Making the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education — Utah Business May 8, 2018

Melanie ShepherdMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

Tamara Goetz, executive director of the Utah STEM Action Center, identifies one of the bottlenecks contributing to STEM shortage as originating at the beginning of the education pipeline.  Quite simply, many students don’t consider STEM as an option. Goetz says it’s important to identify “the gaps in foundational skills that prevent students from being comfortable” with STEM-related fields. It’s the all-too-common “I’m no good at math” syndrome in which students perceive technical disciplines as esoteric and unfathomable. STEM disciplines, many seem to think, require a set of specific mental configurations or intrinsic abilities. Much like computers come out of the factory with specific software installations and hardware specs, you either have the right stuff (so the erroneous tale goes) or you don’t.

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Recent Study Encourages Diversification Of Faculty In University STEM Programs

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

A professor at the University of Utah recently co-authored a study exploring challenges faced by black male doctoral students. The six-year study followed 21 students earning doctorate degrees in engineering. It showed these students felt they were at the bottom of the hierarchy when it came to receiving resources from faculty members.

William Smith is the chair for the Department of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Utah. He worked on this research project with a professor from Iowa State University and one from the University of Alabama.

“It was a very interesting experiment to really hear the voices of what these students were dealing with on a day-to-day basis in these programs,” Smith said.

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5 honored for contributions STEM education in Utah

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

SALT LAKE CITY — The STEM Action Center, in partnership with the Utah Technology Council, recognized five individuals for their contributions to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education statewide during the Utah Innovation Awards dinner Thursday.

This year’s recipients are:
• Cassandra Ivie, a student at Copper Hills High School

• Todd Monson, eighth-grade science teacher at Oquirrh Hills Middle School

• Spencer Holmgren, principal of Hillcrest Elementary School

• Kevin Reeve, co-founder of Cache Makers and volunteer mentor

• Rachel Fletcher, counselor at the Salt Lake Center for Science Education

The teacher, counselor, principal and mentor will be recognized and will receive a trophy and a $2,000 grant for STEM projects, while the student will receive a trophy and an iPad Mini.

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‘Girls In Aviation’ Program Reaches New Heights In Northern Utah

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

The Girls in Aviation program was started just one year ago by the Cache Makers group based out of Logan, UT. The program focuses on exposing girls ages nine to 15 to the aviation industry as well as broad STEM, or Science Technology Engineering and Math, opportunities.

“Women are less likely to come into this field and more likely to drop out and that’s for STEM in general,”  said Claire Dugger, a second-year student at Utah State University, studying to become a professional pilot.

Dugger is a member of Utah State University’s chapter of Women in Aviation, a group that provides mentorship for the Girls in Aviation program. This is her second year mentoring and notes the noticeable gender disparity in her field.

“Only 6% of pilots are female,” she said. “Girls in Aviation program is one-step to getting girls actively participating and excited about a possible career in aviation or other STEM fields.”

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McMillan students explore STEM questions

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

Which flower absorbs the most amount of water? Do kids or adults have a quicker reaction time? How tall do I sound? These and other questions, McMillan Elementary student-scientists explored as part of their STEM fair, which was on display during the interactive STEM night activities.

“We invited all the students from kindergarten to sixth-grade to participate,” said McMillan STEM coordinator Kristen McRae, who said that 130 students took the opportunity to display 118 projects. “Quite a few of our younger students want to do it because it’s fun and presented their projects to judges.” Those students, she said, received feedback from area judges so when they reach the upper grades, they can compete for spots to advance to the University of Utah Science and Engineering Regional Fair.

Third-grader Lily Matsumori was one of those students. She questioned what the effect of color had on the taste of food and drinks. “I wanted to know if when our eyes see the color of the food, if it effects what we think and sends signals to the brain how the food will taste,” she said. “I thought it would.”

To test her hypothesis, Lily used red and green food coloring to change the color of apple juice. Twenty people tasted both colored drinks and while all agreed the drink was a juice, the majority of testers thought the two drinks were different, with the red-colored apple juice more sweet and the green-colored, more tart.

“I proved my hypothesis that the color does affect the taste of food and the testers were tricked into thinking the juices were different. I know some companies that make and sell food add coloring to their products to make them more appealing, but I’d like to further my experiment with other colors like purple and black to see what kinds of messages our eyes will send to our brains about those,” she said.

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Sprawling expansion plan for Living Planet Aquarium in Utah has a huge centerpiece: U2’s ‘The Claw’

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

From the moment he met with architects to explain his vision back in 1998, Brent Andersen intended for Draper’s Loveland Living Planet Aquarium (LLPA) to be far more than the last word of its name conveyed, for it to incorporate animal exhibits, classrooms, high-tech interactive stations, a conservation center …

But adding “The Claw” — a 165-foot-tall, 190-ton stage component that rock band U2 used on its 360° Tour between 2009 and 2011 — well, that was just a bonus.

After announcing in July a proposal to add an 80,000-square-foot Science Learning Center to its campus, the LLPA on Tuesday morning disclosed additional details of its ambitious and sprawling 9-acre, $25 million expansion plan, to include “The Claw” as a centerpiece.

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HAFB gives kids a hands-on look at STEM careers in Junior Achievement City

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

SALT LAKE CITY — Giving kids hands-on experiences can help spark an interest that can result in them eventually pursuing high-tech careers.

To support some of those experiences, officials from Hill Air Force Base on Tuesday helped open a model air traffic control tower in Junior Achievement City located at Discovery Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City.

 The tower is part of an interactive learning environment in which students participate in real-life careers in business, government, utilities, and now, the United States Air Force, explained Alison Sturgeon, STEM program manager at Hill Air Force Base. She said the model is aimed at getting more young students to become interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“The tower can highlight the Air Force’s need for people to go into STEM fields, especially computer science, because all of our planes are run by software and pilots,” she said. “I hope that they get the sense of how incredible our planes are. In fact, the new F-35 has the nickname ‘a computer with wings.'”

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Study: Experience of Black Doctoral Students Shows Need to Increase Diversity in STEM Fields

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

Salt Lake City—The danger and risk of riding out a storm is symbolic of the decision black men make to pursue a graduate degree in engineering. They do so knowing they will face challenges, but the barriers described by black men who shared their experiences as part of a six-year study show how race was a greater obstacle than they expected.

Brian Burt, lead author and an assistant professor in Iowa State University’s School of Education, says it is a fitting analogy because these young men faced turbulent times as a result of structural inequalities and a lack of support from faculty and colleagues to weather the storm. Insight from the research is valuable in reversing the trend of underrepresented students and employees in all STEM fields, he said.

Burt and co-authors Krystal Williams, University of Alabama; and William Smith, University of Utah, interviewed 21 black men pursuing engineering graduate degrees at a research university. Several common themes detailed structural racism within the university, which led to unfair treatment, unwelcoming environments or isolation and unnecessary strain on black graduate students. These factors significantly affect a student’s ability to succeed, Burt said.

“There’s an assumption that students drop out of an engineering program because they couldn’t cut it. That the problem is an individual flaw,” Burt said. “Our research shows the main challenges these students faced were beyond their control. They were systemic, structural, historic and rooted in a legacy of science that is counterproductive for broadening student participation in STEM.”

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Dr. Shalini Kesar and Microsoft publish study on girls in STEM

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

Dr. Shalini Kesar, associate professor of information systems at Southern Utah University and advocate for women in technology, has known for years that girls and young women are a critical missing part of STEM studies and careers. With that knowledge, she was honored to collaborate on the international research project with Microsoft.

Even with a higher priority placed on science, technology, engineering, and math — or STEM — throughout education in the U.S., only a fraction of girls are likely to pursue a STEM career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, while more than 57 percent of college undergraduates are women, only 18 percent progress into STEM careers. With a clear gap, Microsoft set out to better understand what causes girls and women to lose interest in STEM subjects and careers as well as what strategies have the greatest potential to reverse the trend.

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Utah ranks 8th in the most innovative states of 2018

Lolly BowlerMaking the Grade: Utah works to improve its marks in STEM education Utah Business May 8, 2018News

(KUTV)- In WalletHub’s most recent report for the most and least innovative states, Utah ranked 8th overall in this year’s most innovative states.

With the United States projected to spend $553 billion on research and development in 2018, the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on 2018’s Most and Least Innovative States Wednesday morning.

WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 22 key metrics, with the data ranging from a share of STEM professionals to R&D spending per capita.

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