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Siemens Foundation Chief
Aims to Expand
Programs Reach

The Siemens Foundation long has been known for honoring top math and science students. New foundation president Jeniffer Harper-Taylor wants to make math, science, engineering, and technology education more accessible to students at all grade levels.

Although the Siemens Foundation is best known for the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology, the foundation is expanding its efforts and programs to serve students as young as elementary age -- and teachers as well. Those efforts include the Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, the Siemens STEM Academy, and an online platform for the Siemens Science Day program.

Overseeing those efforts and more is new foundation president Jeniffer Harper-Taylor, who talked with Education World about her desire to continue expanding the foundations programs to reach more and younger students, as well as educators.

Jeniffer Harper-Taylor

Education World: What is the mission of the Siemens Foundation?

Jeniffer Harper-Taylor Since 1998, the Siemens Foundation has been a national leader in efforts to nurture the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. Weve supported students and recognized the teachers and schools that inspire their excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through innovative, groundbreaking programs. Our dedication goes beyond financial support. Our educational outreach programs span grade school through graduate school, and provide the tools and resources that inspire students to pursue the STEM fields; that will impact our country for generations to come.

EW:What are some of your goals as president of the Foundation?

Harper-Taylor: Ive seen the Siemens Foundation grow tremendously for more than a decade. During that time, our signature programs -- including the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology and the Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement, in partnership with the College Board -- have recognized the brightest science and math students. Recently, our partners at Discovery Education have helped us reach more students and teachers at all ability levels through the creative use of technology and interactive content.

In my new role as president, I am committed to making STEM more accessible to all students -- from the kindergartener asking "Why?" to the high school student whose work in original research or sustainability practices might lead to the solutions to problems impacting our nation or the world and to finding ways to encourage students to be engineers, chemists, and science teachers one day. A crucial element of that is teacher support. Recently, weve expanded our resources to teachers through the Siemens STEM Academy, a program thats engaging educators from across the country through hands-on and multimedia professional development opportunities that will ultimately improve STEM education for students nationwide. In the coming years, I want the Siemens Foundation to be the ultimate resource for STEM teachers.

EW: How do you think the foundation can make a difference in math and science education for the average student?

We know that America is not graduating enough engineers and scientists; however, the United States is still the center of innovation and ingenuity."

Harper-Taylor: Programs such as the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, in partnership with Discovery Education and the National Science Teachers Association, provide a perfect example. This is a unique environmental challenge that has inspired students, mentors, and teachers nationwide to become "Agents of Change" in improving their communities. The program spans all grade levels.

In 2008, we began with middle-school students focused on local community change, and in 2009, elementary-school students joined in to focus on their classroom and school environments. We had thousands of participants who tackled topics from recycling to water conservation. Our grand prize winners, three eighth graders from West Branch, Iowa, studied the harmful environmental effects of lead wheel weights commonly used to balance automobile tires. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually changed its position about the environmental impact of those weights, and the students are partly credited with the turnaround. They even presented their project at the United Nations International Youth Day, and met EPA Senior Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Those are the grassroots efforts designed to motivate any student, and they involve practical ways to incorporate math and science education. We recently invited high-school students to consider how to build a more sustainable world. Teams of up to four students will research an energy-related issue using scientific investigation, and create a solution that can be replicated easily.

EW: What do you think needs to be done to improve math, science, and technology education in the United States to help students catch up with their peers in other countries?

Since 1998, the Siemens Foundation has been a national leader in efforts to nurture the scientists and engineers of tomorrow."

Harper-Taylor: We know that America is not graduating enough engineers and scientists; however, the United States is still the center of innovation and ingenuity. That is the premise of the countrys commitment to improve STEM education through the Educate to Innovate campaign. It involves not only a financial investment, but the dedication of students, parents, private citizens, and companies. At the Siemens Foundation, weve been dedicated to that for many years. This is a huge commitment to inspire our students to answer the call and develop solutions that impact the world around them. In turn, that is what will make the United States more competitive globally.

EW: What should be the role of the business sector in improving students math and science skills?

Harper-Taylor: The business sector has an obvious stake because of the impact on our nations pipeline of talent. In the midst of one of the worst recessions in memory, companies still have engineering job openings. Companies need to get involved and provide more than financial support. Weve seen that it is important to be open to partnerships, and to get involved in the community where a company does business. Our Siemens Science Day program, for example, provides downloadable science experiments at no-cost to the public and has reached thousands of students. Parents, teachers, and Siemens employees have led Siemens Science Days in classrooms nationwide and opened young minds to the joys of science. There are endless ways to make a difference, and starting with a commitment beyond financial support to get involved can have a bigger impact than you could imagine.

This e-interview with Jeniffer Harper-Taylor is part of the Education World Wire Side Chat series. Click here to see other articles in the series.


Teaching Math

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Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Published 05/11/2010