New Bloggers, STEM & More

The recent months mark the first anniversary of ASQ’s Influential Voices program and my View from the Q blog. The goal of this effort is to help raise the voice of quality and extend the reach of the quality community. For years, ASQ assumed it was our job to tell the story of quality and we’ve had great success by some measures. But there’s more work to do and ASQ can’t do it alone. We’re creatively looking for ways to encourage more people to raise their voice. Among the folks who’ve taken on this challenge are the Influential Voices bloggers.

A bit of history: The Influential Voices blogging program launched in late 2010, and is continuing into 2012 with 16 new bloggers (13 original Influential Voices are also continuing into this year). These bloggers are digitally active quality professionals from around the world who have agreed to blog at least once a month on behalf of ASQ on their personal blogs. Of course, many blog on all things quality and more throughout the month! You can see a complete list of all participants on the blogroll at right. I’m one voice getting the ball rolling with a monthly blog topic for discussion on View From the Q. While I don’t think I’m in the best position to speak for quality, I concede that being the CEO of ASQ gives me a stream of information that’s pretty unique.

So, thank you to the 2011 Influential Voices, and welcome to the 2012 Influential Voices! The global community is growing, and we have much to do.

Part of that “to-do” is making sure there will be a generation of engineers and scientists to carry on the work of advancing the field. This hits close to home for me. I have an 18-year-old who wants to be a civil engineer and I spent last weekend with him in Bozeman, Montana, looking at a university. I think they set the hook, and he’s excited about studying engineering. The associate dean was an articulate spokesperson for the opportunities in engineering. She referenced the startling statistic of the U.S. Federal Government’s expectation that 30% of the workforce will retire in the next four to six years. That’s going to create one heck of a demand for new talent. And I’ve been in enough places around the world to know that demand is rising steeply, whether it’s through an aging workforce or growing economies.

Having been trained long ago as an engineer, I have a deep appreciation for the skills of a good engineer. The need for talented scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians is an important ingredient in the advancement of civilization, and the solution to the problems a growing population creates. Yet how under-recognized, and perhaps under-rewarded, our engineering community is! I’m going to find an engineer, a scientist, and a mathematician to thank today. Thank them for all they do to make the world safer and more enjoyable. 

Here in the U.S., National Engineers Week will be observed February 19-25.   In observance of the week, ASQ commissioned some research on teens’ pursuit of STEM careers.  The good news is that teens understand that engineering will be second only to medicine for available jobs. However, teens are a bit reluctant to pursue STEM fields because they perceive the programs will be costly and demanding. There is a lot of fear when it comes to math, which was reinforced in my university tour last weekend.

Now, I’m amongst the small percent of the population who loved math. Did then, still do. Don’t know that I ever used calculus but loved the mental discipline to learn it. I don’t know if enjoying math was something I was born to, or was the gift of remarkable teachers. As a parent, I tried to show and involve our children in using math to solve our problems and make decisions. It made math relevant, and sometimes even exciting.

How do we do more of this? How can we, those who understand, use, and love science and technology, pass it along? I invite your thoughts! For those outside the U.S., how is STEM taught and encouraged in your county?

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12 Responses to New Bloggers, STEM & More

  1. “As a parent, I tried to show and involve our children in using math to solve our problems and make decisions. It made math relevant, and sometimes even exciting.”

    You have hit the nail on the head with that statement above. That is how we attract the next generation to mathematics and science – by involving them in hands-on experimentation and helping them discover concepts.

    There is a big difference between teaching students and helping them to understand. Teaching as is practiced today in schools, colleges and industry is a one way flow of information: from the teacher to the student. The underlying assumption is that the student’s mind is a blank slate ready for the teacher to write on. But none of us are ever blank slates. We all have mental models about everything we encounter. We are constantly building them and revising them since the day we are born. It all happens as we experience the world around us. It does not happen as a result of someone teaching us.

    In fact, more often than not, teaching this way reinforces certain ideas – those shared by the student’s mental model and that which is being taught – while other ideas – those not common – simply bounce off and never take hold. This creates a gap between what is taught and what is understood that grows in time. It eventually gets big enough to turn students off to science and mathematics.

    Students study hard. Very hard. And, while they might be able to parrot back the concepts they were taught, there is often no deeper understanding; no ability to apply the concepts in practice. Without understanding there is no foundation to build on. We need to direct our efforts to help students understand; to help them discover the concepts for themselves. The process of discovery is what makes learning stick! There is a sense of ownership of the knowledge learned. There is a sense of pride and joy in “I did this”. And, most importantly, curiosity is sparked.

    (You can follow me on Twitter: @shrikale)

  2. Deborah Mackin says:

    I’m on the end of the spectrum that always struggled with math and science, from the very first word problem (when will two trains leaving different stations and going different speeds intersect)that seemed impossible for me to understand.
    It wasn’t until I became a trainer and happened to be reading some of Bob Pike’s materials on learning that I had an interesting ah-ha. He spoke about a progression in learning – from unconsciously incompetent (we don’t know we don’t know), consciously in competent (we now know we don’t know), consciously competent (we know but must do it very slowly), to unconsciously competent (we know it without thinking).
    In my experience, most of my math teachers were unconsciously competent and struggled with me who was consciously incompetent. They simply couldn’t come to my level of misunderstanding and bring me along step by step. So, as I regularly failed, I became more and more math adverse. A similar experience happened in physics. My goal became to get a college degree with as few math classes as possible.
    Life has a way of making you deal with things again and again. So in my thirties I was running a development office and needed to be good at percentages, ratios, etc. I went looking for a teacher who could bring me back to square one and I found one. Imagine my surprise when I actually found that I liked math quite a bit.
    To me this issue is very similar to the issues that emerge in organizations around quality. If GMPs (good manufacturing practices), validation requirements and audits are so complex or seem “out to get ya,” then our response will be to see quality as an enemy and avoid it at all cost. What we really need are leaders who will teach at every turn in a way that the learner can receive and grow. Not to show that the teacher is smart, but that the learner is getting smarter every day.

    “Deborah Mackin
    President & Founder of New Directions, Inc.
    Author of The Team-Building Tool Kit
    ASQ Influential Voice”

  3. The task of teachers is not to impart knowledge. It is to inspire students and make them eager learners. Teachers provide direction, resources, and inspiration. Students must learn on their own.
    English and math are the two basic skills that allow you to understand and communicate everything else. Reading and writing are synergistic skills that are essential in any field.
    PNC bank has a program to inspire pre-school kids in math.

  4. This blog is very timely on the topic of STEM education as we approach Engineers’ Week. For all who are interested, the Education Division has a major conference centered on STEM education this summer and the call for abstracts is currently open. The Division and the University of Wisconsin-Stout are co-sponsoring the Advancing the STEM Agenda in Education, the Workplace and Society Conference. Our call for abstracts are open until next Wednesday (Feb 15). We invite you to look at our conference website and consider submitting an abstract on STEM research, significant best practice or collaboration between an educational institution and industry.

    Happy STEMing!

    Cindy Veenstra
    ASQ Education Division Chair
    Questions? email:

  5. You seem to have hit a common note across the Pacific Ocean – I’ve written from an Australian Parent perspective in my ASQ Influential Voices blog posting on STEM issues

  6. Leo Eisner says:

    I think one of the best ways to get kids involved in STEM is by making it fun to learn and I know that is not an easy thing but Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway and many other things Wikipedia was the person that came up with a great idea called FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and there are several leagues which all have different levels of competition from ages 6 all the way up to seniors in high school. This last year my wife & I embarked on setting up 2 leagues at our small Charter School in Portland, OR. (SouthWest Charter School about 200 students). It was a huge success and we expect next year to even have a lot more involvement by more kids and parent involvement. The FLL ( & JrFLL ( are the First Lego League (4th – 8th grade) and Jr version (K- 3rd grade). The kids get to play with robotics by use of Lego parts and the FLL group had to do some visual programming to make their robots, they built themselves, to navigate a challenge course to get the most points possible.

    Each year there is a new challenge that the students develop a robot(s) and use visual programming that will navigate the course the best but also do a research project. The concept of the program is to get kids excited about STEM and show them early on how to work as a team as many engineers, scientists, mathematicians, etc. have to do in their everyday jobs. Yes, this is more than just STEM it is also about learning about how to work together as a team which is a great life skill to have as most companies I have ever worked for I had to learn this myself instead of having the great opportunity of FIRST. As a coach to my older son’s FLL group I found myself being jealous that there wasn’t something like this around when I was a kid but I’m sure glad my sons are both having this great opportunity in their life’s to really get exposed to STEM in such a fun way and come away with some great life experiences too. During the competition it isn’t only about the challenge course (real exciting with lots of cheering on from the competition as well) but there is also the team project (our kids worked on how to make tuna safer – somehow making the mercury levels lower or reducing the exposure to the consumers of the fish), judging on the engineering of building & programming the robot, and judging on core values (given a team project on the spot to solve as a team and also judges ask questions of the group on the FLL Core Values,, which basically boils down to what they call ‘gracious professionalism’). So, I would tout this as one of the best and brightest ways of getting school kids in elementary, middle school and high school excited and really involved in STEM.

    As mentioned both our boys were involved in the teams this last year and they have a real love for this stuff. Now on his own my youngest boy has been building more and more lego models with motors, of late too. Our hope is our young baby girl will get her chance to be involved in this group when she is old enough. It also helps that the kids parents are a biologist and an engineer.

  7. John Priebe says:

    Great post. It made me think about all the STEM professionals that have helped shape my career over the years.

  8. I’m reflecting a lot of the same themes in my ASQ Influential Voices response to these STEM issues… including maybe a couple we haven’t touched on yet:

  9. Jimena Calfa says:

    Great post Paul!

    Nowadays in my country Argentina, the demand of STEM professional is getting higher and higher, while the supply is getting lower; a big “issue” for the country.

    I would like to share with all of you some data from Argentina; you can read my post on my blog following the next link:

    I’ll be more than happy to read what you think about it.

  10. Another interesting topic for blogging. I have provided my response, check out my blog for further details:

  11. Pingback: February Roundup: STEM | A View from the Q

  12. Ganesh says:

    We hear that America’s collective STEM abilities has assumed severe crisis proportions. A new all-pervasive approach to STEM education is needed for US to recover and regain its competitive edge in global markets. Guess the resistance is on both fronts, Teaching as well as Learning. Todays youngsters are tech-savvy and take to gadgets and Web 2.0 like fish to water. However, there are many fine Teachers who otherwise are tech-challenged in terms of using technology in classrooms or online to teach. There is an almost “Too afraid to Fail” feeling, am told. On the other hand, Students need to be stimulated using todays tools and technology to use content and tools and ‘relate’ the subject to real life situations. STEMBARQ, a new entity in formation, is embarking on a mission “To Enhance Teaching & Simplify Learning”. Check out

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