Tomorrow’s STEM Leaders are the Innovators of Today

 

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s premier venue for innovation and breakthrough technology. Last week, three teams of Las Vegas high school students competed in the Student Business Pitch Competition finals on the CES main stage, beating out 15 other teams. The finalists wowed the judges with their entrepreneurial STEM-driven ideas designed to support their peers become tomorrow’s innovation leaders.

The participating students, all of whom completed CTA’s Future Innovators digital entrepreneurship program, pitched ideas ranging from an app aimed at helping students manage stress, to an affordable laptop-size screen that mirrors a smartphone and allows users to more easily type documents and perform research. The grand prize went to a team of three young women from Cimarron Memorial High School who created Conditional Cube, a novel invention that encourages students to learn coding in a fun, more interactive way. They intentionally geared their product towards elementary school-aged students to expose coding fundamentals at an early age and help alleviate the STEM skills gap.

“People need to understand how to use technology, but also create and manipulate it,” said Conditional Cube team member Ajaya Branch. According to their research, a recent Gallup survey states that nine out of ten parents want their kids to learn programming because it teaches logic, problem solving, and creativity, and can lead to a better career in the future.  But most parents lack the skills necessary to teach their kids these skills, and most schools do not specifically teach computer programming. With their invention, customers can code their cube to perform a variety of tasks based on personal interests, such as sending an alert when the garage door opens. The cube simplifies coding in a more digestible, enjoyable way and allows parents to be involved in the learning experience.

For these students, the opportunity to complete CTA’s Future Innovators program, develop a business pitch, and compete at CES has already had a profound impact on the way they think about business. The pitch competition judges were so impressed by the three teams that they offered to  provide continued mentorship and help bring their ideas to market. It’s only a matter of time before these Future Innovators join the workforce and help steer the innovation economy.

Inspiring Students Through STEM Education

STEM Education

Economically, the need to provide future generations with STEM education has never been more pressing. Experts believe that up to 85% percent of the jobs today’s students will occupy don’t yet exist. Science and engineering career opportunities are expected to grow at double the rate of growth of the overall workforce and the vast majority of jobs in the next decade will require STEM skills.

How then do we prepare students for the careers of 2030? What skills, knowledge, and attitudes will help guide and prepare students for the technologically-infused careers of the future? While it might be up to a decade before today’s 6th graders enter the full-time workforce, middle school is the ideal time for students to begin seriously considering what may lay beyond high school.

Leading research indicates that most students form their career aspirations by age 14, a compelling rationale to bring career exploration front and center during the critical middle school years. Further research demonstrates that one of the leading indicators for student interest in STEM when departing high school is directly linked to the student’s interest in STEM when they entered high school. As such, it is critical to engage and sustain interest before students begin to think about selecting courses for high school.

Endeavor – STEM Career Exploration is EVERFI’s latest course to spark curiosity in STEM careers and reinforce critical STEM education in classrooms each day. This interactive digital program encourages learners to explore the wide world of STEM and inspires middle school students to consider how their individual qualities, skills, and interests might align with future STEM career opportunities.

Four key components comprise the backbone of the Endeavor course experience:

  • Exposure to real professionals. Throughout the course, students encounter a variety of STEM career opportunities and pathways. These careers represent diverse industries served by STEM and reflect a variety of educational and skill requirements.
  • Grounded in real-world activities. Research indicates a gap between students’ perception of “school science” versus science in the “real world”. Endeavor highlights novel, real-world applications of STEM in our surrounding world.
  • Deep personalization.  As students move through Endeavor, they are encouraged to explore careers and content that connect to their interests and skills.
  • Individualized take-away. As they complete different lessons, students build  an individualized Field Guide – a digital resource containing actionable next steps and course pathing suggestions for students to pursue now, and down the road, as they prepare for the careers of the future.

By connecting students’ interests to future STEM opportunities, Endeavor will engage students in critical STEM skills and encourage them to pursue future STEM careers, whether a contemporary occupation or a potential opportunity that currently only exists in possibility.