Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dies at 82

Neil ArmstrongFrom the New York Times: “Neil Armstrong, who made the ‘giant leap for mankind’ as the first human to set foot on the moon, died on Saturday. He was 82.” Armstrong, a true American hero and a legend in the STEM community, will be missed.

Read Armstrong’s full obituary here.

ACT Finds Most Students Still Not Ready for College

Student taking a testFrom Education Week: While performance on the ACT held steady this year, 60 percent of the class of 2012 that took the test failed to meet benchmarks in two of the four subjects tested. One of the only encouraging trends was that performance on the math and science portions of the test improved, thanks in part to a renewed emphasis on STEM.

Read more about ACT statistics by clicking here.

STEM Careers: Design Engineer

Karen Edberg

Black Belt DFSS for GE Appliances in Louisville, Ky.

Graduate of the University of Louisville

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How did you become interested in engineering?

I enjoyed math and science all thru grade school and high school.  I was planning to go into physics, which I really enjoyed, when I graduated high school.  My physics teacher recommended engineering.  I’ve always been more of a hands on and application based person than a theory person.  She thought that engineering would suit me better than physics and she was correct.  Once in college, I started looking at the different engineering types.  Fall of my sophomore year I took thermodynamics and I was hooked on mechanical engineering.

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The most important thing for engineering is curiosity. Engineers need to understand how things  work so that they can make them better.

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for General Electric.

I design parts and develop cooking algorithms (energy delivery algorithms) for ranges, ovens, and microwaves.

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Why is it important for America’s future to get more students interested in engineering?

Engineers make things work. Without engineers we do not have cars, appliances, power plants, plumbing, buildings, smart phones, computers, bridges or highways, and many other items that we use every day.  We need more people to “catch the science bug” so that we can have a country capable of developing and sustaining innovative items that work.

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What is your ultimate goal as a design engineer?

To design a good product for a consumer to use.

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What would help get students more interested in engineering at a younger age?

Give them things to take apart and see how they work. The most important thing for engineering is curiosity. Engineers need to understand how things  work so that they can make them better. Creativity is also beneficial. Creativity helps engineers come up with new and different ways to apply existing principles. Allowing children to explore how things work and challenging them to use what they learn in creative ways would definitely help get them interested in engineering.

For example, the next time you change a light bulb, explain how it works and why it has to be screwed or plugged in. Or the next time you have to change the oil in a car, explain why that is important and what the engine and other system do to make the car run. Things like this help kids understand how things work and can get them interested.

The GE Women’s Network at GE Appliance Park does a “bring your child to work day” event every year. At this event we have middle school children do activities related to different types of engineering (electrical, chemical, mechanical, industrial, etc.) to let them see how interesting science and engineering can be. The kids always seem to really enjoy it and hopefully we inspire some of them to become engineers or at least pursue a science related degree.

Also there are many kids who see scientific fields as “hard” and requiring “too much work.” Engineering and science education is not an easy profession; it requires hard work for most people. Students have to study to major in science and math and some kids just don’t want to have to do the work. Parents and teachers need to show kids that the hard work is worthwhile. A key item in all of this is teacher and parent encouragement.

STEM Careers: Environmental Inspector

Benjamin Allen

Benjamin Allen, environmental inspector

Environmental Inspector in the Division of Air Quality for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection in Paducah, Ky.

Graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College

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How did you become interested in science?

From a young age I was always fascinated with nature and understanding how things worked.  As I progressed in school it became apparent my strength was in the sciences. So with my love of nature and science abilities I leaned toward an education in biology. When I first went to school I was pre-physical therapy mainly because it paired my interest in athletics and science.  As I progressed I took more classes with outdoor labs and my interest shifted from human biology to ecological and animal sciences.  I then switched my major to one in zoology, which I graduated with in 2010 from Kentucky Wesleyan College.

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My goal is to help maintain the beauty that is in nature today by helping reduce pollution. That way, future generations may be able to enjoy nature as I have. 

Tell us about your job and what it is you do for Division of Air Quality for the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.

My position consists of doing compliance inspections at various sources or facilities. These inspections are typically two prong. First: a visual inspection of the actual facility and emission points and related pollution control devices. Secondly, there’s a review of the required record keeping for each source. These records consist of a variety of things, from hours of operation, process materials, chemical composition of materials, specific measurements from control devices, and quantities of emissions. We are then responsible for writing up reports and sighting any violations found at the facility. If a violation is serious it can result in a fine.

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Why is it important for America’s future to get more students interested in science?

I believe that math and science are critical in education of young people today. Many positions require a background in science or math. The people I deal with are mostly engineers, either chemical or environmental. Many positions are being generated in relation to environmental protection on both the regulatory side – monitoring and controlling pollution – as well as in the private side, working for companies that must comply with environmental regulations. Positions are also being created that focus on the development of more environmentally friendly fuels and methods to reduce pollution. With the constant push away from fossil fuels, it is important for today’s students to be educated in science and math in order for America to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

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What is your ultimate goal as an environmental inspector?

My goal is to help maintain the beauty that is in nature today by helping reduce pollution, including hazardous air pollution that is a health risk to humans and natural fauna. That way, future generations may be able to enjoy nature as I have.

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What would help get students more interested in science at a younger age?

I think an emphasis on labs and hands-on application of scientific principles will help students learn and maintain their interest in the sciences. An exposure to how science is present in everyday life from the breakfast they eat to the clothing they wear is due to some form of science. An example: the genetically modified corn used to make the cereal they eat and the engineering used to make the machines that harvested that corn and the agricultural practices that allow farmers to reach higher crop yields without destroying the environment. This is just the tip of the iceberg as how science is involved in the everyday life of students. I think that an exposure to these types of instances could peak an interest in science at a young age.

Driving Innovation Through Math Education

Math teacher helping a studentFrom Joe Laymon: “The United States has a long legacy of innovation in science and technology, but for our students to drive future innovation and help fuel a vibrant global economy, we must re-double our efforts on improving their core math skills. And securing the STEM jobs of the future will require building these skills at the earliest age possible.”

Read Joe’s full article here.