STEM Education with Dell Big Data

STEM education

Math scores across US grade schools have dropped this year according to newly published NAEP 2015 test scores. According to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic) Education Coalition, U.S. 15 year olds ranked 21st in science test scores among 34 developed nations. These are dismal stats that have many concerned, since STEM education plays a critical role in U.S. competitiveness and future economic prosperity.

The good news is that by 2020, the demand for STEM professionals will add over 1 million STEM jobs to the US work force. STEM jobs offer higher job security and higher yearly income than other fields. Even better, in STEM occupations the number of job postings outnumber applications by 1.9 to 1. Clearly getting our kids interested and motivated in STEM careers makes sense from many angles.

With so many engineers, data scientists, and technologists of our own, EMC is particularly passionate and committed to the STEM movement and wanted to help.

How can we motivate kids to take an interest in STEM and measure the impact of EMC’s STEM initiative? This was the challenge the EMC Presales took on and met with great success and personal reward. For example, in just one event connecting EMC with approximately 300 seventh and eighth graders on topics such as big data analytics, the interest in a math careers increased by 7%.   In fact, the more kids became excited and used their imagination about the possibilities of big data analytics, the more questions they asked, giving EMC a few more lessons to learn ourselves on the topic. Watch the video below to learn more.

I spoke with David Dietrich, Director of Technical Marketing for Big Data Solutions at EMC, to understand how the topic of big data analytics was able to change the sentiment of STEM, and in turn, how utilizing big data analytics was able to measure the effectiveness of STEM.

Q: David, why is STEM important and why did EMC become involved?

A: As a technology company believing in continuous innovation to help solve customer problems, we see a continual shortage of talent and education in this area; therefore, it is critical to nurture our young generation in STEM to overcome the scarcity and equip them to drive innovation.   We are currently focusing on engaging with 7th graders, as research has shown that if you intervene as early as middle school, you can capture the interest needed to drive a future career in STEM.

Q: Can you also give us insight on EMC’s STEM initiative and how the program was designed to increase interest? 

A: As part of EMC’s commitment to give back to our communities, we launched the STEM campaign, led by our Presales organization, in early 2015. This organization is responsible for setting up and facilitating the workshops at schools, and doing the direct outreach in schools in North America.

One of the biggest issues with STEM education is that our young generation isn’t very familiar with engineering concepts, or what kinds of things people do if they choose to enter STEM careers. Therefore, the goal of the campaign is to provide students with several activities that require them to think analytically to solve a problem, making STEM more interesting and concrete.

Q: Now that EMC has completed the first 6 months of this initiative, can you talk about some of the results on the effectiveness of your program?  What were the most interesting insights you found from the data you gathered to date?

A: My team volunteered to help measure the impact of the campaign due to our expertise in big data analytics. We are a data driven company; therefore, we strive to utilize data and analytics to measure and make better decisions.

We chose to measure the effectiveness of the campaign by asking a series of questions before and after the lesson plans. Approaching the outreach in this way enabled us to quantify the changes in attitudes before and after the workshop in the classrooms. We then developed a series of data visualizations and a simple dashboard application in R Shiny to share results internally. It’s early in the initiative, but our preliminary results are promising, as we have seen an increase in STEM interest especially in female students. 

Q: Looking towards the future, what do you see as the long-term benefits of a more concise focus on STEM in elementary/middle schools?

A: Many students don’t understand what STEM is and their actual potential in this area. For example, one of the survey questions asked students to respond to the question ‘I am good at math?’ with a series of Likert scale answers, with how much they agree or disagree with statements like this before and after our exercises in the classroom. Many students are unsure if they are good with math, but when applied to tangible, everyday life problems, they become more confident about math and problem solving, and see how it applies in daily life. Our aim is to provide these types of school exercises in order to inject more confidence in their abilities and encourage them to consider STEM careers.

Q: How do you see EMC’s data-driven approach to measuring the impact of this initiative inspiring other industries or use cases?

A: Many companies advocate and promote STEM education and careers, I would advise organizations worldwide to think about measuring the effectiveness of their initiatives as we now have the tools and technology to do this – both free and licensed.   It requires a shift in mindset. Rarely do we see people include data collection and impact measurement as part of the project planning, more often than not the project plan is just an execution plan. We see the market pivot towards data-driven business decisions, so why would not we design community outreach projects in such a way that they can be measured as part of the ongoing process and innovate and improve upon them based on the data we collect during our outreach programs.

If you would like to know more about EMC’s STEM initiative, nominate a school in your neighborhood or want to talk about big data and data analytics, reach out to us at @EMCBigData .

About the Author: Mona Patel