Dubai Embraces STEM

Earlier this month, I took my second trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Though it may come as a surprise to some, the leadership in Dubai and across the UAE is very committed to STEM, and is turning to experts to help them improve their education system and prepare it for the future. As they have done with so many aspects of their society, Dubai’s goal is to take the best of the best from around the world, learn from them, and apply what they’ve learned to make it uniquely their own.

That’s where STEM Bus and STEM Revolution enter the picture.

I am currently working with the Minister of Education to bring a core group of STEM teachers - the best of the best from across the globe – to the country later this summer. These teachers will be coming from the United States, South Africa, Australia, and many other countries. They will initially be working with administrators at Dubai’s public schools to brief them on the best practices in STEM education.

Then, later in the fall, these STEM teaching experts will fan out into 50 schools to implement workshops and shadow teachers as part of a full-scale teacher professional development program in STEM. We also plan to introduce a STEM Bus to Dubai, working with corporate partners to make the bus a reality. There is also hope to place a bus in Abu Dhabi in just a few short months. Over the course of 2017, the United Arab Emirates will be the beneficiary of the full range of services that STEM Bus and STEM Revolution offer.

Being able to work with leaders in a country with a clear commitment to STEM is very rewarding, and I’m excited about what the future holds for STEM in the United Arab Emirates. And on a personal level, I’m encouraged that the UAE has a real interest in space; I believe there could be real opportunities for future partnership as the country looks to expand its horizons – both literally and figuratively.

But my trip to Dubai makes it impossible not to ponder what could be in our own country if we took a similar approach to STEM.

While there are pockets of STEM excellence across the country – including right here in Idaho – too many places in the country are either ignoring STEM, or not approaching these critical disciplines in a way that prepares out students for 21st Century jobs. This is true in both rural and urban areas, in cities, small towns, and the suburbs. Not every school needs to embrace our top-to-bottom STEM model, but every school should at least take steps to ensure a STEM strategy is part of its basic curriculum.

It’s fitting that after leaving Dubai, I went to our nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers who have a keen interest in STEM. In my next blog post, I’ll share what I learned and the efforts underway to boost the role STEM plays in our education system.

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Dr. Lorna Finman

A former NASA astronaut candidate with a passion for inspiring students to pursue careers in STEM fields, Dr. Lorna Finman established an award winning STEM Charter School, engineering summer camps in multiple cities and STEMbusUSA.org, a high tech non-profit that reaches 40,000 students per year with its mobile discovery lab, and high energy STEM demonstration at their school. A recipient of the Innovator of the Year award for her selfless volunteer work with students, Dr. Finman recently kicked off a new venture as a technical director and mentor for the NASA Project DaVinci Cubesat for global outreach in STEM education. Dr. Finman, a Master’s and Doctoral graduate of Stanford University in Physics, took her passion for encouraging students to a new level when she established the Governor’s STEM Action Center where she remains a founding board member and active advocate for STEM outreach. With one patent to her credit and multiple awards from the United States military for innovation in troop safety, and strategic defenses, Dr. Finman is the CEO for LCF Enterprises, a high-tech engineering firm in the Northwest USA. In her accomplished career, she was program manager for the Sunshield corporation, and technical director of Raytheon’s multi-million-dollar Research and Development Program.