College Holds Second STEM Summit

05/21/2014

Over 50 science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and health (STEM-H) leaders, educators, and local government officials met at Eastern Shore Community on April 11th for STEMing the Tide: Get Hooked on STEM!, the region’s second annual STEM Summit.  Participants heard presentations by NASA and U.S. Navy representatives, participated in panel discussions, and worked together to determine Eastern Shore STEM and STEM-H education and training needs.

The STEM Summit was opened by ESCC President Dr. Linda Thomas-Glover, who welcomed the attendees and highlighted the wide range of STEM and STEM-H businesses and industries on the Eastern Shore.  In addition to the growing rocket launch activity at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility which has, “provided the Eastern Shore with a very notable and visible place in the minds of those along the Eastern Seaboard, the Commonwealth, and the nation as a whole”, Dr. Glover stressed that, “Focusing upon the Eastern Shore’s broader STEM and STEM-H activities is critical for us as a community to ensure that economic development and the strong workforce needed to support it are in place on the Shore.”

Citing job projections from Chmura Economics and Analytics, Dr. Glover explained that by 2022, “there will be 840,000 new jobs created in Virginia and most will require some type of postsecondary credential.  It is also projected that almost half of those jobs will be in scientific and technical careers.  On a less positive note, projections are also indicating that there will be a growing shortage of high-skill, tech-savvy entry-level workers across most STEM and STEM –H disciplines, and this could easily become a critical “choke point” in the growth of many Virginia businesses.”  In 2011, 23 percent of all postsecondary degrees awarded in Virginia were in STEM and STEM-H fields. That number needs to grow by nearly one-third just to reach the national average in terms of STEM and STEM-H graduates, and the national average is insufficient to meet the projected demands of the year 2020.

Keynote speaker Thomas “Jay” Pittman, Associate Director for Special Projects at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), spoke about the recent Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) mission to the Moon.  A graduate of Onancock High School and Virginia Tech, Mr. Pittman stressed how a major launch from Wallops involves an amazing array of people with a very wide, and sometimes surprising, skill set.  He presented a look behind the scenes of the LADEE launch and showed that while it is “rocket science”, there is so much more as all STEM and non-STEM disciplines must work together for a successful launch.  The LADEE spacecraft, which was launched from NASA Wallops in September 2013, has been orbiting the Moon and collecting data since October.

Three panel presentations focused on STEM Education Needs for Business and Industry, STEM-H Initiatives in K-12 and College Education, and University Research on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Mr. Jimmy D. Smith, the Director for Integrated Nuclear Weapons Safety and Security within the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs Office, spoke about his previous Navy work promoting STEM education for grade school students and furthering the academic pursuits of college students through scholarships and student employment.  The U.S. Navy’s STEM Outreach program is building a Navy-wide pre-college pipeline that is sustainable, affordable, and targeted to meet the Navy’s new and evolving needs.  Mr. Smith discussed how the Navy’s committed workforce of STEM professionals collaborates with educators and serves as role models and mentors for the next generation of Navy scientists and engineers.

Attendees also discussed how the Eastern Shore can “grow our own” skilled STEM workforce, including stimulating K-12 student interest in STEM-H education and careers, and identifying what leaders can do to move STEM and STEM-H education forward on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

The Eastern Shore STEM Summit ended with closing remarks by Dr. Glover, who thanked participants for working together to identify the education needs for STEM and STEM-H related careers. “Your efforts today will ensure that we are preparing the next generation for the employment opportunities that will exist on the Shore in the not too distant future.”

Eastern Shore Community College will continue to coordinate regional STEM education efforts.

For further information, contact Jim McGowan, ESCC Grants Coordinator,

at jmcgowan@es.vccs.edu or 757-789-7985.