Regional Employer Needs Drive Ecosystem Development
The Mayes County STEM Alliance is a collaborative initiative designed to ensure that youth in a rural northeast Oklahoma community have resources to discover and develop talents in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), then align those skills with local career opportunities. The Alliance is comprised of five public school districts, area employers, business professionals, subject matter experts, post-secondary education institutions, and state and tribal agencies. It is coordinated by MidAmerica Industrial Park’s workforce development program, MidAmerica Delivers.
The depth of the partnerships within the Alliance is exemplified in the Robotics/Science Camp and Teacher Camp that were offered over the summer.
The robotics camp was led by the Mayes County FIRST Robotics team, which enabled high school students to develop leadership skills as they mentored a younger group – and also helped them raise funds to support their team for the upcoming year. Camp leaders included eight high school team members, two of the team’s mentors (one an automation specialist from America Castings and the other a math teacher from a local high school), plus three Google mentors each of the three days.
Throughout the camp, various career options were highlighted, and the students learned how technology is applied to do what they do. Parents said that, during and after the camp, the kids attending were excited to tell them all about how machines are automated in industry.
Other plans for student science programs and camps include:
- A county-wide UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle = drone) program. Each district will have resources at their home schools, and a culminating program will be held at Rogers State University.
- A BMX bike program will be launched this school year. The idea for this bike club came from the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative. Scott Fry, Director
of the Mayes County STEM Alliance, said, “As an avid bicyclist, I saw the benefit of blending the fun of biking with the science behind the bike mechanics.” The Alliance is working with the community and school system to build an after-school program.
- A coding/IT program is being developed with Pryor Public Schools.
- Year-round programs (that extend beyond the summer).
Teacher training is crucial to the success of students, so it is an important focus for the STEM Alliance. The school systems in the region announce opportunities to teachers who are involved in STEM instructional areas or career-focused areas, but generally also open programs to a wide audience, including teachers from all grade levels and instructional areas.
The teacher camp program began as a way to expose and inform area teachers about the career opportunities at MidAmerica and was funded as part of a DOL grant for three years; the MidAmerica Industrial Park has funded it each year since the grant ended. The camp is a successful way to educate and inform teachers, counselors, and job case workers on local in-demand careers and skills.
According to Scott Fry, the teacher camp is so successful that people on both the public and private sides would be very disappointed if they did not continue the program. Local private-sector partners are always willing to step up and help with initiatives such as these. In fact, so many are eager to help that the Alliance has to rotate participation within the MAIP community. The summer 2017 camp partners included Grand River Dam Authority, Google-Mayes County, Orchids Paper products, American Castings and RAE Corp.
The Mayes County STEM Alliance has forged exemplary programs within the MidAmerica Industrial Park. As the Alliance leads, convenes and supports these types of initiatives, it ensures that the regional businesses will have a skilled workforce for today and well into the future.
Learn more about Scott Fry and the Mayes County STEM Alliance here.