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STEM takes flight at the 10th Massachusetts STEM Summit

Robots, forensics, and flying cars were seamlessly integrated into education and economic development strategies during last Wednesday’s Massachusetts STEM Summit, a joint effort of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, Mass Business Roundtable and the UMass Donahue Institute. Held at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and attended by nearly 1,200 educators, business leaders, government officers, and an increased number of students, this year’s Summit marked a full decade of statewide collaboration around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and its prominence in the state’s economic development strategy.

The day opened with Governor Deval Patrick, Congressman Joe Kennedy and UMass President Robert Caret addressing attendees and making the connection between education and the opportunities open to a STEM-literate workforce, leading up to the unveiling of Massachusetts STEM Plan 2.0 by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.  Three years after the state’s initial plan for increasing interest and achievement in STEM subjects was introduced, this latest plan reflects improved data metrics, sets direction for the years ahead and highlights concrete strategies that can be used locally to catalyze action around the plan’s goals.

At the conclusion of the morning’s keynotes, attendees made their way, via outdoor walkways that grant a clear view of the Patriots end zone, toward topical breakout sessions that addressed ongoing STEM objectives from early childhood education through post-secondary training. Back inside, the Summit’s Resource Room offered a chance to mingle with students and observe a fleet of robots, a simulated cockpit and a group of tablet-wielding kindergartners showcasing some of the ways that innovative STEM projects are transforming learning across all age groups.

When attendees reconvened for afternoon keynotes, Kara DiGiacomo, the Executive Director of Biogen Idec Foundation announced a $50,000 grant program for Massachusetts’s schools and teachers working to develop innovative STEM programs. She was followed by Donna Cupelo, President of Verizon-New England and Chair of Mass Business Roundtable, who introduced Carl and Anna Mracek Dietrich, the MIT-grads who are currently creating a line of personally-piloted flying cars at Terrafugia, the Woburn-based company they co-founded. During a presentation that ushered in the reality of airborne commuting, Carl Deitrich pledged to manufacture the company’s fleet in Massachusetts, thereby embodying exactly how a STEM education gives way to innovation, invention and industry, and the subsequent demand for a highly-skilled workforce to fill the jobs it creates.

After hosting the largest contingent yet, plans are already underway for next year’s 11th Massachusetts STEM Summit, with early feedback indicating that number 10 will be difficult to top.

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