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A way to STEM interest in school
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The reason for the existence of the Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence is contained in four sentences at

Today’s students will read 2,300 web pages and write more than 500 pages of e-mail this year. They will view 1,281 Facebook profiles. They will choose a college major that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and will work in a career that doesn’t exist today solving problems of which we have not yet heard.

How prepared is your son or daughter to enter into this 21st Century work world?

The Southwest Academy for 21st Century Excellence was developed as a part of the Platteville School District’s efforts to provide students with opportunities to learn about careers in STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Southwest Academy is a collaboration among 10 high schools including Platteville and Iowa–Grant, UW–Platteville, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, and Cooperative Educational Service Agency 3.

One STEM opportunity is Project Lead the Way courses in partnership with SWTC. The PLTW Rural Initiative offers the Platteville courses in the Iowa–Grant, Cuba City, Southwestern and Highland school districts as well.

One example is the SWTC classes PHS students can take, including Engineering Development and Design.

Coda Phillips, a June PHS graduate, was a teaching assistant his senior year for PHS classes.

“Most of the classes focus on methods of engineering and designing some things,” said Phillips, who as a junior designed shoes that generated enough electricity while their user was walking to recharge a mobile device. “I’ve always been interested in science and math, but until I took some of these courses I never really had direction.”

Juniors Kierre McLaughlin and Blaine Molesworth designed a scuba gear organizer this school year.

“You start out and say I like engineering, this is cool,” said Molesworth. “And as you progress, this becomes more hands-on.”

McLaughlin transferred to Platteville in eighth grade, and “at the end of the year they let you come in and look around,” which got her interested in the classes.

Phillips is going to UW–Madison to major in computer engineering and computer science. Molesworth plans to attend UW–Platteville in mechanical engineering. McLaughlin plans to study mechanical engineering at SWTC.

“Because the districts in which we serve are so small, the resources that the technical college and CESA can provide are invaluable,” said Julie Pluemer, supervisor of teaching, learning and academic outreach at SWTC. “School districts could not do this on their own. Through our collaborative efforts we are able to provide opportunities to students to make STEM education a reality in Southwest Wisconsin.”

AT&T Wisconsin gave a $3,000 Innovation & Investment donation to the academy for a fall event, “Mom’s Night Out: Promoting STEM Education.” The event will be held at Platteville High School, Potosi High School, plus Argyle, Darlington and Mineral Point high schools Monday, Oct. 22, and at Lancaster High School Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Greg Quam, Platteville High School’s career and technology coordinator, said Mom’s Night Out will “promote the importance of STEM education at a young age” and “encourage moms to be involved in that decision-making process.”

“AT&T Wisconsin is committed to helping advance the education of our young people, particularly in the critical fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Jim Jermain, Regional Vice President of External Affairs for AT&T Wisconsin.

“Mom’s Night Out is a fun way to have children and mothers explore STEM careers together and discover the exciting possibilities that exist in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Dr. Jeffrey Jacobson, Platteville High School principal. “This contribution from AT&T will help us further our efforts to promote STEM education and prepare more students for these important careers.”

“With more than 70 percent of jobs in the U.S. labor market requiring a solid foundation in STEM concepts, it’s clear that STEM education is vital to the continued prosperity of Wisconsin and the nation,” said Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City), who was at the donation event. “We are very fortunate to have education leaders in Southwest Wisconsin who are so dedicated to promoting STEM education and ensuring our students have a solid foundation for a successful future.”

Other STEM opportunities include “Why STEM” workshops for educators, a STEMposium highlighting student projects, and Engineering is Elementary training for educators.

“I just think that the program is a great way for moms (or dads or another care giver) to learn more about STEM opportunities and to provide input into their child’s career decision-making process,” said Mary Johannesen, School to Work Coordinator at Iowa–Grant High School. “Seventy percent of jobs in the future will require some STEM-related knowledge.”