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DelranSTEM: Learning and Sharing at the International STEM Ecosystems Convening

Twice a year, STEM Learning Ecosystems from around the country and around the globe gather to learn from each other and share best practices. This spring, the Community of Practice gathered in San Antonio, TX, around the theme “The Future is Here: Innovation, Invention, and Entrepreneurship.”

Leaders from DelranSTEM heard from national experts such as Radia Perlman, who is known for inventing the spanning tree protocol (STP), a networking structure that allows communication over the internet, and creating LOGO, the first programming language for children. Radia shared a poem she penned to explain STP, and in doing so she beautifully demonstrated the arts in STEM. Radia encourages STEM educators to ask the “naive” questions and to encourage creative, out-of-the-box thinking in our students. Click here to learn more about Radia and read her poem!

We were treated to an update on the STEM Strategic Plan from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The federal government is now looking at ways to fund and support STEM Ecosystems, as they are a leading indicator of the ability to build a strong STEM workforce.

One of the convening’s themes was encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. As such, we heard from many inspiring young inventors, and viewed their work at the San Antonio Invention Convention.

At the convening, we had the opportunity to experience unparalleled professional development by learning from other Ecosystems. We attended sessions about topics including STEM family engagement, coding, designing for neurodiversity, Our Neighborhood on-line resources, green chemistry, community partnerships, and cybersecurity. Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance shared an innovative math mentoring program for students. Lemelson-MIT resources for encouraging invention education and entrepreneurship among our students are excellent and will certainly inform future family engagement offerings from DelranSTEM.

During the convening, we had the privilege and honor of sharing our experiences with STEM champions from around the world. In collaboration with Tim Sisson and Anna Delia of NEOSTEM (Northeast Ohio) Ecosystem and Jennifer Porter of Tallo, we presented the session titled "Innovation in Education Through Fab Play." Our session highlighted the Delran Innovation & Fabrication Lab and a similiar lab at Hawken School in Cleveland, Ohio. We discussed our work around using digital fabrication as a means to engage learners of all ages, including students and teachers, in tinkering, making, and creating bravely to address real-world, relevant problems. DelranSTEM ecosystem partner Tallo shared our collaborative work on digital badging, which will allow our students to memorialize and showcase STEM skills and competencies learned in our lab. Digital badges on our students' resumes will undoubtedly set them apart and open additional doorways on their college and career pathways.

Finally, we took a few spare moments to enjoy the historical and cultural significance and beautiful sights of our host city, San Antonio. Exploring the city with NJ STEM Pathways Network leaders from the other four NJ STEM ecosystems allowed us to further develop and strengthen our collaborative partnerships across the state, and work toward continually enhancing STEM opportunities for learners in New Jersey.

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