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Sparking Student Interest in STEM By Bringing Industry Experts into the Classroom
March 19, 2014
I vividly remember scouring my bathroom and kitchen cabinets to identify chemicals in the products I used everyday. Sure enough the chemical formulas I was learning to write in chemistry class were listed as ingredients in my toothpaste, shampoo, and laundry detergent. I was fascinated that chemistry had real world application and was inspired to become a chemical engineer at Procter and Gamble. According to a Microsoft STEM Perceptions Study, 57% of boys and 68% of girls who chose a career in science technology engineering and math (STEM) had a teacher or class that sparked their interest.
As the demand for U.S. STEM jobs continues to outpace the number of qualified workers, STEM teachers are searching for ways to connect the curriculum to real-life applications and spark students’ interests in STEM careers. With limited time, teachers are restricted to local company visits, and lack the tools to effectively integrate industry engagement into the curriculum. And yet, there is demand from the professional workforce, eager to give back but without a clear and helpful path into the classroom. Both educators and industry professionals desire to connect with one another, but the constraints of time and place thwart their good intentions to do so.
Nepris, a Texas based education technology startup, is leveraging technology to overcome these barriers and bring STEM industry experts virtually into the classroom. On the Nepris platform, teachers request a session on a topic (like the chemistry of soaps) and get matched to industry experts with the relevant skills and expertise. An industry expert virtually connects to the class to deliver a presentation, provide project mentoring and answer questions that students can submit via SMS. Teachers can also browse sessions that have already been delivered and use them to engage students in the same topic.
Since launching in January, over 900 teachers are using Nepris to not only inspire and engage students in STEM, but also to polish their own skills and stay current on industry trends. Students from all different backgrounds have been inspired to pursue careers in STEM fields and have appreciated hearing industry experts discuss their various career paths.
Nepris also provides industry professionals with meaningful volunteer experiences where they can inspire students and reach audiences they would have never reached before. During my time at P&G, I too would have enjoyed talking to students about developing laundry products and giving them advice on pursuing a technical career in the consumer products industry.
Today we welcome Nepris to the NewSchools Seed Fund and I leave you with this quote that summarizes why we are excited about this investment:
“The Nepris lessons, discussions, and virtual experiences have linked experts in STEM fields all over the nation with our students. The experiences have created energy and excitement about opportunities they didn’t realize existed. Like all principals, I want to provide learning opportunities that create a level playing field for all children regardless of background, economic status, or learning style. Nepris has helped me foster experiences to assist with this goal.”– Katie Babb, Principal, Aldridge Elementary, Plano Independent School District
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