Previously in this blog we’ve covered all of the work that NEC Foundation of America does to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in the communities where we live and work.
Last week, NEC witnessed first-hand how the foundation’s hard work in the STEM arena is paying off when a delegation attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the computer lab at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in Dallas.
Among the delegates and speakers at the event were Dallas ISD Superintendent, Michael Hinojosa, Young Women’s Preparatory Network CEO, Lynn McBee, NEC Corporation of America CIO, Juan Fontanes and Lesly Zamora, an Irma Rangel student who interned in the IT department at NEC Corporation of America this past summer.
Dr. Hinojosa stressed the importance of Irma Rangel and applauded Principal Lisa Curry for her role in helping fill the jobs pipeline for young women in STEM careers. He also noted the fact that the school’s success is made possible by the Young Women’s Preparatory Network, and community support from donor organizations like NEC Foundation of America.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fontanes outlined a brief history of NEC’s relationship with Irma Rangel and the Young Women’s Preparatory Network. After a tour of the campus earlier this year, NEC donated dollars, employee time and IT expertise to redesign and procure new equipment for the Irma Rangel computer lab. The new lab sports 26 new Dell computers, updated furniture and an interactive projector at the front of the lab.
Event attendees, including local dignitaries and media, were also treated to a demonstration by Ms. Zamora, who showcased her ability to tear down and rebuild a computer in just six minutes. The Dallas Morning News has posted a time-lapse video of the impressive demo on their blog.
We live in an age of wonder where technological advances have made our everyday lives resemble science fiction movies from just a few years ago. What seemed fantastical then has become commonplace – and technological revolutions continue to occur at a rapid pace.
However, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16 percent of high school students are interested in or preparing for a technology–focused career, such as engineering or computer science.
Many schools are hoping to reverse this trend by instituting a STEM curriculum, which is a focus on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math.
NEC hopes to contribute to this reversal by supporting STEM initiatives. Recently, the NEC Foundation of America endowed $250,000 to the STEM program of the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School.
NEC also supports STEM curriculums through its educational platform that is designed to align with any school’s STEM initiative.
“NEC’s STEM education offering, CCM Education powered by an organization called PassTheNotes (PTN), directly supports the federal strategic plan of STEM,” said Gregg Alvarez, education vertical practice manager at NEC Corporation of America. “Teachers and students have the ability to upload content. They can make it searchable and tag it to national standards, state standards, keywords, and a particular topic. It creates an interactive content repository that drives toward an enhanced educational experience. And the benefit of being a cloud-based offering is that students don’t necessarily have to be in school to have access to all the material and content they need for their projects and lessons.”
Today’s classrooms are evolving as quickly as the rest of the world. Concepts like STEM and teaching approaches such as project-based learning are transforming the traditionally rigid view of learning one subject at a time into a more cohesive learning experience.
“For example,” said Alvarez, “let’s say there’s news in Florida about a 16-foot, 800-pound alligator that was caught. A teacher can build off this news by creating a project on the ecosystem and environments of the Florida alligator. Through the CCM Education platform, students can reach out to educational websites and YouTube.edu to pull in specific, relevant content. However, they can go further and conference in a field researcher that was involved with the team that captured the large predator. This creates a community where students and working scientists and researchers can connect and engage. It obliterates the question of, ‘Where will I ever use this?’ because students get invested in real-world applications of science and technology.”
Naturally, an essential component is a teacher that is able to use technology and STEM concepts to engage and motivate students. That’s why STEM initiatives focus on preparing teachers to succeed in this new learning environment. NEC’s offering provides platforms and communication features to support STEM teachers in both their classroom preparation and professional development.
“Research shows that top performing teachers make a difference in the student’s academic success,” said Alvarez. “Achievement gaps narrow significantly for students who learn from these teachers year after year. That’s why our CCM education solution enables teachers to design content, create assessments that can be aligned to standards, and really encourage student collaboration and interaction between social learning features.”
In addition, teachers, administrators, and parents can rest assured that NEC’s educational platform delivers a safe learning environment for every student, including adherence to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
“All content that students can access in the classroom is secure,” said Alvarez. “Teachers and administrators can denote elements that can be accessed. They have total digital rights management and total control of content. Students cannot pull material in from unauthorized websites. Our offering supports all the FERPA standards and has 256 SSL encryption to ensure the safety and security of the users in the environment.”
The ability to collaborate and work on projects as a team is essential in today’s workplace. STEM initiatives provide students with skillsets they will use as they move through school and ultimately in the job force.
“Students today are so tech savvy,” said Alvarez, “that maximizing their educational experience by giving them an equally tech savvy learning environment that incorporates real-world events and habits they are used to, such as social media and social sharing, provides them with the best chance moving forward.”
NEC Corporation of America has had a presence in Irving for 30 years, and in that time, we have built a strong relationship with the city. The City of Irving is an early adopter of some of our ‘Smart Cities’ technology, including use of our NeoScan 45 technology, a mobile biometric fingerprint capturing solution for the Irving Police Department.
It is through this relationship that we learned of the amazing work done by the Irving Family Advocacy Center. We admire and are grateful for their partnership with the Irving Police Department to provide counseling services to families affected by domestic violence, crime, and children who have been victims of abuse. After learning of the center’s technological limitations, we decided to help.
Through the NEC Foundation of America, the employees of NEC are happy to provide monetary support to the Irving Advocacy Center. The foundation is our philanthropic organization, with the mission of contributing to the creation of social value and helping to advance human potential through technology and innovative giving programs, focusing on STEM education, health and human services, environmental stewardship, and community well being.
We hope the gift of $112,000 will help the Irving Family Advocacy Center and the Irving police Department continue and perhaps expand the great work they are doing in the community. Chief Larry Boyd of the Irving Police Department recently attended an employee meeting at the NEC Corporation of America headquarters in Irving to accept the check on behalf of the Family Advocacy Center.