STEM Council launched

STEM Council launched

MAIN STREET JOURNAL – The Marlborough STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) Council established early last fall is already seeing an impressive community and industry response to programs and events organized by the group.

The idea for the STEM Council became reality in December 2017 when AMSA Outreach Coordinator Mark Vital began having discussions with Mayor Arthur Vigeant and Marlborough Superintendent of Schools Michael Bergeron. From those conversations it was recognized that the three area high schools rarely collaborated on academics or communicated beyond athletic teams.

Outside of sports, “It’s the first time any of us can recall that all three Marlborough high schools are starting to work together,” said Vital, founder of the council.

“Marlborough is an educational Mecca as far as high school,” he added. “This is about the kids. Imagine what we could do and what the future of Marlborough would look like if we started working together.”

And so, he began to think about how the three schools could team up regularly, not just once in a while. As a result, the STEM Council was formed with area educators, business and economic development representatives, and of professionals working in local STEM industries. The first meeting of the council was held in October 2018.

The group seeks to unite the city’s three high schools: Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, the Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (AMSA), and Marl­borough High School (MHS), in a proposal to bring STEM focused education and resources to students. The ultimate goal of the council is to find and develop talent so area students can compete in the global marketplace. This includes expanding work-based learning opportunities, making pathways for early college possibilities, and strengthening regional STEM networks.

“When we make major decisions at our schools and we start asking, can we be helping more Marlborough kids? That answer is usually yes,” explained Vital. “We are really just starting to think outside of our individual schools,” said Vital.

He continued, “We have people calling regularly to see how they can get involved and get on committees to help support this. The community is very excited and we have had some great positive feedback. We had to stop taking on new members for now because the idea has been so well received.”

Rob McCann, who represents Assabet on the STEM Council, and is also Director of Academics and Title 1 Services at Assabet, agrees with Vital. “Kids here have tremendous choices when it comes to high school. It’s no secret that Marlborough High, Assabet, and AMSA have been competitive in the past when it comes to students. Each of the high schools have significant strengths and resources that the others do not have. It’s more beneficial for students and for our community if we start working together.”

A variety of initiatives are already in the works, as the council begins to make an impact on Marlborough.

Mobile STEM Van

An idea that the council hopes will become a reality over the summer is the acquisition of a Mobile STEM van. The van would be stocked with STEM focused projects, presentations, and activities. Ideally, high school students along with a teacher could go to elementary schools and present STEM experiments/activities to younger students. The van might also be used at community events to help showcase the importance of STEM-based learning in Marlborough.  The council is currently in discussions about possible donations concerning the van.

M20 Summit

On May 30th, Assabet will host the STEM Council’s first M20 Summit. The idea is modeled after the G20 Summit in which a forum of international leaders come together to discuss issues facing their countries and the world. The summit leaders then take steps toward finding solutions, and improving relations and communications.

The M20 Summit will feature six student representatives from each of the three high schools.

Biotechnology and Advanced Manufacturing teachers will introduce problems and ideas concerning space habitation. Three groups of students equally represented from the high schools will discuss, engineer, and formulate responses and plans to address the challenges.

The event will begin at Assabet for a morning session, then students will be transported to Marlborough High to present their solutions and findings in the afternoon. Professionals from local corporations will observe, facilitate discussions and judge the student presentations.

Internships

This summer Boston Scientific will be piloting an internship program which will provide experience for students who may have barriers to gainful employment in the future,

The five internship positions will be divided between the three high schools and will model the processes for entry into the workforce complete with interviews.  Boston Scientific is working with teachers and administrators to help identify candidates for the program.

Caitlin Comer, Senior Community Engagement Speci­alist at Boston Scientific has been able to provide a corporate perspective in her role on the Marlborough STEM Council. “Boston Scientific has a great STEM outreach program and we want to make sure we are collaborating with local students and are looking for ways to highlight STEM activities and education in the community,” said Comer.

Other events and ideas

A pilot program of the very first LGBTQ STEM Summit meeting took place on March 1st and was hosted by Rob McCann at Assabet. The focus of the summit consisted of career directed round table discussions based mainly around work environment and current industry issues. Students discussed real life case studies, and how the LGBTQ community is perceived and supported in STEM industries. Panelists from Raytheon, Boston Scientific, Dow Chemical, and Viasat discussed their career paths, successes and challenges. Vital said the meeting went “phenomenally” well and it was a successful first event.

Another interest group is a Women in STEM discussion model, which would highlight and discuss challenges and achievements of women in STEM industries.

These interest groups are intended to mirror actual employee groups at larger corporations in the greater Marlborough area and in industry in general. The groups help to focus common interests in like-minded individuals which provide them with a cohesive dynamic in a group setting.

Along with the STEM van and special interest groups the council has talked about the possibility of joint field trips with students from each of the high schools. Also in discussion is a Career Fair and “Learn About Your Community/Corporate Exploration” event that would feature various STEM industries and how they incorporate into the Marlborough community and education system.

“In terms of our first year of the STEM Council, the fact that we are already having events, and kids and teachers are already involved, I have to give a lot of credit to everyone involved,” said McCann. “We are getting new perspectives and ideas from different students, and like-minded students are able to get together and share what they are learning. There’s a new excitement in the students and in the community.”

Reflecting on the last nine months of the existence of the council, Vital said, “There is a lot of forward momentum. There is a great deal of excitement from the community, from industry, from Marlborough, and from educators. We are very optimistic about the direction we are headed. These opportunities to work together will increasingly benefit the kids, and it’s really all about the kids.”

Shown in picture, Assabet Valley Tech, Marlborough High and AMSA Charter School were joined by representatives of Boston Scientific, Dow Chemical, Raytheon, and Viasat at the Marlborough STEM Council’s first major event held earlier this month, an LGBTQ STEM Summit.

This article by Melissa Eggehorn originally appeared here.

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