary Career and Technical Education Graduates. Past research has not fully related technical skill levels, as measured by high school graduates’ performance on broad work readiness or narrow, occupation-specific technical skill assessments, to their subsequent employment and/or postsecondary enrollment outcomes. This study analyzed data for more than 21,500 graduates of Pennsylvania’s career and technical high school programs who completed a workplace readiness or occupation-specific assessment developed by the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute and controlled for students’ demographic characteristics and educational experiences, by connecting assessment score record data with student-level administrative records maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Career and Technical Education. Follow-up data on graduates' post-program work experiences were obtained from a state survey administered to all CTE program graduates to ascertain their job status in the second quarter following their high school completion. The full report may be obtained from the NRCCTE website:
9-1-1 Dispatch Simulator Brings Sense of Reality to Vo-Tech Class
Aspiring emergency responders get sense of real-life situations
Simulators help students understand dispatcher difficulties
Tim Lambert, 17, a student in the public safety and security program at Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center in Muhlenberg Township, works with the school's new emergency dispatch simulator. Lambert says the simulator will help him understand the difficulties dispatchers face.
Tim Lambert and Ashley Santiago wait alertly in front of their computer screens.
The phone rings. Santiago answers with the click of a computer mouse.
A voice informs her that there's a suspicious person lurking on a corner in a residential neighborhood. Santiago calmly pumps the caller for more information: "What is he wearing? Is he armed?"
A second later, Santiago is relaying the information to officers in the field, who quickly respond to apprehend the suspect.
In many ways, this episode seemed real. Luckily for the suspect, however, it took place in a classroom instead of on the streets.
Santiago, a 16-year-old sophomore, and Lambert, a 17-year-old senior, are students in the public safety and security program at Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology Center.
The caller was a classmate in another room, as were the suspect and police officers.
The public safety course trains aspiring police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. Recently, the three-year-old course got a new addition when the school bought a $50,000 emergency dispatch simulator.
The system, installed about two weeks ago, lets students to get a sense of what handling a 9-1-1 call is all about.
"It puts them so much more into a real-life situation," said Mark A. Dietrich, the public safety and security instructor. "Having this is definitely going to give them a step up."
The simulator, which replaces a set of hand-held radios, features several computers, headsets and a computer program that mirrors what professionals use. The students can track police, fire and EMS units, assign calls and transfer information to responders.
"It's a lot to get to know," said Lambert, a Muhlenberg resident who hopes to be a professional firefighter.
Dietrich said the dispatcher side of emergency services is important for students to know, even if they don't plan to pursue it as a career.
But the Reading Muhlenberg center is working on creating an accreditation program, which would permit graduates to move right into the field as dispatchers.
Computer program mirrors what professionals use
Reading Muhlenberg Career & Technology student Ashley Santiago, 16, at the schools emergency dispatch simulator, which features a computer program that mirrors what professionals use.
"We have police, we have fire, we have EMS, and the dispatcher handles all of that," Dietrich said. "They're a vital cog in everything moving smoothly."
Dietrich said the school is working with Berks County's emergency dispatch center to make sure what's being taught in the classroom matches what students need in the real world.
Lambert believes that using the simulator will help him understand the difficulties dispatchers face.
"It's good to know what they're going through," he said. "It helps keep you from getting impatient or frustrated when you're out on a call."
Santiago said she had no idea just how hectic a 9-1-1 call center could get.
"It's hard when you have one call and then another call comes in," said Santiago, a Muhlenberg resident who wants to be a police officer. "It's hard to stay calm, not to panic."
Dietrich said the simulator can handle up to 15 calls at one time, and the calls include sound effects such as sirens, crying babies and gunshots. That helps students learn how to prioritize and keep cool under pressure.
Everything that happens during a call is recorded, and Dietrich can print out reports and play back audio to help students pinpoint areas where they can do better.
"We have handcuffs to simulate handcuffing and a firetruck to simulate responding to a fire," he said. "But this is probably the most valuable tool we have."
Contact David Mekeel: 610-371-5014 or