Chevron Supports STEM Education
Staff posted on July 11, 2014 |
Project Based Learning in STEM Education

In this interview, Dan Hedges talks to Blair Blackwell, the manager of Educational and Corporate Programs at Chevron, at the USA Science & Engineering Festival.


How is the Festival treating you so far?
"The festival is fantastic. I mean when you see so many students, so many parents, getting excited about science, technology, engineering and Math (STEM), it's a great day. We really want to ensure that there's a lot of interest in STEM education."


Can you tell us how project-based learning affects STEM?
"Project-based learning is really ensuring that students have the opportunity to get hands-on. It makes what they're learning in the classroom really come alive. It allows them to work together to solve a problem."

"And so through our $30 million commitment, we're working with organizations like "Project Lead the Way," like "The FAB Foundation" that really take project-based learning and ensure that students have that opportunity to put science, technology, engineering, and math into practice in the classroom."


Can you tell us a little bit about The FAB Foundation?
"The FAB Foundation was created out of MIT, and out of a course called 'How to make almost anything.' So it really allows students to make, to create, and to do. It's training future innovators."

"So you can see in the STEM zone today, we've got the FAB Foundation here. And they've got a shop bot and they've got 3D Printers. So students are really able, through the work with The FAB Foundation, to put something onto the computer and then see it come to life."


What grades are you targeting specifically with project-based learning?
"So our investments primarily target the middle school and high school level. But project-based learning it applicable to students of any age. And the principle of ensuring that students have an opportunity and kids have an opportunity to get hands-on is something that can be supported by parents, can be supported by corporations, and by other non-profits."

"And so it's very important to ensure that kids have the opportunity to see science in action, from the very earliest age."


Chevron's announcement was also a call to action for other industries and businesses to contribute to STEM. What is the role between private businesses and public institutions in fostering STEM?
"So I think as we look at the challenge ahead of us as a country, STEM education is absolutely vital. And only by coming together are we going to be able to ensure that our country remains very competitive and that students get those skills. So working together in partnership between non-profits, between corporations. As you say, it's a lot more than just our financial commitment ... So corporates and Chevron have been putting in employee hours and employees to serve as mentors. We're able to give advice on what does technology look like for the future? What kind of skills do we need to ensure that our students are being prepared today?"


When Chevron contributes employee hours and dollars, is that considered more of a charity? Or is that considered an investment for the future of the company?
"We absolutely see it as an investment both for the future of the company, but also for communities. We recognize in communities where we have operations, we want to ensure that all students in those communities have opportunities to go on. Whether it's to go on and work with Chevron, or whether it's to go on and work with other companies. But those STEM skills and STEM jobs are really growing much faster than other jobs. And so we see an investment in STEM, also an investment in ensuring that our communities are able to grow and to develop."

"And as I mentioned before, I think it's a competitiveness issue for the United States. It's something that's really important for our country."


What brings you to the festival today? Why is it important? Why do you consider this festival to be an important part of STEM education?
"This is one of the largest science festivals in the country, and it brings together so many. As I said we work in partnership, and this brings together partners from all different types of sectors. It also shows the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math. And it is really a celebration of science and Engineering."

"So as an engineering, and as a technology company, we think it's fantastic to be able to have a conference center that's filled with as many people as we see today. We've been having people coming in and out of the STEM zone all day, same yesterday … So it really shines the light on the importance of STEM. But also the fact that it's fun, it's all around us, and it's something that we can all engage in."

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