STEM Ensures Growth For HPC Industry

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | August 1, 2012

Where will the chemists of tomorrow come from? Dow Chemical has an aggressive program to build students’ expertise in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Whether its iPods, automobiles or anti-dandruff shampoos, creating a successful product requires a deep understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Unfortunately, students’ interests in these fields are waning in the US. To reverse that trend, Dow Chemical collaborates with academia, government and industry to encourage continuous development of teachers and the highest quality K-12 and continuing education to fill the talent pipeline for careers in the STEM fields.

Some of Dow Chemical’s efforts include investing in programs that educate and excite today’s youth about STEM careers like Junior Achievement, First Robotics, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) and local science fairs. In addition, Dow has a partnership focused on increasing the supply and quality of knowledge workers to enable specialized skills needed for advanced manufacturing opportunities created in Michigan and leveraging to Louisiana and Texas called the Fast Start program. Last year, Dow Chemical sponsored the International Year of Chemistry, a year-long celebration offering a range of interactive, entertaining and educational activities for all ages. Through Dow-supported programs like You Be the Chemist, the Chemical Educational Foundation makes chemistry concepts fun and easy for students and teachers. Finally, Dow supports science discovery among underserved 10-, 11- and 12-year olds through Camp Invention.

Dow’s “The Science Behind Sunscreen” booth at the Philadelphia Science Festival: Melissa Johnson, senior research and development leader, Dow Home & Personal Care, conducts the “flubber” experiment, where kids have the opportunity to help magically turn liquids into solids, and learn how science makes lotions smooth and creamy so that they can stay on your skin longer.
For educators, Dow provides scholarships for teachers to attend workshops at The Keystone Center, a non-profit organization focused on solving our society’s most challenging environmental, energy, and public health problems through public policy and education. Through the Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers, Dow supports the professional development of K-12 science educators in communities where Dow has a presence. Dow is a sponsor of the NSTA’s prestigious Robert H. Carleton Award for National Leadership in the Field of Science Education, and supports teacher training as well as science education materials. Since 2008, these activities have impacted nearly 12,000 teachers and 1.5 million students in the US.

The goal, of course, is to keep students interested in STEM and help teachers make the learning process fun and enjoyable. Leading these efforts is Eunice Heath who, in May, was appointed senior director for corporate citizenship, STEM.

“A highly science-literate and sustainable talent pool is vital to advanced manufacturing and to Dow,” said Heath. “The US has held a leadership in manufacturing and technology in the past, but unless students receive core fundamentals in science, engineering and advanced skills, it will be difficult to restore the US competitive advantage.”

Growth Opportunities
STEM is the second fastest growing occupational group, second only to healthcare, and contributes roughly half of all US growth. Heath noted that of those working in STEM fields only 5% are African American and Latino and only 24% are women. One area of focus is to increase the interest among under-represented groups.

To reach them and other students, Melissa Johnson, senior research and development leader, Dow Home & Personal Care, recently attended a Science Festival in the Philadelphia area that attracted more than 10,000 people. Johnson and other volunteers conducted experiments to show students how sunscreens work and the importance of rheology.

Dow Chemical is a big supporter of the Philadelphia Science Festival. Jerome Peribere, president and chief executive officer, Dow Advanced Materials, presented a check to organizers for the 2013 event. Pictured (l-r): Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer/planetarium director, The Franklin Institute; The Philly Phanatic, the Philadelphia Phillies’ mascot; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Marsha R. Perelman, board chair, The Franklin Institute; Jerome Peribere, president and chief executive officer, Dow Advanced Materials.
“It’s great to see the reaction from kids and their parents when the concepts about polymers click and they see how it all relates to hair gels, lotions and creams,” explained Johnson.

Her efforts are just one example of how Dow Chemical is reaching out to create a new generation of technicians, engineers and scientists. Heath noted that Dow Chemical has been a proponent of STEM education for decades. Another program Dow supports is 100Kn10, which is a collaborative movement with greater than 80 organizations in the US to support the professional development and deployment of 100,000 new STEM teachers in the next 10 years. This partnership is a part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). In the future, Heath looks forward to partnering with companies within the household and personal care industry to expand programs and reach as many students as possible.

“STEM is a cornerstone to addressing policy issues related to education gaps and retooling the workforce. Investing in STEM will help to restore US advanced manufacturing,” Heath said. “The innovations of tomorrow will get more and more challenging and require rigorous STEM curriculum and skill development. For Dow Chemical, STEM is not a program; it’s an imperative. It is a core part of what we do to enable the talent for tomorrow.”