STEM Ahead Name to List of "50 Essential Twitter Feeds for STEM Educators"

STEM Ahead is delighted to be named as one of the "50 Essential Twitter Feeds for STEM Educators" on the Best Colleges Online website: 


Links to Research in STEM Education:

How we can engage girls in STEM programs? This report describes hands-on activities, linking STEM to real world problems and engaging professionals who share their enthusiasm and passion as a way to interest girls. Girl Scouts of the USA, Motorola Foundation Identify Three Keys to Engaging Girls in Science and Math

How can we encourage more girls to pursue STEM Careers? This report from the AAUW has concrete recommendations how to increase the number of women pursuing STEM careers and how to keep them in these fields. Learn about stereotype threat and why we should be emphasizing that spatial and math skills are acquired. Why so Few?  Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

What messages resonate with students and parents? What messages appeal to girls about engineering careers? What messages are "turn offs" to kids about engineering? Excellent marketing study about how to market engineering careers to students and parents:  Because Dreams Need Doing:  New Messages for Enhancing Public Understanding of Engineering


Links to Surveys on STEM Education:

“Good teachers in many cases are doing their best to cover a wide range of topics and required curriculum in science classes, but because of time and budget constraints, career discussions are often left out,” said Ghysels. “So, any support that teachers can receive from parents and local community members [in terms of] volunteer career speakers and programs is really valued.”  This survey of over 1000 students illustrates why having STEM professional speak in school classrooms is crucial in getting more students to consider careers in STEM fields"  You will need to register for the website to read the entire article, but it is a short registration process:  Link to results of survey is here:


Article written for TechDOTMn, published on Jan 18, 2011

Reposted in in Community Voices section on January 25, 2011.

Link to original post

Fail: Minnesota Scores 9% on Recent K-12 Computer Science Standards Report

Four years after the first transistors were commercially available, a young man named Earl Bakken invented the first battery operated transistorized pacemaker in a Minnesota garage.   Earl’s innovative technology eventually led to the growth of Minnesota behemoth Medtronic, Inc.  Similar stories have been told about the origins of companies such as Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Google — all businesses that essentially started in the garage, albeit outside Minnesota.

Minnesota has a strong history in the computer systems industry as a result of companies such as IBM, Control Data, Unisys, and Cray. Sadly, our ‘High Tech’ leadership has eroded.

Where are the new tech businesses being started today?

We have progressed since the 1950s; many new global technology startups today are in software applications and the computers that are used to write the software have moved from the garage to the basement, bedroom — or wherever there’s a lap turned table.

According to the 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 510,000 employed scientists, 770,000 employed technicians, 1,600,000 employed engineers, and 3,390,000 employed in computer science across the United States .  I have spoken with representatives from several universities that teach computer science and they relate that many recent graduates with degrees in computer science have found positions before college graduation, even in this economic recession.  Anecdotally, I have also heard from various Twin Cities corporations that their greatest need is qualified applicants in computer science. Furthermore, CNN Money recently declared Software Architect as the #1 job in America for 2011.

Computers are used in (most) Minnesota high schools, but it is mainly the basic office suite (PowerPoint, Excel, Word, etc.) that’s taught — unless that is, a student is lucky enough to attend a school with an Advanced Placement Computer Science course. Currently 7% (34 out of 498) Minnesota high schools offer AP Computer Science, and only 5 offer AP Computer Science A/B.

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) did a study throughout 2009 and 2010 of computer science K-12 standards in each of the fifty states and released the results this past fall.

Minnesota scored 9. In contrast, Massachusetts, Florida, Idaho and Louisiana received a perfect score of 100 (Oregon, California, Ohio, Nevada, Georgia, Iowa and Indiana were all over 90).

The work environment has changed considerably over the past twenty years, but Minnesota’s educational system has not kept up technologically with the business world.   21st Century skills require more than basic computer literacy and we do not currently have any standards for computer science education for our K-12 students.  Technology is relevant in our student’s lives and it has everything to do with the future of our economy and quality of life that we’ve come to appreciate.

Let us fix this problem by teaching our youth the power of technology and software applications (and not just for the fun and games of using devices as passive consumers).  To get more students interested in technology, we should have them creating their own websites, making their own mobile phone applications, developing their own educational video games, or making their screenplay into a film, and creating means to deeply engage them in an interactive way of enabling technology.

What can we do to change our current system?

  1. Accept: What’s at stake is real.
  2. Vote: What is the position of your representative or senator in supporting technology in our schools?   Where are their priorities?
  3. Volunteer: Schools need volunteers for science fairs, parent organizations, and career days, amongst other things.  Schools also need people with entrepreneurial experience to share, inspire and mentor.
  4. Adopt: Many businesses have can adopt or support a school as a commitment to their community.  Employees have been involved in reading and math literacy and have spoken to classrooms about the importance of education in their careers.  There are even Minnesota companies that have offered professional development opportunities on software training to the teachers in the school they have adopted.
  5. Donate: The GetSTEMMN website is a “Craig’s List” of partnership opportunities between schools and companies.  Companies can “offer” equipment, speakers or materials that they no longer need.  Schools can “ask” for technology, speakers on specific topics or classroom materials.
  6. Learn: Change the Equation is a great resource to learn more about STEM Education or you can follow STEMAhead on Twitter.

As Minnesota competes in our now global economy, what educational skills are required for our students to succeed?

Implementing new standards for computer science will require professional assistance for our educators and willingness for the public to support our schools to be technologically proficient.

As we look forward to the new businesses of the future and preparing a workforce for the economy of tomorrow, it is critical that we should be teaching these 21st century skills to our students.  Our innovative Minnesota start-ups and corporations of tomorrow could very well be started by a student doing their computer science homework on their laptop today.

The most considerate thing we can do for our children is to act now.

Cheryl Moeller is an electrical engineer who’s passionate about STEM Education.  She has taught electronic projects at University of St. Thomas STEPS camp for girls and is a former science educator at the Bakken Museum.  She is also a Principal with STEM Ahead.

Though Tim Barrett’s background is mainly in theater and art, Tim is eager to be able to use that experience and knowledge to further the mission of creating self-directed learners who also have a life in the STEM disciplines. Tim is currently a Principal with STEM Ahead and a Special Consultant with The Bakken Science Museum.


Article written for L'Oreal Foundation, Agora Women in Science

Published on August 9, 2011

Link to original post:

How to Bring STEM Professionals into the Classroom

There has been much press about the need for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) graduates, but what are we doing to change students' perceptions that they are capable of pursuing these fulfilling and highly paid positions? Bringing an engineer or scientist into the classroom offers a chance to break stereotypes and reinforce the concepts that students are learning in their math and science classes.

Having STEM professionals visit the classroom is critical for both schools and STEM-based companies. A recent study of educators indicated that teachers do not currently spend time discussing how STEM courses relate to future job prospects, due to time constraints in covering their content area. Many students don’t believe that math and science courses are necessary for good job prospects. (

One of the biggest stakeholders in producing more college STEM graduates is industry, and in particular technology companies. If they want to attract future employees with great communication skills and technical talents, they also need to share information about the opportunities that these careers offer.

There are two major hurdles to bringing STEM speakers into the classroom: 1) Where do teachers find these speakers and 2) How can the teachers ensure a successful presentation? We have worked on several initiatives to bring STEM professionals into the classroom and here are some suggestions where to obtain speakers and some tips for a successful classroom visit.  

Finding STEM speakers

  • Contact the local Chamber of Commerce. It is in the interest of the local chamber to promote and advocate for local businesses. They will have a list of local companies and public relations contacts. They may also be able to suggest some businesses that would not be obvious candidates. For example, most retailers employ computer specialist for inventory tracking, online support, and data control, security, and storage.
  • Contact the Community Relations department at your local corporations. They are often eager to assist in finding likely candidates from their organization. The goodwill generated for the company is usually enough incentive for them to lend a hand in the recruitment of candidates. Also, most companies are constantly searching for young, energetic professionals. More and more companies realize that this recruitment must start before students have entered college and decide on other career paths. 
  • Ask the parents of students. Many parents would be delighted to share their career, but teachers need to be proactive in asking. Speakers may not see their work or their company as very glamorous or of particular interest to students. Teachers need to remind them that what the speakers see as humdrum and ordinary can be exotic and exciting to students who are not exposed to the workplace. 
  • Contact local professional science, technology, engineering or math organizations.In the United States, many organizations have Outreach programs for schools, such as SWE (Society of Women Engineers , IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers,, ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers,, NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers,, and ACM (Association of Computing Machinery, 
  • Contact state’s technology association (  They will have a list of local technology companies.  Minnesota’s High Tech Association (MHTA) has a website to connect speakers from technology companies to schools. ( 

Scheduling a Presentation

  • Be persistent. Engineers and scientists have busy careers and this may not be their top priority, so they may need to be contacted more than once. Send an initial email invitation indicating that the email will be followed up by a phone call if there is no immediate response. Then make sure to call! 
  • Prepare. Have a conversation with the potential speaker before they come to the classroom. Are they enthusiastic about sharing their story? Will they be comfortable speaking in front of students? 
  • Inform. Let the speaker know who the audience is (grade level, number of students, subject matter of class, length of time they have for a presentation and if there is any particular subject you would like them to discuss) 
  • Be flexible. When scheduling visits, early morning sessions work best for most professionals. 
  • Consider combining classes. As it is unlikely that the speakers can be available for the entire day, teachers may need to be creative concerning the scheduling. 
  • Have a back up activity plan. Professionals often have schedule changes that are out of their control. In case of a last minute cancellation, make sure to have alternate activities planned. 

Preparing Students for the Visit

  • Prepare the students prior to the visit, by having them think about and write down a few questions to ask the speaker. 
  • Have the students write down the answers to the questions as part of a graded assignment. 

Speakers are often surprised how rewarding this experience can be. It can be an insightful time for them to reflect on their career path and choices made to become a scientist or engineer. In the hustle and bustle of the hectic, challenging workday, the speaker may have forgotten what inspired them to become involved with their work in the first place. Often after a school visit and the experience of seeing their work through the eyes of excited, enthusiastic student, speaker are reminded of how much they enjoy the challenges of their industry and how much they value their chosen profession.

Sharing your passion and enthusiasm in your chosen profession is inspiring both to students and to teachers that are preparing them for future studies and the workface. Once speakers have a positive experience sharing their story, it is a good time to ask them if they will return the following year to share their story again.


Cheryl Moeller is an electrical engineer who’s passionate about STEM Education. She has taught electronic projects at University of St. Thomas STEPS camp for girls and is a former science educator at the Bakken Science Museum. She is also a Principal with STEM Ahead.

Though Tim Barrett’s background in mainly in Theater and Art. Tim is eager to be able to use that experience and knowledge to further the mission of creating self-directed learners who also have a life in STEM disciplines. Tim is currently a Principal with STEM Ahead and a Special Consultant with The Bakken Science Museum.