Global STEM Alliance to Launch Open Innovation Challenges

Anniversary of federal challenges sparks new commitment to engage students in solving real-world problems in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

NEW YORK, October 9, 2015-As part of President Obama's Strategy for American Innovation, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy calls on Federal agencies to spur innovation with challenges and prize competitions to solve tough problems. In honor of the five-year anniversary of Challenge.gov, a no-cost platform for federal agencies to post and run their challenge competitions, The Global STEM Alliance of the New York Academy of Sciences, which was created to increase the number and diversity of students in the STEM pipeline, has committed to launch two new open innovation challenges in 2016 through its Imagining Tomorrow platform, an announcement the GSA made earlier this week in a White House Fact Sheet.  

The innovation challenges are open to students ages 13-19 who are enrolled in The Junior Academy of the Global STEM Alliance, a program designed to engage exceptional high school students from diverse backgrounds in STEM and prepare them to become the innovators of tomorrow. The two challenges will focus on food loss and wearable technologies. Imagining Tomorrow will also connect students from around the world to relevant STEM mentors, professionals with expertise in fields relating to the challenge topic, during the 60-day challenge period.

Why Target STEM?

The world needs a workforce of skilled science and technology innovators to address the most pressing global challenges of the coming century, including climate change, food shortages, increases in chronic diseases, energy shortages, and more. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that by 2018, some 75% of occupations will be middle- or high-skilled, with the majority of these jobs requiring an education in STEM subjects. And yet, students are dropping out of STEM at alarming rates, in the U.S. and in countries the world over, from China to South Africa, due to lack of engagement. This "STEM paradox" was the subject of a white paper put out by The New York Academy of Sciences last year.

Engaging Students Through Challenges

The GSA is now using the challenge model to address this STEM paradox. The GSA understands that students want to build their STEM skills and apply these skills to solve real-world problems. This is how real engagement is seeded. Two of the GSA's industry members, PepsiCo Foundation and ARM, have committed to funding the GSA's programs and designing open innovation challenges related to their industries-food loss and wearable technology, respectively. They also provide opportunities for their own employees to serve as mentors to students working on the challenges. In this way, the challenges will allow students the opportunity to establish important connections and engage with experts in solving real-world problems. Additional funding for The Junior Academy comes from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which is committed to increasing the diversity of students in the STEM pipeline.

Challenges are an exciting way for students to hone their interest in STEM and learn skills that will help them become part of the STEM workforce of tomorrow. By connecting students with the best scientists and engineers, with each other, and with innovative curriculum and educational challenges, Imaging Tomorrow challenges foster engagement, mitigate STEM drop-out, and create the next generation of STEM leaders and innovators.

 

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About the Global STEM Alliance

The Global STEM Alliance is an international initiative of the New York Academy of Sciences with more than 100 partners in more than 50 countries and regions, including government agencies, corporations, educational institutions, and nongovernmental organizations. The mission of the GSA is to increase the number and diversity of students in the STEM pipeline, with a goal of reaching 1 million students in 100 countries by 2020. By providing hands-on research projects, mentoring opportunities with leading STEM experts, and a comprehensive, tech-based learning platform, the GSA arms students with the skills they need for successful careers. The programs of the GSA are geared toward under-served groups, with the special goal of reducing the skills gap between education and the workforce. For more information on how to get involved, visit www.globalSTEMAlliance.org and follow us on Twitter @STEMAlliance.