Here’s a real-world business problem for you: Employers in New Orleans say they can’t find enough people with skills in technology. Colleges in New Orleans say they don’t offer more classes in technology because there aren’t enough kids coming out of high school with an education in what they call STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math. High schools say they can’t teach STEM subjects to any greater degree, because they simply don’t have the $70,000 that’s required to buy specialized materials that they only use a few days out of the year.
So. What’s the solution to this logjam? It might be something called the STEM Library Lab. It’s a lending library of STEM equipment. Teachers who need 30 thermometers or 2 3D printers, borrow the equipment, get help learning how to use it, and can even get help putting together a lesson plan.
The STEM Library Lab is here in New Orleans and it’s the first of its kind anywhere. The co-founder and Director of the STEM Library Lab is Todd Wackerman.
Ok, so, in New Orleans we don’t have enough STEM graduates coming into the local workforce to remain competitive in the national economy. That’s already an alarm bell that’s ringing. But we have an even more dismal record if you look at the number of the women in the tech sector. That’s where Electric Girls comes in.
Flor Serna is co-founder and Executive Director of Electric Girls, a non-profit learning space where girls learn STEM skills from each other. They have after school programs, Saturday classes, and Summer camps. Electric Girls has been running since 2015 and their programs have reached around 1,000 girls.
In a world where everything we hear about seems to be some form of disturbing news that’s delivered by mass media that half of us distrust, or social media that most of us distrust, it restores your faith in human nature to discover that there are people out there who are genuinely working for the greater good of all of us.
Check out more conversation about unique New Orleans education, with John Fraboni from Operation Spark and Michelle Fridman from the Waldorf School of New Orleans.
Photos over lunch at Commander’s Palace by Jill Lafleur.