Browsing the archives for the stem tag.

Quality Tools for Critical Thinking & K-12 STEM Success


This will be my first year attending ASQ’s annual Quality Education Conference & Workshop.  I’ve had a lot of fun volunteering and working with the Education Division, so I have no doubt the event will be exceed expectations.

I submitted to speak this time because I wanted to share some insight I’ve gained as someone who has instructed sessions related to critical thinking in the workforce. But, I’ve also used these quality tools as a parent and have done a fair amount of research related to importance of critical thinking & decision-making as it relates to STEM success. I’m excited to have been chosen and am in the process of polishing my presentation.

Critical thinking allows us to use our own creativity and curiosity to research, design test and improve solutions.  “Critical thinking is a skill that is impossible to teach directly but must be intertwined with content.” ~Christodoulou

Highlights of my presentation include:

  • Critical Thinking & STEM: Making the Connection
  • Keys to Success
  • Games & Activities
  • Applied Tools
    • Affinity Diagrams
    • Fishbone Diagrams
    • Six Thinking Hats
    • Mind Mapping
    • Grid Analysis
  • Additional Resources

If you’re interested in QECW, check out the site here. Bill Troy, ASQ’s CEO is just one keynote I’m looking forward to. And, the other speakers and their sessions will be hard to choose from. This will be my first conference volunteering also, so I’m leveling up on the fun!


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Ensuring Future STEM Professionals: Involvement is Key!


STEM has certainly surpassed buzzword status.  A few years ago, you’d likely have to expand on the acronym by adding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, but it’s almost an insult now to assume people don’t know what’s up.  That tells me efforts to increase awareness are working!

My first exposure to STEM education and the related workforce issues came from the ASQ community, my own difficulty finding engineers for work projects, and then later when I had children of my own and saw things from an entirely different perspective.

This month’s View From the Q  via ASQ incorporates some great ideas for “Ensuring the Next Generation of STEM Professionals.”  I have a few more to add and/or expand on:

School Involvement (Individual & Organizations)

Both my son and daughter are in elementary school.  Last year, I worked with the principal to recognize and support Manufacturing Day. I did the same for Hour of Code and think both raised awareness and generated interest among students and parents.  It took very little effort, and the school welcomed the idea. Outside of this, the school’s STEM focus was the county science fair requirements that are unfortunately perceived as more of a chore than an enriching experience.  I think most institutions just need a seed planted to be able to further support the effort.

Action: Email and/or call the schools and ask them if they’re doing anything for Manufacturing Day, Hour of Code, or what else they’re doing to support STEM education.

Having some experience with the Middleton Magnet High School STEM Advisory Board, I know at that level they even go as far as scheduling manufacturing visits, engaging local speakers and hosting events.  Our local ASQ chapter has participated in a few of these and continues to support their efforts.  As a “pre-collegiate academy for STEM,” Middleton welcomes local organizations to join their Advisory Board and are very good at responding to the needs of the community.  There are so many ways parents and local businesses can get involved in schools like this to make a difference.

Action: Encourage employers to get involved with STEM schools by supporting internships, volunteer hours, various events, etc.  

Parent Support 

Scheduling for summer or whenever school is out is a challenge.  If the kids are going to be out of school, I want them involved in something fun and stimulating.  To support STEM education, I continue to schedule camps at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) .  Over the years, my kids have learned how to program video games, design and use 3D printing technology and even design and build robots.  They have so much fun, and the cost is reasonable.  MOSI, and many of the other STEM related school-break camps (like FLATE) have scholarships available as well.  Supporting places like MOSI also keeps them in business where they are able to make a significant impact in the community!

Action: Don’t count on schools to be the only source of STEM education. To really stimulate a kid’s interest in these fields, get them into camps that let them do the stuff hands-on and hang out with other kids that are interested in similar things.  

Oh, have your older kid take What’s Your STEM Type? to match careers or otherwise assess their skills and aptitude.  They’ll likely find a niche that gets them over the “it’s too hard” hurdle.  Or, they’ll realize a career opportunity they hadn’t thought of.

Action: Help our youth realize the benefits of entering STEM fields… Show them their options and allow them to assess their natural aptitude.  There are usually local events hosted by the colleges that allow students to speak with engineers and others in STEM fields.  USF just held their annual Engineering Expo that I heard great things about! These activities support their own enthusiasm and drive which is the foundation of success.

Some additional education resources include:

Khan Academy – Also check out Salman Khan’s TED talk related to STEM education and the creation of this how-to video library.

TED Ed  – I love these for the “car line” in the morning. They also give you everything you need to get a club started at school if time and resources exist.


Last summer, I volunteered for a Girl Scout STEM camp as a SWE representative. That was a fun (and exhausting) few hours! My employer supported it, and I had an opportunity to make a difference.  We know we need more girls engaged with STEM, and the Girl Scouts are on their way towards fully integrating this goal.  (Organizations like FLATE, as mentioned previously, offer girls-only camps as well.)

Each year, there’s the National Teach-In where many schools invite people in from the community to discuss what they do.  It’s both rewarding and fun to participate in this event. Even if you’re not directly in a STEM field, perspective from any position in an organization providing STEM related products/services is beneficial. I work in marketing for a 3rd party quality control organization.  I like to introduce students to the importance of quality and the engineers that are so important to that process.

Action: There are all kinds of ways you can volunteer to support and encourage kids to enter and succeed in STEM fields. It’s worth the time. It’s everyone’s job to ensure the long-term sustainability of our workforce.

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Manufacturing Day Success…


I didn’t know about National Manufacturing Day until last year when our local ASQ Section sponsored a Middleton High School event. Who knew that the seemingly insignificant act of me checking my son out of school early to attend the Commissioner’s proclamation that day would lead to a year of commitment to awareness and action. (Oh, and congratulations to Middleton High School, the Pre-Collegiate STEM Academy for Hillsborough County Public Schools, who has been designated by the SME Education Foundation as a Partnership Response in Manufacturing Education (PRIME) School Site.)

Soon after last year’s Manufacturing Day, I organized a facility tour at Heat Pipe Technology for my son’s FLL LEGO League. The kids were nine and ten at the time and had left there with such interest and enthusiasm that I thought it could be something scalable that would be a win-win.  Because of this, I decided to pursue some type of observation for 2014 at our elementary school.

10171786_805430586166126_1528563612181051291_nFlorida Advanced Technological Education Center (FLATE) assisted with sending me ideas and materials.  They’re great! The Director of Engineering & Operations over at Heat Pipe met with the principal and I to discuss potential field trip ideas, but logistics really were an issue.  In the end, I pitched we use a LEGO theme because it was consistent with the school’s overall theme for the year.  We worked with the Morning Show to read several LEGO production fun facts and show videos about manufacturing mini-figures and bricks.  Did you know that LEGO is the largest tire manufacturer in the world?! We also sent home a handout talking about the different jobs available in manufacturing to all of of the 5th graders.

So far, I’ve heard only positive things from my network of friends in the industry regarding the overall success of the day.  Heat Pipe had 41 students and a significant increase in girls go through their doors last Friday. They even scored some positive and well-deserved PR via the local papers in the process…


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Girl Scout for a day… Volunteering for STEM


I was never a Girl Scout, but I did jump at the chance to volunteer as a SWE Role Model for one of their summer camps, Minds for Design.  For as much as I talk about getting more women into STEM fields, this camp is exactly for this purpose.

“Using the Girl Scout motto of Be Prepared, the Minds for Design camp prepares the girls to be the female scientists of tomorrow.” ~WFLA

Admittedly, I’m not an engineer by trade.  For over 15 years, I’ve recruited and trained quality engineers with backgrounds mostly in mechanical and electrical engineering for Pro QC.  But, I’ll admit I was still a little apprehensive to guide over 30 middle and high-school girls through a project where the objective was to build a working wind turbine that would pickup 20 paper clips. Based on my recent Junior Achievement experience, I figured I could handle this.

The camp was in the West Central Florida Leadership Center… Nice place!  We organized the girls into eight teams, and I introduced myself and went over the scenario.  They were on a camping trip and dropped their food down a ravine.  Their job was to design and build a wind turbine that would create enough energy to lift 20 paper clips (their food) from the height of the table. A table of miscellaneous materials to choose from was available, and a test station with hair dryers was setup.

What I saw was remarkably similar to what I experience with older students and even corporate professionals.  Rather than using the brainstorming time to plan, many teams jumped right in trying to fit materials together. Others worked out a draft design prior to getting started. It was interesting to see them work in different ways and evaluate the various materials and troubleshoot issues in their design.

These girls were into it though. Our future engineers are one sharp bunch!  For the contest, we let each team have two timed trials, and we took the best of two.  The winning team lifted that cup in 3 seconds! They were the group that had the cleanest design and went back to testing several times to tweak for speed.  There were a few other groups that hit 6 and 9 seconds from what I can recall.  A few teams had designs that didn’t work, but they were open to discussing the potential causes of failure and how they could improve the design.  Everyone participated and was all-in.

Later this week, the girls will visit Heat Pipe Technology.  I’ve got to give props to the Director of Engineering & Operations over there who has opened the doors to my son’s FLL LEGO League and my daughter’s school-age daycare summer camp.  I wish more organizations were as involved in the community.  Those Girl Scouts are really going to enjoy themselves.

Overall, I had a blast.  I can only say positive things about my encounter with the Girl Scouts and the whole experience.

Here’s a great video about the local Girl Scouts’ camps here.

Also, did you know?

  • 70% of the women in the US Congress are former Girl Scouts.
  • 64% of the women in Who’s Who of American Women are Girl Scout alumnae.
  • 53% of all women business owners were in Girl Scouting.

GS5 copy

(Photo included with permission) 

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Engineers as leaders?


engineer-wantedI was just reading through the latest View from the Q post and thinking about the various content I had incorporated into Pro QC’s communications during Engineers Week not long ago… The Discover Engineering site is worth mentioning. Even my recent involvement with local education STEM initiatives has played a role in recent observations of this issue of engineers as leaders.

So, do engineers make good leaders? Surprisingly, only 9% of those surveyed as cited by ASQ think so.

I hear (actually see) what the ASQ post is saying, but the data doesn’t connect with me.  I feel like we can’t just clump “engineer” into one category of person that wouldn’t necessarily make a good leader.  Certainly, the extreme version of someone with engineer tendencies wouldn’t fit the bill.  But, couldn’t the same be true of other professions?  If 69% of engineers voted themselves as likely to be good leaders then maybe that’s the more valid data.  Maybe these folks are confident in their analytical and thinking skills, but also feel they can connect with, inspire and motivate others with their personality.  They would almost be like a super human…

Doesn’t the ability of an engineer to lead also depend so heavily on the situation as well?  I would seek out that perfect hybrid of engineer/manager if I wanted to succeed with a team at a technology company.  But, maybe an engineer in charge at the local credit union or restaurant might not be the best idea.  Imagine a distinguished engineer running for President.  If anyone would be capable of staying on top of the country’s problems, it would be an engineer over a lawyer or career politician for sure.  An engineer would have every process broken down and improved for ultimate efficiency in no time.  Money would be bleeding from our pockets all thanks to analytical problem solving skills.

I am fortunate to know a lot of engineers across a wide variety of industries.  I couldn’t say any one of them would make a good or bad leader based on the engineering status alone.  But, the attributes associated certainly do add value to leadership success.

“Engineers create the future.”  ~Ken Jurgensmeyer 


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