I spent two full days in downtown Phoenix at last month’s 21st Century STEM: Integrate 2 Innovate conference. This ambitious event was presented by the Arizona STEM Collaborative (AzTEA-Arizona Technology in Education Association, ASTA-Arizona Science Teachers Association, AATM-Arizona Association of Teachers of Mathematics) and Science Foundation Arizona.
Keynote addresses from Hadi Partovi and Elizabeth Holmes were followed by Q&A sessions from panels of high school students. The questions weren’t just polite softball questions, which led to interesting exchanges.
One example was a question to Holmes, who dropped out of Stanford at age 19 to develop her company, Theranos. A student asked her about the importance of going to college, given Holmes’ own education path. The answer wasn’t very enlightening, something along the lines of decisions like that are very personal and depend on individual circumstances/what was right for me would not necessarily be right for someone else, but it was a great question to ask.
The heart of the conference was its breakout sessions. Sessions presented innovative ways for teachers to engage students with STEM subjects. There were also great panel discussions focused on the bigger picture, how STEM fits into the community in terms of workplace development and public support.
One of the biggest messages I got from the conference is that Arizona needs to expand the scope and reach of its STEM education, and that the state’s citizens need to demand adequate financial support from every level of government in the state, from individual schools and districts to the Arizona Board of Regents, governor, and legislators.
Here’s a quick slideshow with highlights from the two-day event.