Wilsonville, OR –

Students in Jill Hubbard’s engineering class at Tualatin High School had a guest speaker last month. The students had an opportunity to talk Sam de La Garza, Principal Engineer at Paycor in Frisco, Texas. Sam shared some of his most recent projects with the kids, talked about his workday and what life at a software company is like, and fielded all sorts of questions from Hubbard’s 9th-12th grade students who are studying computer science. Forty miles away, at West Salem High School, students in Greg Smith’s robotics class are hard at work learning a software development process called SCRUM, which Smith learned through a partnership with Max Arbow, a product owner for ADP Dealer Services. 

These kinds of classroom-industry relationships are becoming more common throughout the region thanks to the efforts of groups like the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership. Kids learn best when they can connect their classroom learning with actual problems in the real world, and is a central focus of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. As part of an emerging effort to connect K-12 classrooms with the broader community, the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership, in collaboration with the Oregon Institute of Technology in Wilsonville and the Oregon Tech Foundation, has received a $10,000 grant to support training and dissemination of a new matching tool called STEMOregon Connections.
Similar to an online dating website, STEMOregon Connections matches business professionals and community resources with K-12 and university teachers to support engaging, exciting, and authentic STEM learning.
“It is so important to connect teachers with the broader community. Teachers want to engage students in solving real-world problems, and show them the promise of these skills in their lives and careers. But we can’t do it alone.” says Hubbard, who also serves as the STEM Network Director of the Partnership. “We need to work with the people who do these kinds of jobs every day, and STEMOregon Connections will facilitate these experiences for our students.”
The project is a central focus of the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership, a collaborative of community leaders, representing 15 school districts, 6 higher education institutions, 11 industry partners and 9 community organizations, hosted at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Wilsonville. The Partnership was designated one of six regional STEM Hubs in Oregon by the Oregon Department of Education in 2014. STEMOregon Connections has been designed to eventually be available to all six STEM hubs; early design is being done in partnership with the Portland Metro STEM hub and WorkSystems, Incorporated. Funds from OCF will support development of robust training tools and protocols to support use of the tool, and dissemination to hubs throughout the state.
“OCF is proud to support the South Metro-Salem STEM partnership as they launch STEMOregon Connections, a web-based tool connecting STEM educators with industry and community partners to provide students with real-world learning experiences. Teachers in over 15 districts will introduce students to STEM career paths and professionals in the field,” commented Kathleen Cornett, Vice President of Grants & Programs
About the South Metro-Salem STEM Partnership
The SMS STEM Partnership is a collaborative of community leaders, representing 15 school districts, 7 higher education institutions, 11 industry partners and 14 community organizations, with a vision to catalyze Oregon students to achieve STEM degrees and certificates, and reach Oregon’s education goals by increasing the access, excitement and engagement of students in STEM courses and experiential learning. For more information, contact Melissa Dubois, SMS STEM Hub Director, at melissa.dubois@oit.edu or www.oit.edu/stem or www.stemoregon.org.
Our school districts include: Amity, Canby, Central, Dallas, Gladstone, Lake Oswego, Mollala River, Newberg, North Clackamas, Oregon City, Salem-Keizer, Silver Falls, Tigard-Tualatin, West Linn-Wilsonville, and Woodburn Public Schools.
About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is the only public 4-year institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville. Visit www.oit.edu to learn more about Oregon Tech.
About the Oregon Tech Foundation
The Oregon Tech Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization that promotes and funds the educations, cultural, charitable, and service functions of the Oregon Institute of Technology.
About Oregon Community Foundation
The mission of The Oregon Community Foundation is to improve life in Oregon and promote effective philanthropy. OCF works with individuals, families, businesses and organizations to create charitable funds to support the community causes they care about. Through these funds OCF awards nearly $70 million annually in grants and scholarships.
The Oregon Community Foundation makes grants through an application process that involves local citizens in the review and evaluation of requests for funds. Please visit OCF's website or contact your local OCF office for application guidelines and materials. Individuals or businesses interested in establishing a fund may contact the Medford office at 818 W Eighth Street, Medford OR 9750 I, 541.773 .8987 or visit www.oregoncf.org.