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How Area Organizations Are Helping Students Access the Latest in STEM – Dream It. Do It.

University of Virginia Program Brings Advanced Manufacturing to Middle SchoolersPublic and private organizations alike are doing their part to help get students interested in STEM, or the study of science, technology, engineering, and math. The American College Test (ACT) reported that 60 percent of high school graduates in 2015 were not ready for entry-level college classes. At the same time, projections indicate a need for several million new college graduates with STEM degrees by 2018. Because the need is so high, the American workforce could begin to hire young people who were trained and educated in STEM in different countries, if the US does not catch up. To understand the need, see what the U.S. Department of Education says about STEM:

“In a world that’s becoming increasingly complex, where success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know, it’s more important than ever for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information. These are the types of skills that students learn by studying science, technology, engineering, and math—subjects collectively known as STEM.”

Omaha is also home to five Fortune 500 companies and STEM-related industries. that will be looking for the next generation of STEM educated workers. Omaha businesses, schools and organizations are banding together to ensure that local young people are prepared for the STEM careers that will be available to them.

OPS proposes $38.5 million career center

Omaha Public Schools heard a proposal from locals to build a brand new, regional career center for students to learn trades from auto repair and welding to cooking and baking. In this proposal, this on-site learning center could host students, not just in OPS, but regionally to learn trades with the newest advances in STEM education. Lincoln and Grand Island have opened similar multi-million dollar career centers in their school districts. Benson High has a career facility, Westside has its own career program, and OPS has a limited career center. This proposal would offer the same opportunities to all high school students in the city. In order for this project to move forward, the group says they need the support of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce and Metro Community College.

Local STEM Classes

Opened last year, Omaha’s DO Space is a technology library, free to anyone who wants to learn about or use the latest technology, like 3D printing, food computing and more. Its mission is to break down barriers between people’s ideas and action, giving them the physical space, tools and knowledge to create something new.

It’s with classes like these that people can start building something from scratch, and in a building with free space and equipment, some people are making it their home base. “We know people run businesses out of this building, and we’re OK with that,” said Sue Morris in an NPR interview, speaking for the group of donors who raise $7 million to privately fund DO Space.

ImagiScience offered more STEM out-of-the-classroom learning to Omaha youth this summer. Kids from local Girls Inc., YMCA, Boys and Girls Club of America, and 4H groups got to play and learn mostly outdoors with chemistry experiments, computer courses, and engineering workshops using ImagiScience summer STEM curriculum. This curriculum is offered in two other cities in America, trying to reach areas urban and rural that don’t have access to cutting-edge education.

Omaha STEM Ecosystem

UNO and the Henry Doorly Zoo teamed up to bridge gaps between STEM classroom education and workplace experience. Young people have many opportunities to learn in Omaha, but it can be fragmented. More than 40 individuals representing local industry and business have been attending STEM Ecosystem brainstorming sessions to develop pathways for young people into the career field of their dreams. They are developing education courses and internships to help Omaha youth learn their skills “from cradle to career.” They are focusing on pre-K STEM education, afterschool and summer programs, at-home virtual learning, and physical, real-world experience. Omaha city-wide STEM Ecosystem has been chosen as one of 10 groups to join the national STEM Learning Ecosystem Initiative to discuss tackling those issues nationally.

What are you doing with all of the STEM opportunities available in Omaha? With plenty of places to exercise your brain for free, why not?

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