Editor’s note: WRAL Local Tech Wire has added another feature with the launch of the "Innovation Exchange." Noah Garrett, former executive director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who recently launched NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

Participate in the Exchange. Send ideas and feedback to: noah@thinkngc.com

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The Innovation Exchange is a bit road weary, covering nearly 4,000 miles in the last two weeks, but traveling all over the country recently has been beneficial in pinpointing some areas that need our help.

NGC Communications is pleased to announce today that we plan to boost our STEM education outreach in the coming weeks and develop a massive media campaign supporting those initiatives. For those who don’t know, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And, it’s apparent that our country is in crisis, and it’s time to stop talking about it and time to start doing something about it.

What is the "crisis?" Is it a lack of teachers to teach STEM? Is it a lack of funding to bring these programs to schools? Is it that not enough kids are interested? We talk about fixing the crisis, but many may not fully understand what the crisis is. In fact, is part of the crisis that the average person is uninformed?

Last week, I spoke with a high school senior in New Mexico who was frustrated with the world around him. He told me that he is picked on almost every day for being a "nerd" and that only "nerds" are good in math. No kidding, he said, "This nerd is tired of being picked on and is studying hard right now so I can get paid!"

Full disclosure: this kid will start the college of engineering next fall on a full scholarship at a well-respected university and will more than likely "get paid" in the years to come. Way to go, buddy.

The nature of today’s globalized work force and the needs of our industries have changed and continue to change daily. An understanding of scientific and mathematical principles, a working knowledge of computer hardware and software and the problem-solving skills developed by courses in STEM are necessary for most jobs. My future engineer in New Mexico gets it, but unfortunately, the majority does not.

Since we are fans of open source and collaboration, part of NGC’s strategic plan is to get your input. Please take a few moments to join our conversation on our new virtual social network – STEM-ulating PR Network. The link is located in the "On The Web" section and it’s free to join.

This site is in beta form and just beginning, but it’s a start. This is a critical time to realize the importance of building a motivated and prepared knowledge work force, and your input is welcomed as well as encouraged, so please take a few moments to get involved.

Also, we are soliciting new ideas – specifically logo, branding taglines and any additional ideas you might want to toss into our STEM Kool-Aid. So, along with boosting our public and media relations efforts in education, NGC is announcing a contest.

Whoever can develop the best logo and/or branding tagline for our new STEM initiative will receive one month’s free consulting service. This contest is open to parents, companies, students, and anyone else who is concerned about the future of our education system and our nation’s future work force.

The contest begins immediately and will close on May 15. So you basically have two weeks to put some thought into this and submit your ideas to noah@thinkngc.com. You can draw something on paper, scan it, and submit it that way. You can do an elaborate digital design. Or, you can just write something down in an e-mail. Whatever you come up with using any form of communication is fine. Please enclose your daytime contact information with each entry. All entries become property of NGC.

We will announce the winner on Friday, May 23, and share the new campaign with the world that day. So get to work and think about these two ideas: How can we get more people involved with STEM education, and how do we leverage public opinion, especially the media, to start paying more attention?

Good luck. We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Like I said, it’s time to stop talking about it and time to start doing something about it!