TOPICS & CATEGORIES

By Dolly Rairigh Glass

stemCONNECTThe STEM Alliance of Central Florida and Team Orlando member, The Corridor, are working to grow and develop STEM support and resources for schools in Florida through stemCONNECT, a web portal designed to assist teachers and students in learning more about the high tech industries in Florida. It directly connects them with STEM experts who can share their knowledge about high tech career fields over an interactive web video conference.

“We’re looking to involve as many organizations as possible in the Modeling, Simulation and Training industry who are interested in providing ‘experts’ in the classroom, and having an impact on the students across Central Florida and growing a STEM-educated workforce for the MS&T industry,” explained Capt. Steve “Snak” Nakagawa, USN (Ret), executive director of the STEM Alliance of Central Florida and director of Workforce Programs for The Corridor. “Once we can populate the database, teachers can sign up for sessions that feature “experts” in their particular field of interest.”

Signing up is a simple process, according to Nakagawa. Individual speakers register at www.flstemconnect.com, providing their name, email and specialty area.

The commitment for each speaker is only what they are able to do, and the program administrator will act as the “matchmaker” between teachers and the experts. If the selected speaker is unavailable during the requested time, the administrator finds an alternative speaker. Registrants who want to speak to multiple classes are encouraged and welcomed to do so, however, there’s no requirement for any specific number or frequency of sessions.

Part of the push is to find speakers from all types, styles and specialties – whether engineers, scientists or researchers. Equally important is the speaker’s ability to be interesting and engaging to students over a virtual video conference.

Organizers are also trying to recruit junior speakers. “If students have the opportunity to hear from a speaker, who is a more recent graduate and was sitting where they are not too long ago, it may help spur them to seek out a STEM career that best suits them as they are contemplating their future,” Nakagawa said.

THE STEM Alliance is also working with the Central Florida School Boards Coalition, which consists of STEM instructional leaders from 10 school districts reaching from Tampa Bay to the Space Coast, who are compiling a comprehensive list of topics the schools all need to cover. A second phase of the program could recruit even more specialized experts to meet the needs of these topics.

“The more MS&T experts we can involve in this initiative, the more our industry will be known across the region,” Nakagawa said. “Ultimately this interaction will create more students who are workforce ready and will ensure that our industry stays strong, and gets stronger. Our goal is to get students excited about math and science, but also areas like critical thinking, teaming and problem solving techniques.”

For more information about the Corridor’s stemCONNECT program or the significance of high tech companies joining the STEM Alliance of Central Florida, please contact Snak at steve.nakagawa@floridahightech.com.

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