Editor’s note: Local Tech Wire is launching a new section about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – today in partnership with the N.C. Science, Technology and Math Education Center, the N.C. Stem Community Collaborative and MCNC. Articles about STEM will appear each Monday. Suggestions and comments are welcome. () Please contact LTW Editor Rick Smith (rsmith@wral.com)


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Preparing young people for citizenship, college, and careers is a never-ending challenge. Just determining what to teach is a major undertaking and, at best, is a bit of a guessing game. But one thing remains clear – what needs to be learned is secondary to how to use the information.

Problem solving, information processing, working collaboratively, and knowing what to do when you are not sure what to do are essential skills necessary to manage the dynamic setting of the 21st century. That’s where STEM comes in.

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. However, it could also easily be redefined as “Strategies That Engage the Mind”.

STEM skills are vital to be successful in the 21st century and critical to our collective future. Every grand challenge our world faces today will be impacted by STEM. Every job, even the ones you wouldn’t expect, will require at least basic STEM skills.


Our state’s education systems and businesses currently offer some wonderful STEM opportunities. Schools organized around real-world settings provide an environment in which relevance feeds rigor. Problem-based and project-based field experiences are critical instructional practices that should be evident in schools that focus on STEM. These experiences are as much about developing life skills as there are about content.

And STEM is about more than just education- it is about our economic future.

Many of the jobs that sustained North Carolina communities during the 20th century are folding, and those communities are in danger. The viable jobs of the 21st century will require high degrees of STEM literacy, and if our communities don’t have a STEM-literate workforce, those jobs can and will go elsewhere.

We must accept that preparing our learners for these 21st century jobs requires them to develop sophisticated processing skills.

Certainly science, technology, and mathematics delivered in the real world of engineering open the door for an engaging interaction of content and application in real-world settings; it can add the level of relevance needed to elevate rigor.

Our organizations are helping develop and implement the Strategies That Engage the Mind all across North Carolina.

The helps communities throughout North Carolina ensure that all students engage in rigorous and relevant STEM education that provides them with good choices in life and bolsters the economic strength of their communities.

NC STEM is housed at , which is a state leader in providing advanced communications technologies and support services that offer the opportunity to improve teaching, learning, research, and collaboration among North Carolina’s education community.

The seeks to systematically improve performance in science, mathematics, and technology pre K-12 education as a means of providing all children in North Carolina with the necessary knowledge and skills in science, mathematics, and technology to have successful careers, be good citizens, and advance North Carolina’s economy.

Through this new “STEM Education News” section feature on Local Tech Wire, these partners will provide you with weekly information about local, state and national STEM initiatives and cutting-edge interventions to advance STEM education and economic development.

We will also encourage you to promote STEM communities and inform you of local, state and national efforts to prepare all our communities for 21st century jobs.

STEM is not just more science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. STEM must be assessed by the performance and demonstration of the learner that reveal their ability to use information in real-world environments.

STEM is not assessed by multiple-choice questions on a simple knowledge test that does not measure application. On any scale, when learners recognize what they do not know and can formulate questions that must be answered and explored to fill that gap, we know that "STEM happened" in their learning experience!

About the authors:

Sam Houston is President and CEO of the He can be contacted at shouston@bwfund.org.

Karl Rectanus is the leader of the He can be contacted at krectanus@ncstem.org.

Joe Freddoso is the President of . He can be contacted at jfreddoso@mcnc.org.