BIIC supports STEM education in Beaufort County

Published 7:53 pm Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bruce Middleton, STEMEAST executive director, was welcomed as the guest speaker at the September Business and Industry Innovation Council meeting. STEMEAST and STEM were the topics for the meeting.

STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The ultimate goal of STEM education is to encourage students to take an interest in STEM subjects at an early age and pursue an education and career in STEM fields.

STEM is an ecosystem that includes schools, libraries, science centers museums, afterschool programs, businesses, higher education, community and home. The Aurora Fossil Museum and North Carolina Estuarium are part of the ecosystem and huge resources for Beaufort County and the region. There are 27 identified STEM ecosystems across the country. STEMEAST is one of those ecosystems.

The STEMEAST Employers & Superintendents Council acts as a coalition focused on providing opportunities for eastern North Carolina students through the STEMEAST

Network. The council seats consist of 11 of the largest employers and 11 superintendents from eastern North Carolina.

The council works to establish long-term, regional STEM initiatives by developing relationships with public/private foundations and other supportive entities. As a coalition, resources and information can be more efficiently distributed to support initiative sustainability and expand network partnerships.

Currently the council represents more than 120,000 student and 50,000 jobs. Beaufort County is represented by PotashCorp-Aurora and Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps.

Beaufort County Schools’s implementation of STEM for students began in 2015-2016 with the middle grades due to a grant partnership with ECU and has branched out to include elementary and some high school implementation, especially at Washington High School with the visual performing arts and industrial design academy. The STEM taskforce of teachers was established in 2016-2017 with K-8 representatives and is expanding during 2017-2018 to include high school STEM teachers from each school.

BCS STEM includes many hands-on activities and teaching students “what to do when they don’t know what to do.” P.S. Jones Middle School has a STEM lab and S.W. Snowden School is a partner with NASA. Coding classes are also being piloted at Chocowinity Middle and P.S. Jones Middle this school year. School robotic clubs are sponsored at most schools through CyberKids. The first competition was held in the spring of 2017.

Implications include workforce development and increasing the quality of the future workforce in high-skill technical fields. Getting involved in thinking and problem solving at a very young age is a main component of STEM.

The Business and Industry Innovation Council is a Beaufort County Committee of 100 group that is a coalition of Beaufort County Schools, Beaufort County Community College, government agencies, nonprofits, business, industry and volunteers that assist in addressing the educational and skill needs of business and industry.

Al Klemm is the chairman of the Business and Industry Innovation Council.