STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. You hear it all the time on the news. In this era of high unemployment, a lot of jobs are still going unfilled because of the STEM deficit. This is where we’re lagging behind in public education and I couldn’t agree more.
Being a first generation immigrant, I’m often surprised when I help my nephews and nieces with their homework, how “easy” US public school education is by Asian standards.
So yes! We do sorely need to improve STEM education if we are to be competitive in the technology-centric industries of the future.
I submit however, that we also need to focus on two additional areas where America has always led the way – Entrepreneurship and Society/Environment.
Granted, Business & Innovation are things that cannot be easily taught in public school. Yes, we do have B schools, but why wait till then to start teaching enterpreneurship? Why not engage HS students while they’re still learning the basics and where we most often loose them. Per ACT.org, 75% of High School students are NOT college-ready, even if they do graduate.
Why not plant the seed and create that spark that will make them reach and aim higher while they’re still young? They say, “there is no better teacher than experience”. I say – a facilitated experience is even better! Facilitated by teachers who care, teamed up with mentors who want to give back, all made possible by generous sponsors like NYCEDC and all the program partners.
That’s why I’m so honored to have been part of the inaugural batch of NYCGenerationTech. It’s a new program by the NYCEDC and NFTE “that infuses the topics of design, technology, and mobile app development with lessons on entrepreneurship and lean startup methodologies.”
So that takes care of the Entrepreneurship part… But what really made it special for me was how the program steered the students towards making a meaningful contribution to Society and Environment by creating the theme – “My City, My Schools“.
Right now, if you look at the Top Paid Apps in iTunes and Google Play, they’re predominantly games (“serotonin-inducing apps”, or “cognitive surplus sinks” as I’d like to call them). And without guidance, the kids may very well have created games for the challenge (which is not necessarily bad, as most geeks start out coding by figuring out games, and they can still use gamification techniques to make their apps “sticky”).
So when we were asked if we’d like to participate, there was no hesitation on our part. In creating pediacities, our primary motivation was not to make a quick buck. Our main goal was to make a meaningful contribution to society by contributing to a linked data commons on top of which all kinds of Smart City innovations can be built.
Actually, because of the Finally Fit! team we mentored, we’re now including the USDA Food Database into our data catalog so they can get Linked Answers around food should they want to pursue their app dreams.