A Perspective on STEM: from Frank Sivo, Candidate for School Committee

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At the April 17th school committee meeting, I was aghast to hear a parent (Tim Ritterbusch) report that there is consideration to substantially reduce the amount of TechEd exposure our children receive in the Hopkinton Middle School. Mr. Ritterbusch’s report compels me to weigh-in on the importance of TechEd and, more broadly, STEM in our curriculum and our children’s futures.

For me, TechEd is the heart of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). While the world moves toward an increased reliance on STEM, might our schools actually be considering a move in the opposite direction? Could it be that we have somehow come to define “technology” to be the use of tools (like 1:1 computers), as opposed to the Mirriam-Webster definition (“the practical application of knowledge”)?

A hands-on TechEd program, like we currently enjoy at the middle school, gives everyone an opportunity to use their science and math skills via “practical application of knowledge”. TechEd can also show those who struggle on the academic side, that their innate skills and intuition are actually superior. “Shop” (as we called it in the last century) gives everyone an opportunity to engineer a product, solve problems, build something (memorable), and learn more about the physical world.

By discovering that math and science actually had practical applications, my passion for science, technology, and math was triggered in Middle School “shop”. Years later with degrees in Mechanical Engineering (BS) and Material Science (MS), I went on to work in exciting STEM fields, such as: nano-composites, superconductors, software development, and drug research. In these fields, I have had a very successful and rewarding career. Through these experiences, I have also been given opportunities to become a patented inventor and a published author. Without my wonderful exposure to the practical side of STEM via “TechEd” (shop), I wonder if my passion for STEM would have been ignited.

According to the National Commission on Science and Technology, “Sixty percent of the new jobs that will open in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20 percent of the current workforce”. In my opinion, reflective of these facts, we need more members of our School Committee who understand the dominant role that technology, engineering, and science will play in our children’s future. Further, we need members of the School Committee who fully appreciate the dire consequences of, for example, reducing STEM (TechEd) content in our schools.

I am not suggesting that every Hopkinton High School graduate be directed toward a STEM career. However, I feel we should fully inspire, through classroom instruction and applied experiences, every child to be ready to embrace (i.e. not be intimidated by) the wonders of a career in science, technology, engineering, and math; if they are interested.

I think the Hopkinton School Committee would benefit from someone who, by training and experience, is a STEM-professional to keep our goals aligned to a rapidly changing, technology-driven, world. As a member of the School Committee, I will be dedicated to developing a strategic plan that inclusively embraces STEM, core academics, the arts and athletics. I will support the district and Superintendent in executing against the strategic plan to produce graduates ready for the globally connected, STEM-driven, 21st century economy. Finally, I will foster data-driven decision making processes that focus on continuously improving the education of all children; whether engineering, poetry, or any other vocation is in their future.