Preparing Students for the Digital Future through STEM Education

By: Guest Blogger: Ravi Pakala, senior director enterprise architecture, Northwestern Mutual

Technology is an integral part of the way we live. Almost everyone has the need to apply technology to some aspect of their lives, whether it’s for work, education or entertainment. While we know how to use technology and need it in our day-to-day lives, we must also be able to leverage technology and use it in new ways to find solutions to different problems and challenges.

Think about the number of students in grades K-12, even new graduates, who have been or are being exposed to technology. For many, the focus is on how to use technology, but very few know how it works. Understanding what technology can do is key to creating and developing the next-generation solutions that will drive success in the digital future. That’s where STEM education comes in.

There is a strong desire for technology careers across all industries. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 1 million open computing jobs in the U.S. by 2024.[1]  At Northwestern Mutual, we’re focused on the “T” in STEM – technology. Technology affects our business in many ways, and there is a growing need for technology talent in the workforce, especially when it comes to computing.

Academic preferences and interests begin at an early age. By providing STEM programs for students in elementary and high schools, we can help fuel their interests early on, which will influence the class choices they make and prepare them for more advanced work in the future.

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Our STEM Outreach Program offers a variety of opportunities for students grades K-12 to learn about technology. We provide experiential learning opportunities through a number of events throughout the year. Key events include our high school tech minicamp, a summer immersion and internship program focused on front-end development; CyberGirlz, a day-camp for middle school girls to spark interest in computer science careers; TEALS, a program designed to support and build up computer science teachers’ skill sets; and NM Xperience, a three-day event featuring hands-on activities and community building.

Additionally, next week we’re proud to participate in National Hour of Code, which aims to expose students to coding learning opportunities. National Hour of Code, which is held Dec. 4-10, encourages people to work with young students by engaging with them in creative ways to expose them to coding lessons. We will be participating in National Hour of Code in our Wisconsin, Arizona and New York offices. We’re challenging our employees and field representatives to do an hour of code with their children or kids in the community.

Creating a Lasting Impact Through Volunteerism

We’ve made great strides in the community in recent years to expose more students to STEM education. None of our STEM programming would be possible without our dedicated Northwestern Mutual volunteers, who are passionate about giving back, with many often devoting personal time and energy after hours and on weekends.

Volunteerism is a core part of our culture at Northwestern Mutual. I encourage my team and support their involvement in STEM volunteerism because it offers tremendous growth opportunities and is a creative venue for our employees. For many on my team, volunteerism has sparked a new fire. It allows them to bring that part of themselves to work, or better stated, to bring their whole selves to work and be recognized for it. At the same time, STEM volunteerism has long-term benefits because we’re educating our future workforce and showing young students that Northwestern Mutual is a great place to work.

We’re grateful to have many partners in the Milwaukee region who share our same goal of advancing STEM learning. By working together and providing STEM education, we can have a greater impact in our community today and in the future.
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[1]  Conference Board, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Igniting the Spark: Discovery World is Providing STEM for Today’s Youth and Tomorrow’s Professionals

Guest Blog by Liz Braatz, Grant Writer at Discovery World

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News recently broke of Discovery World’s $18 million capital campaign to undergo a major expansion and improvement project to alter the way in which the museum impacts Milwaukee’s youth in the STEM education arena.

“We have formulated a vision that will enable us to deepen our impact in the community, and we are eager to work with our partners to make sure that the investments we will make can have a profound and lasting impact on the future workforce,” said Joel Brennan, CEO of Discovery World.

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For more than a year, the Discovery World Team has been working with community partners to develop a comprehensive vision that will shape the organization’s future and make a significant impact on kids in the community. The $18 million project will make several enhancements to Discovery World, including:

•    A 10,000 sq. ft. addition that will be constructed just north of and attached to the existing Technology Building;
•    Transition of the Innovation Theater into a grand new Technology Building entrance and 5,000 sq. ft. exhibit gallery with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows and a direct connection to the rest of the facility;
•    Transition of the Lower Mezzanine into a new 6,000 sq. ft. exhibit gallery that is open to the Promenade and to the galleries below;
•    Multiple new permanent exhibits within two new themed exhibit galleries, a relocated Gift Shop, and other public improvements.

Discovery World is focused on achieving four goals through these investments:

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•    Access – We believe that we can serve up to 100,000 additional guests annually, including many who cannot afford the price of admission or programs;
•    Sustainability – We estimate that we can generate an additional 15% in earned revenue (more than $1 million annually) to invest in the facility, our people, and our strong future;
•    Flexibility – We will be better equipped to make the most of today’s opportunities and gain versatility that allows us to adapt to the ever-changing educational and workforce development landscape;
•    Impact – At our core, we exist to make a difference in the lives of the future workforce of our community. All of the investments will allow us to continue to focus our energy and resources on STEM Education programs that transform kids, schools, neighborhoods, and our region in the coming years.

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It is important to highlight the connection between access and sustainability. Discovery World is relatively more reliant on earned revenue than other comparable cultural and educational institutions (such as the Milwaukee Public Museum or the Milwaukee County Zoo) because those institutions tend to receive more public funding. Often times, the public resources that go into those organizations also are connected to free admission days for local residents, and since Discovery World doesn’t receive those public funds, its ability to offer free admission days to the entire community is severely limited. In some ways, Discovery World subsidizes facility and program access for those who cannot afford to pay through resources generated from those who can pay for them.

This year, Discovery World began to adapt its educational program delivery model to hone in on making a direct and substantial impact on Milwaukee students. Through a partnership with Johnson Controls, the organization worked with nearly 600 students from eight schools on Milwaukee’s north side to provide an intensive, six-week program that brought the students to Discovery World for repeated program instruction with the same educator week after week. An outside evaluation highlighted positive results from the model, concluding: "Students grew in their ability to problem solve and overcome obstacles to accomplish tasks, which is a portable skill in the classroom or other areas of their lives… At several grade levels, students exhibited significant changes in perceptions about their ability to perform specific STEM skills."

Similar evaluations of Discovery World’s STEM summer camps have also produced positive results, concluding: “The majority of campers are considering STEM careers. As campers had above average attitudes toward STEM pre-program, this program may encourage campers or nurture an interest they had prior to camps."

As construction gets underway, education programs continue on. The impact of Discovery World’s STEM outreach grows bigger every day. Our organization’s leaders have so much pride in the work done to showcase STEM, increase awareness of what children can become in STEM fields and show how incredibly interesting STEM careers are. After 10 years at Milwaukee’s lakefront, this is only the beginning for Discovery World; and a new chapter in an already amazing read. For more information, www.discoveryworld.org.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author only, and do not necessarily represent the views of STEM Forward.

UW-Madison Alumna Writes Children’s Book to Promote STEM

Guest Blog by Dominic Pitera, Fly with Maya Illustrator and Product Design Engineer at Apple, UW-Madison BSME 2011.

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UW-Madison engineering alumna Kate Slattery saw a challenge in the engineering field. As a female engineer in a male-dominated industry, she recognized a need for diversity in the environment around her. In 2014, Kate came up with a creative idea.

Many children, especially young girls, grow up without being exposed to careers in the fields of science and engineering. They are blocked not by their capabilities or interests, but by a lack of awareness and inspiration. Armed with her passion for education and storytelling, Kate set out to create a children’s book series titled Fly with Maya. She decided that throughout the series, an adventurous young girl named Maya would travel the world in a hot air balloon, meeting engineers and learning about their lives and work along the way.

In 2015, Kate began writing the series and looking for an illustrator. Kate’s project and passion resonated strongly with me, and I was honored when she invited me to help. Shortly after we began working together on the project, my roommate, Alan Browning, joined in the effort to design and format the book and website. The experience was exciting, rewarding, and inspiring, as it allowed all of us to tie our engineering backgrounds to our interests and hobbies outside of our professional roles. As the author of the story, Kate led our efforts, and we made significant progress over the course of a year.

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As we approached the completion of the first book in June of 2016, Kate suddenly passed away in a biking accident. Through the amazing support of her parents, brothers, extended family, and friends, we completed and launched Fly with Maya in July 2017 to be shared with the world. Although Kate’s kindness and passion for helping others will never be replaced, our goal is to help Fly with Maya reach the children Kate wanted to inspire. We also hope it will motivate others to break down the barriers between children and the STEM world, allowing girls and boys everywhere to realize their full potential.

Fly with Maya is available at www.flywithmaya.com along with more information on the project.

Wisconsin to score big win on economic development

Guest Editorial/Blog by Gregory Schroeder, P.E. (Gas Engineer at We Energies and STEM Forward Board of Director)

It looks as if Wisconsin will score a big win for economic development.  President Trump and Governor Scott Walker have announced that the world’s largest manufacturer will locate an enormous manufacturing facility in southeast Wisconsin. What do you think attracted Foxconn to southeast Wisconsin? 

It’s undoubtedly a combination of things. Among those reasons include the following: abundant water supply, improving transportation systems, large low-priced tracts of land, business climate, energy supply and energy cost, tax rates and a stable economic outlook.  I have one more business location criteria for us to focus on – an able-bodied and educated work force. 

Will Foxconn follow through on their promise? We won’t know for a while, but we can say with certainty that the quality of our workforce will be crucial for many years to come whether it is Foxconn or other businesses.  If Foxconn comes, will they stay? Will they grow? Will they be successful here?  Will they attract other businesses? The quality of the employees they attract and hire will be crucial to answering all of these questions. 

Regarding Foxconn’s choice of Wisconsin, I have read national media citing the UW system and our technical colleges as high-quality state education systems. I agree, but will we continue to invest, and strengthen our schools for the next generation of students?  These are wonderful public assets. You have a say through your elected representatives in how they are supported and run. 

What about our primary and secondary educational systems? We need all hands on deck to support our children in every classroom in the state, especially in urban schools. All children need access to quality, educational opportunities.

What skills will be in strong demand for Foxconn and other future employers? We know the greatest demand will be for students with strong STEM skills. We have multiple opportunities to improve Wisconsin’s STEM educational climate. 

How You Can Help

First, watch for legislation, and support bills that will improve STEM opportunities, STEM resources and quality STEM instruction. Second, you can volunteer at a school and/or participate in tutoring, mentoring or simply visit a classroom, science fair, or career day. Are you an initiator? Start an afterschool program for Future Cities, First Robotics, First Lego League, or Girls that Code.  You could also get involved with a school that is teaching Project Lead the Way’s curriculum. Look for opportunities to share the new Dream Big movie, which is being shown at Milwaukee Public Museum’s IMAX theater from now until January 2018.

Foxconn is a wakeup call. Wisconsin CAN win our slice of the 21st century economic pie. Now let’s do what we can to make this new vision a reality. 

The opinions expressed here are those of the author only, and do not necessarily represent the views of STEM Forward.

STEM Forward Awards Five Scholarships to Students Pursuing STEM Careers

STEM Forward is proud to present five, $2,000 scholarships to the following students for the 2017-2018 academic year: Karlie Hornberger, Marquette University; Eddie Simpson, Milwaukee Area Technical College; Kathryn Ebert, Milwaukee School of Engineering; Courtney Schuh, UW-Milwaukee; and Benjamin Hermann, UW-Madison.

Meet STEM Forward’s outstanding scholarship recipients:

Karlie Hornberger
School: Marquette University
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Minor: Environmental Engineering
Concentration: Engineering Leadership

Karlie’s journey to pursue an engineering career began after being exposed to Destination Imagination (DI), an educational non-profit organization that teaches 21st century skills and STEM principles to K-12 and college students.

She participated on teams for 10 years in various challenges, ranging from a Myth busters-style challenge in grade school to a renewable energy challenge in high school.

“While DI was my catalyst for engineering in general, it was the challenge in renewable energy that set my educational and career direction,” Karlie said.”

She decided to study Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Environmental Engineering to learn about the sustainable design of energy systems. This summer, Karlie is participating in an internship at GE Renewable Energy in South Carolina.

"After graduation, I hope to continue to work in renewable energy design, either in an established company like GE or an entrepreneurial venture," she said. “I hope to bring the creativity and teamwork I learned in DI, as well as the STEM and leadership skills I learned at Marquette, into my career to make a difference in the world.”


Eddie Simpson
School: Milwaukee Area Technical College
Major: Mechanical Design; Mechanical Engineering

Eddie hopes to continue to excel in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Mechanical Design program, and graduate with his associate’s degree in the spring of 2018. His goal is to accept a position with a company that will help him support his family, develop his skills and become a better person and employee.

Joining the U.S. Army Reserves as a Medical Combat Specialist may be in Eddie’s future.

“Enlisting in the Army Reserves would give me the opportunity and ability to help others while still being able to work a full-time job, continue my education, and come home to my family at the end of the night,” he said.

After graduating from MATC, Eddie’s next endeavor is to earn his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

"My long-term goal is to work with a large company involved in the manufacturing of engines and related components; Briggs and Stratton, Harley-Davidson, Mercury Marine, Caterpillar, etc.,” he said. “Along with the pursuit of my bachelor’s degree, I have high hopes of being able to help people and make a difference.”


Kathyrn Ebert
School: Milwaukee School of Engineering
Major: Architectural Engineering; Construction Management

Kathryn is studying Architectural Engineering and Construction Management. Rather than building grand, luxurious mansions that are featured on TV, Kathryn hopes to build affordable homes for those without shelter.

“I want to make office buildings that inspire workers to see good in the world rather than complacently walk through it,” she said. “I want to make cathedrals, museums, schools, hospitals, that not only inspire people to see the beauty in others, but actually foster creativity that will one day save the world from itself.”

Kathryn is an excellent student, balancing two jobs with her studies. She currently works as an office assistant in MSOE’s Marketing and Public Affairs Department.

“Her determination and drive to succeed in school make her an excellent candidate for this position,” said Leigh Ann Hass, Director of Publications at MSOE.


Courtney Schuh
School: UW-Milwaukee
Major: Industrial Engineering
Concentration: Quality Control

Courtney is earning her bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering as a means to improve the world around her.

“I believe that quality work coupled with a drive to push the boundaries of innovation within the industrial and manufacturing space are the keys to bringing today’s good ideas into tomorrow’s safest and greatest reality,” she said.

Her co-op experience with Harley-Davidson and R&L Spring Company have allowed her work with seasoned professionals on various projects, including the implementation of project management methodology and nurturing a culture of accountability.

“As my Junior year comes to an end, I have learned and experienced more about the manufacturing and business world than I could have ever imagined possible in such a short period of time,” she said. “My experiences have fueled a desire to enter the workforce not just in pursuit of a career, but in the pursuit of a work environment that inspires me to grow as an intellectual, a leader, a supporter, a creator and an engineer.”


Benjamin Hermann
School: UW-Madison
Major: Engineering

Benjamin Hermann was one of 29 highly qualified high school seniors residing in southeastern Wisconsin who applied for our high school scholarship this year to pursue a STEM degree. Benjamin will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall to study engineering.

“My inspiration to pursue a STEM job, specifically engineering, started with my involvement in the Future City Competition,” he said. “Since then, my interest has continued to grow.”

In addition to STEM Forward’s Future City Competition, Benjamin has participated in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for three seasons, and served as co-captain when the team took home first place in the National Competition. He’s taken four years of challenging Project Lead the Way courses, earned college credits, and has participated in MSOE’s software engineering summer camp, Woodland Conference math competition and countless extra-curricular activities.

With all of these activities, Benjamin still finds time to work. He has experience working as a contracting assistant for Luettegen Contracting, as a stocker for Pick n' Save and as a home cleaner/organizer for the nonprofit organization, Project Pals.

These five outstanding students will be honored during STEM Forward’s 12th Annual Golf Outing Scholarship & Program Fundraiser at Morningstar Golfers Club on Aug. 17, 2017.

For more information about STEM Forward’s Golf Outing Scholarship & Program Fundraiser, visit http://www.stemforward.org/invitational-golf-outing.

STEM Forward’s $2,000 High School Scholarship Awarded to Benjamin Hermann

Congratulations to Benjamin Hermann of Pius XI Catholic High School for earning STEM Forward’s $2,000 scholarship.

Benjamin Hermann recently participated in STEM Forward's Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Waukesha Area Technical College. His machine had a restaurant theme.

Benjamin Hermann recently participated in STEM Forward's Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Waukesha Area Technical College. His machine had a restaurant theme.

Benjamin, a Franklin resident, was one of 29 highly qualified high school seniors residing in southeastern Wisconsin who applied for our scholarship this year to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Benjamin will attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison this fall to study engineering.

“My inspiration to pursue a STEM job, specifically engineering, started with my involvement in the Future City Competition,” he said. “Since then, my interest has continued to grow.”

In addition to STEM Forward’s Future City Competition, Benjamin has participated in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for three seasons, and served as co-captain when the team took home first place in the National Competition. He’s taken four years of challenging Project Lead The Way courses and earned college credits, and has participated in MSOE’s software engineering summer camp, Woodland Conference math competition and countless extra-curricular activities.

With all of these activities, Benjamin still finds time to work. He has experience working as a contracting assistant for Luettegen Contracting, as a stocker for Pick n' Save and as a home cleaner/organizer for the nonprofit organization, Project Pals.

“Ben demonstrates what it means to be a well-rounded student who is committed to school and service and balances his responsibilities accordingly,” said Catherine Zurawski, STEM Department Chair and Rube Goldberg teacher at Pius XI Catholic High School. “He demonstrates a high level of maturity and responsibility.”

Benjamin will be honored at STEM Forward’s 12th Annual Golf Outing Scholarship & Program Fundraiser at Morningstar Golfers Club on Aug. 17, 2017.

Attend the ceremony, enjoy a day on the golf course and help us support more scholarships for students pursuing a degree in STEM. Register here.

Meet Brittany Scaglione: STEM Forward’s Scholarship Winner of 2014

Brittany Scaglione is passionate about engineering. It started when she was a toddler.

“My mom hid my pacifier in the top drawer of my dresser when I was about two years old,” she said. “Instead of sitting there and crying, I stacked my Lego boxes on my chair and climbed up to retrieve it.”

Brittany’s fascination for problem-solving was encouraged by her parents and led her to participate in several science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities growing up, including summer Lego and robotics camps. The fact that her school offered STEM courses through Project Lead the Way further accelerated both her interest in STEM, knowledge of engineering concepts and exposure to a wide array of STEM careers available.

She’s participated in STEM Forward’s Wisconsin Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contests as a student at Pius XI Catholic High School, and later served as a team captain and volunteer.

STEM Forward's Rube Goldberg Machine Contests put engineering at the forefront, while encouraging critical-thinking and problem-solving in a non-traditional learning environment.

“I loved participating in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contests because it helped me learn the design process of engineering as well as troubleshooting techniques to ensure that it properly runs and operates the way it’s supposed to,” Brittany said.

Her favorite was when her team designed a Miller Park-themed machine that hammered a nail in 20 or more steps, complete with racing sausages, a jumbotron, the national anthem, a (root) beer keg, and of course, Bernie Brewer, who went down the slide after a home run was hit. The biggest design challenge was creating it so it could be easily taken down and reassembled when moving it.

“Brittany’s passion for engineering and STEM was highly apparent through her leadership of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contests at Pius XI Catholic High School,” said Cathy Zurawski, Rube Goldberg team advisor and teacher at Pius XI Catholic High School. “She inspires and encourages all students to pursue higher education and careers in STEM fields.”

Brittany’s commitment to pursuing a STEM career, strong academic performance, and participation in STEM Forward programming earned her a $2,000 scholarship from STEM Forward in 2014.

Today, Brittany is a Marquette University senior, majoring in biomedical engineering. Although she’s busy with classes and a co-op through the Medical College of Wisconsin, Brittany is committed to inspiring others pursue a STEM career, especially girls.

Every Tuesday evening, she volunteers for Marquette’s Girls Who Code Club, helping fifth grade to high school students learn how to code, build websites and troubleshoot them.

“Making a difference in students’ lives and encouraging other young women to enhance their STEM skills is something I take pride in,” she said. “The girls involved in the Girls Who Code Club gain so much knowledge before entering college, which builds their confidence and exposes them to various types of careers that they may have never considered before, or even knew that they existed.”

Most recently, she served as a special awards judge at STEM Forward’s Wisconsin Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for high school students on March 3, 2017.

For young women interested in pursuing an engineering career, Brittany advises them to get involved, follow their dreams and not to give up.

“Play with Legos and don’t follow the instructions,” she said. “Join an engineering or math club. Get your hands dirty. Make things, dismantle things and fix things.”


Know a high school senior in southeastern Wisconsin pursing a STEM career? Have him or her apply for STEM Forward's $2,000 scholarship!

MPS & community partners hope "Hidden Figures" will inspire students

By Bobby Tanzilo / OnMilwaukee.com

Have you seen "Hidden Figures" yet?

This film shares the previously untold of three African-American women – brilliant mathematicians who were key to NASA’s launch of John Glenn into orbit in 1962.

The Oscar-nominated film has been getting great reviews, and the first person to recommend it to me is a Milwaukee Public Schools principal, who sees the manifold importance of the film.

One of the important lessons of the movie is the kind of encouragement it can offer to all students, but especially girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM) subjects.

With that in mind, the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation is partnering with Beta Alpha Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Marcus Theatres and Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, to send 10,000 MPS students and Boys & Girls Club members to see the film.

But some money is still required to make this happen, and the Foundation and its partners are appealing to the community for financial support to raise another $53,000 to fund the trips, including reduced-price tickets, transportation and educational materials to continue the discussion and study in the classroom before and after seeing "Hidden Figures."

Beta Alpha Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, a fraternal organization comprising prominent African-American community leaders, has already collected more than $52,000 for this program. Marcus Theatres has pledged $50,000 in generous in-kind support, the Milwaukee Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors has pledged $10,000 and MPS employees have chipped in more than $2,200 in personal donations.

"So many young people simply do not see career opportunities for themselves, especially in math and the sciences," said Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc., and a member of Beta Alpha Boulé of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

"Students are inspired when they can see what others have done and can envision themselves following in those footsteps. The first step on a career path is a vision."

MPS has made a strong commitment to STEM offerings across the district, says Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.

"MPS is already a leader in STEM education," said Dr. Driver. "We have the largest Project Lead The Way footprint of any urban district in the country. We are excited and appreciative of the community support we have received so far – we want students to see that STEM careers are real options regardless of gender or race."

To make a contribution, visit the MPS Foundation website.

Milwaukee Biz Blog: Investment in STEM education could pay off for Wisconsin

This past summer, a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) survey reported 70 percent of top business executives in Wisconsin expressed difficulty in finding quality workers. This has been a persistent trend in their recent economic outlook surveys, and has fueled a larger debate over whether the Badger State is held back by a “skills gap,” where open jobs go unfilled because the labor force lacks the necessary qualifications.

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