Innovation in Action

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Day of Innovation Graphic, Join us November 16, 2009
Virtual Brainstorming Sessions
Monday, November 16, 2009
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We'll pose questions, tackle problems, and toss around ideas and possible solutions for issues affecting our region. Get involved from your own desktop! Or join us on campus at one of the brainstorming kiosks available in the Student Union Atrium. LEARN MORE...

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Frans Johansson
Author of the bestseller The Medici Effect

April 9, 2010
9:15 a.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

John Corvino, Ph.D.
Philosophy professor and "gay moralist"

April 20, 2010
7 p.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

Ted Rall
Nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist

May 3, 2010
7 p.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

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STEM: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine . . . the future of our region

An acronym for science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine, STEM is a philosophy of education that goes beyond the sciences and can be applied to any discipline.

This new approach to education will be nowhere more evident than at the new Dayton Regional STEM School (DRSS). At its opening in August 2009, DRSS welcomed nearly 100 ninth grade students from Clark, Greene, and Montgomery counties. By 2012, enrollment is expected to grow to 600 students in grades 6–12.

One of only eight STEM schools in Ohio, DRSS is the result of 30 education, business, industry, community, and government partners working together to create the first STEM school in the Dayton region. The integrated curriculum will combine language arts, history, math, science, engineering, fine arts, and Chinese. In cooperation with its regional partners, DRSS will also offer internship opportunities for students.

"We hope to become a model of what's possible. It's a different approach," said Brian Boyd, principal of DRSS. "We have a diverse set of students and a set of teachers that are working together, working with our regional partners to develop some experiences for kids."

Anita Griggs enrolled her son in DRSS because she thought the school's innovative approach to teaching and small class sizes would be helpful to her son, who is dyslexic. "DRSS offers teaching styles that vary from the norm—they use project and team teaching, not just books and notes. The kids will be interactive with a plethora of people both inside and outside of the school, so our son will be offered the higher level of academia in a format in which he is capable of absorbing it, in spite of his disabilities," said Griggs. "We are very excited about the opportunities presented by DRSS and believe that the alternative teaching styles will give our son a different perspective on school, which will in turn open his options for the future."

Lisa Fitzgerald chose DRSS "so that our daughter could experience STEM learning as part of her core academics" and "be exposed to the great scientists at work in our region—such as those at the Air Force Research Lab and others in local technical companies."

"She will have the opportunity to see math and science applied to real-world problem solving and she'll be exposed to many careers in the STEM fields. She will also be able to work with Wright State and other university academic partners and we welcome that," said Fitzgerald. "The teachers are extremely talented and excited about working with the students and molding them into successful workers in the future. The staff that DRSS has hired is truly world class and we appreciate the hard work they've already done to lay the foundation for the school."

According to Greg Bernhardt, dean of Wright State's College of Education and Human Services, the DRSS will be a place where Wright State's education majors can see the STEM philosophy of education in action. "We hope the STEM school will be a model of best practice," said Bernhardt. "The kids will get a good education, the teachers will be able to demonstrate their best techniques, and we will be able to have our teaching candidates go over there and see where best practice takes place."

DRSS will provide hands-on, project-based learning for students. Designing and building solar ovens is just one example of an activity that will engage students.

As mathematics teacher Judy Brown explains, DRSS provides "an unbelievable opportunity for students." Brown enjoys teaching an integrated curriculum and how it helps students see "the big picture and how they're related and not separate entities." Science and engineering teacher Judy Hallinan wants to get her students excited about math and science, especially the girls. "I was a mechanical engineer for 22 years. I got tired of sitting in conference room after conference room and being the only female in the room," said Hallinan.

Building the STEM Pipeline

Attracting more women to the STEM fields was the impetus for a $2.86 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create the LEADER consortium, a partnership between Wright State, the University of Dayton, Central State University, and the Air Force Institute of Technology. Since its official launch in November 2008, the consortium has been hosting biweekly meetings to recruit and promote the advancement of women in STEM. "That project has a lot of energy right now," said Michele Wheatly, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

Along with attracting women to the STEM fields, persons with disabilities and wounded war veterans are top priorities. Ohio's STEM Ability Alliance was awarded a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to recruit, retain, and graduate students with disabilities in STEM degree programs. Participating institutions include Wright State, Sinclair Community College, The Ohio State University, and Columbus State Community College.

Disabled students interested in STEM degrees are also eligible for nearly $2.7 million in Choose Ohio First scholarships at Wright State, Ohio State, Sinclair, Columbus State, and Clark State Community College.

"Consistent with Wright State's mission, as well as our national reputation for meeting the needs of students with disabilities, this initiative is one of many that are under way across the university to address the special needs of these very, very, talented students," said Lillie Howard, senior vice president for curriculum and instruction. "This kind of collaboration reflects the direction that Chancellor Eric Fingerhut has set as the mission for the University System of Ohio and helps meet Govenor Strickland's goal of educating 230,000 more students by 2017."

According to Jeffrey Vernooy, director of the Office of Disability Services, "Almost 60 percent of our graduating high school students with disabilities never make it into the front door of a post-secondary institution. That is a tremendous loss of talent. Our state needs all of its citizens to get appropriate training so that they can get a job and earn an income. This scholarship program, combined with our nationally recognized support services for students with disabilities, will enhance our efforts of guiding students towards productive and rewarding careers."

All of these initiatives have produced what Wheatly refers to as "a banner year" for STEM. "These are things that put a spotlight on Wright State and help us with our mission to be the most diverse university," she said.

Wright State's College of Engineering and Computer Science actively recruits high school students to get them into the STEM pipeline at Wright State. "Direct-from-high-school applications in our college were up 9 percent for fall 2008 and they are currently up 2.9 percent for fall 2009," said Bor Jang, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Wright STEPP (Science, Technology, and Engineering Preparatory Program), a nationally recognized program that enhances the development and education of underrepresented youth in the STEM fields, is a key recruiting tool. The three-week program helps students in grades 7–10 from Dayton Public Schools learn more about STEM through classes taught by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base volunteers, and through tours and projects. For each year a student participates, the student is eligible to receive a one-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wright State. According to Jang, 160 students participate each year, 40 from each grade level.

The Key to the Region's Future

Building the STEM pipeline is critical to the future of the region and its economy. "STEM is the new industry in the Miami Valley. It was manufacturing. The new factories are the STEM pipeline," said Wheatly. "Instead of creating parts for cars, we're creating the thinkers of tomorrow."

"STEM is about opportunity for our young people and jobs for our community. It is about science, technology, engineering, and math. But the real lessons our students learn through STEM education are how to ask questions and solve problems—techniques that will help them succeed in the arts, in the humanities, in life," explained Susan Bodary, executive director of EDvention, a collaborative of more than 80 partner organizations dedicated to the growth of STEM talent in the Dayton region.

"Virtually all of the programs that we're working on have to do with preparing our students for jobs. There is a greater emphasis on that than I've ever seen before in my 40 years in higher education," said Jack Bantle, vice president for research and graduate studies at Wright State. "Wright-Patterson Air Force Base presents a wealth of opportunities for students in STEM fields to get a job. The BRAC process will also open up doors."

BRAC, the 2005 Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure Act, is expected to bring more than 1,200 jobs to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the region by 2011. Wright State has been engaged in extensive discussions with other regional higher education institutions to prepare for workforce development and the number of graduates that will be needed in targeted areas.

"We're anticipating that our STEM community will probably double or triple [by 2011]. We want to position ourselves to recruit the best caliber of people. We've got quality of life here," said Wheatly. "As this BRAC move takes place, we hopefully will be able to attract people to this region. And that's how we will re-grow the region. It's now or never."

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