STEM Beats - 2014

Happy Holidays from Change the Equation

December 19, 2014

From the launch of the Commitment to Excellence in STEM to our Top 5 blog series on STEM job opportunities to our partnership with the BRT on the STEM Skills Gap to our membership delivering on the promise of reaching young people in STEM to our briefs on STEM opportunity, minorities in engineering, and time for science, it's been a big 2014 for Change the Equation, and for STEM education.  Many, many thanks to each of you who has been a STEM champion this year!  We can't wait to see what 2015 has in store for us, but we know you'll be right there with us. Have a wonderful holiday season and a bright New Year!  We'll see you in 2015!

Guest Blog: A Conversation With Janine Ingram of MIND Research Institute

December 17, 2014

Janine Ingram, Vice President Philanthropic Partnerships, MIND Research InstituteHow has being in STEMworks changed the way your program works?
I’d say it’s less about changing how our program works –15 years of program evaluation tells us our unique, non-language based ST Math program is the most effective program in increasing student math proficiency and in-depth math mastery!  However, the increased visibility from Change the Equation, STEMworks and the Business Roundtable has helped us learn to be better partners – to ask, learn and understand how MIND can help our corporate partners meet their strategic business goals.  Yes, STEMworks members are committed to helping solve the STEM crisis, yet they have their own corporate goals to meet.  MIND wants to help with their goals and ours: continuing to scale ST Math and lead the math learning revolution.

What kind of impact has your program been able to make?
With STEMworks members’ support, MIND brought ST Math to nearly 50,000 additional students in one year.  Additionally, we added new teacher support resources.  Ultimately, it will be building significant, lasting relationships with STEMworks corporate partners and other donors investing in MIND’s vision that will have the greatest impact on increasing students’ love and mastery of math.  Our mission is to ensure that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems.  Currently we reach 800,000 of the close to 50 million public K-12 students.  We are proud of our impact, and know we have a LONG way to go.

How has being in STEMworks connected you to corporate America?
Our ST Math program was one of only four educational solutions selected by Change the Equation as highly effective and ready to scale.  This has led to unprecedented success in building new creative partnerships with companies across the country, such as a new $500,000 gift from Verizon to bring ST Math to high need schools across the country.  It has also provided new life to existing partnerships, such as a $500,000 grant from Boeing to develop enhanced professional development curriculum for teachers, in addition to their continued support funding high need schools throughout Southern California.

How is your program planning to bring itself to scale?
MIND’s expansion strategy can be summed up in three words: Expand, Explore, Excel.  Expand brings ST Math into more classrooms across the nation, with the goal of reaching 1.2 million students by 2017.  Excel adds teacher support and professional development initiatives, including a learner community, pre-service and in-service teacher training.  Explore applies the principles of ST Math outside the classroom such as our annual math fair and our student Game-a-thon challenge, as well as ongoing research into the neuroscience of learning.

What’s one piece of advice for other STEM programs?
The STEM crisis is not just rhetoric so be able to support your claims with results.  Corporate America invests in proven results.

Janine Ingram is Vice President, Philanthropic Partnerships with MIND Research Institute

Tags: math, STEMworks, guest blog

Do the Math and Nab a Parking Spot

December 17, 2014

It’s crunch time for procrastinators in the holiday shopping rush. If you’re planning a trip to the mall to snag those last-minute gifts, finding a parking spot in a crowded lot will be easier if you let math be your guide.

Former math teacher Joseph Pagano of New York City offered this advice to ABC News and CNBC: Don’t circle the lot—the chances of finding a spot that way are a crapshoot, and it wastes gas. “Stalking” people who are leaving the mall is a little creepy, and not always a sure bet if they scoot down another aisle. Instead, pick an aisle where you can see 10 spaces ahead of you on either side—20 spaces total. Sit tight until a spot opens, within a predictable 9 minutes.

Pagano developed his parking formula using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that the average holiday shopping trip lasts 77 minutes.

Other tips from the International Parking Institute:

  • Plan your trips during less crowded times.
  • Take advantage of shopping center or municipal mobile apps, when they’re available, to find and reserve a space ahead of time, pay by phone, and text or call you when your metered parking time is almost up.
  • Remember where you parked by using your smartphone to snap a quick photo of your parking level, section or spot.
  • Be careful! A study in one major U.S. city found that 14 percent of collisions resulting in insurance claims occurred in parting lots. So wait until you’re parked to text or call, be especially careful when you’re backing up, watch for pedestrians, secure valuables, and never leave a child or pet in a parked car.

STEM Forecasts the Flu

December 15, 2014

If you’re planning a winter getaway, you might want to time your trip to avoid peak flu season in your town or at your destination.

Say what? Aren’t flu outbreaks unpredictable? Not anymore. Working at the intersection of biological and mathematical sciences, researchers at Columbia University’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health are now generating real-time reports and predictions of regional, state and national flu activity. For this project, the Columbia University team won a competition of Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Predict the Influenza Season Challenge.”

Check out the research team’s map of flu observations. There you can see where the worst of the flu is now—heads up, Texas and Louisiana!—and when it’s expected to hit elsewhere. Spoiler alert: it looks like the flu will coincide with holiday gatherings in plenty of places. You can also see which strains of the flu are making the rounds.

The researchers are using the same interdisciplinary STEM savvy and technology that meteorologists use to predict the weather—state-of-the-art data assimilation methods, mathematical modeling and simulations of flu transmissions to improve accuracy and reliability. In fact, they expect that one day people will rely on infectious disease prognosticators in the same way they rely on daily weather forecasts and allergy alerts.

The forecasting model analyzes data from traditional sources, including CDC weekly reports of influenza-like illness (ILI), and from more dynamic sources with faster updates—social media and Google Flu Trends. It turns out that people like to commiserate on social media over their aches and pains from the flu, and they search the web for flu symptoms and remedies.

Forecasting the flu, or other infectious diseases, is groundbreaking work. Most models look backward, as CNN pointed out in its coverage. If you know where the flu is active, and where it’s headed, you can take steps to avoid it, prevent it and treat it: Get your flu shot, cover your cough and wash your hands to help stop the spread of germs, and take antiviral medications to treat the flu if your doctor prescribes them. (And even though this year’s flu vaccine might not be as effective for one strain of flu that’s mutated, it’s still more effective than no protection.)

Plus, predictive modeling of the flu will help public health officials and health professionals better manage flu outbreaks with better communication to the public and better response in healthcare facilities, from anticipating staffing and medication needs to making sure ventilators are ready for vulnerable populations.

Tags: science, math

Top 5 Cities for Minorities in Computing

December 10, 2014

With Computer Science Education Week in full swing, it’s a good time to take stock of the future of computing in this country. Black, Latino, and Native Americans comprise 29 percent of the U.S. working-age population but only 15 percent of computer professionals. As the tech economy continues to skyrocket, and minorities head towards majority status by 2050, that’s a recipe for squandering human potential and slowing innovation.

For this Top 5 list, CTEq crunched workforce data from the nation’s leading metro areas* to see if any can claim a truly diverse computer workforce.  To compare metro areas, we gave each a “diversity score.” A metro area would get a diversity score 1.00 if minorities were fully represented among computer professionals. In other words, if Black, Latino, and Native Americans comprise 20 percent of a metro area’s working-age population, they would also have to comprise 20 percent of the area’s computing workforce. Metro areas where minorities are underrepresented score lower than 1.00.** 

Alas, no metro area we studied attains a diversity score of 1.00. In fact, technology meccas like San Jose and San Francisco, where underrepresented minorities hold less than 10 percent of computer jobs, received miserable scores of .36 or lower. Yet some metro areas are doing much better than others. Here are our top five metro areas for minorities in computing. Three of the five tied for third place:

3. Washington, D.C.

DC at Night

The D.C. metro area boasts a lively tech sector, driven in large part by the federal government’s growing appetite for technology. The area is among the nation’s most diverse: underrepresented minorities make up almost 40 percent of the area’s working-age population and 23 percent of computer professionals. Diversity score: 0.59

3. Atlanta, GA

Atlanta at dusk

Atlanta is putting itself on the map as a center for tech start-up companies, and that is creating jobs. Like D.C., the Atlanta area is diverse, and that diversity extends to its tech workforce: underrepresented minorities comprise 43 percent of the working-age population and hold 25 percent of computing jobs. Diversity score: 0.59

3. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh downtown

Home to companies like Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, IBM, and Intel, the Raleigh area’s world-famous Research Triangle has been an engine of tech employment for more than half a century. Seventeen percent of computer professionals in the area are Black or Latino, compared to 30 percent of the population as a whole. Diversity score: 0.59

 2. Tampa, FL

Tampa festival

Tampa isn’t a tech heavyweight on the order of other metro areas on our list, but its robust health care and financial sectors create a healthy number of computer jobs. Eighteen percent of those jobs have gone to underrepresented minorities, who make up 29 percent of the working-age population.  Diversity score: 0.63

 1. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Washington Monument

The Baltimore area doesn't readily leap to mind as a center for technology, but its proximity to Washington, D.C. and its emerging start-up culture have helped the area generate well more than its share of tech jobs. Baltimore comes closer to a truly representative computing workforce than anywhere else in the country. Twenty-two percent of computer workers are Black or Latino in an area where Blacks and Latinos make up 33 percent of the working-age population.  Diversity score: 0.65.


As our top five list makes clear, no one has fully cracked the code on how to create a truly diverse technology workforce. Still, these five metro areas stand head and shoulders above many others. As the tech industry struggles to cast a wider net for talent, it's worth keeping our eye on the top five.

* For our analysis, we limited ourselves to metro areas that meet the following three criteria: 1.) They were among the top most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas as defined by the U.S. Census Department; 2.) Their working-age populations were at least 20 percent Black, Latino, and Native American; 3.) Computing jobs make up a higher-than-average share of all jobs in the area. 

** The diversity score is the percentage of tech workers who are minorities (% tech) divided by the percentage of the working-age population who are minorities (% population). 14.9 percent of U.S. computer professionals are minorities, and 29.2 percent of the U.S. working-age population are minorities. The diversity scores is therefore 14.9/29.2=.51. For the purposes of this analysis, we define "minorities" as Black, Latino and Native American.

Data source: Change the Equation analysis of data from EMSI, an economic and employment data firm.

Tags: Top 5, jobs & workforce, technology, computer science