The need for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is an issue facing many employers across the country, as they look to hire the next generation of employees to make their businesses successful. NPPD recognizes this need, not only as an employer, but also as an organization supporting economic development in its service territory.
As it completes its second year of development, NPPD’s “Pathways to a Technical Future” program brings a mobile STEM lab to rural schools and ties technical education to workforce skills. The lab’s 10 stations allow students to explore engineering and design in an open learning environment. They create finished products using 3-D printing and CNC routers. They can code games or apps, program robots, and explore how sensors are used in a smart phone. Nearly 20 schools have hosted the lab for a two-week period over the past two years and reservations for the 2017-2018 schoolyear are underway.
“I am pleased that NPPD has this program available for our communities,” says Mary Plettner, NPPD Economic Development Manager, “STEM education is important to our employers and well-trained employees are needed to help our companies grow.”
The program, partially funded by a grant from the American Public Power Association DEED program, correlates “open source” learning with business fundamentals and educational strategies. NPPD Energy Educator Chad Johnson led the program’s development.
“Information is at our fingertips,” Johnson said. “It is open, can be accessed in seconds and shared freely. Taking advantage of established ‘open source’ platforms, advances in innovation tools, and utilizing local business resources allows educators to facilitate a holistic approach to teaching/learning.”