STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics and is commonly used in discussions of academic discipline, education policy and curriculum choices for schools. The focus on STEM in education is a result of rapid growth in high-tech occupations and a realized decline in qualified and diverse candidates for those positions. To combat this workforce shortage a focus is now placed on improving education in these academic disciplines by helping teachers and their students understand how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics impact our world and prepare the workforce of tomorrow.

The US Beureau of Labor Statistics projects STEM jobs will increase by 9 million by 2022.
Children as young as preschool have shown a large propensity for learning and education leaders are now exposing students as early as Kindergarten to subjects once considered higher level such as languages, science, math, programming and engineering. Integrating a comprehensive STEM education early in school fosters critical thinking and science literacy while enabling the next generation of innovators. The impact of these education programs extends well beyond simply expanding early childhood development with longer term impact on sustained economic growth and stability, national security and immigration policy.

The US Department of Commerce estimates STEM jobs growing at 17% vs 9.8% of other occupations.

Research shows that children exposed to STEM concepts throughout a K-12 education are more likely to attend college and STEM degree holders typically have higher income even if they do not end up in a STEM career. This in turn has an impact on the available talent pool for businesses who will need the modern skills and knowledge sets of the next generations to continue to compete in an increasingly digital marketplace. As technology becomes more complex and integrated into our daily lives, STEM capabilities will set students up for success in an increasingly information-based, highly technical society and prepare future leaders to use technology such as Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence and quantum computing to solve the world’s toughest challenges. For young children, learning to program is like learning to speak a second language. When playing pretend with their peers, children are already verbalizing a programmatic way of think: "I'll DO this thing (input) and then you DO this thing (output)."

As an IT industry professional with young children, I love to support local organizations who are committed to sparking interest in STEM education and high-tech careers among the youth in our community. Recently my 11yr old daughter Lyra and I attended an event hosted by KC Women in Tech, a grass-roots group of developers, innovators and thought leaders dedicated to supporting women in tech. We attended their "Coding and Cupcakes" workshop that teaches parents and daughters website coding. The workshop incorporated some of the same tools that IT professionals around the world use every day and taught my daughter how to set up an IDE, clone a GIT repository, edit HTML code and publish a fictional bakery site to her own Github repository. Not only was I thrilled she had the opportunity to gain real-world experience and learn relevant skills but she had a blast too.! Check out this awesome website she built!

"It wasn't just a drag-and-drop. You could see and modify the HTML code. It was fun! I want to go to the next one!" -Lyra Thompson
As a Valorem employee, I also have the opportunity to work with a number of STEM programs through our Valorem Gives initiative that puts our deep industry knowledge and experience to good use in our communities.  
Operation Breakthrough
In June 2017, Valorem dedicated a MakerSpace facility to support Operation Breakthrough’s Early Childhood Education program. Located at the DeLaSalle Education Center, this hands-on and personalized learning opportunity, gives students aged 5 to 13 hands-on access to real materials that help them tinker, problem solve, collaborate and create. This organization also offers a program called SmartLab, a fully integrated system of hardware, software, furnishings, online curriculum, educational kits, manipulatives and assessment tools that allow students to engage with activities like robotics, electronics, or graphic arts. Children as young as 3 years old are learning basic programming concepts through the SmartLab.


Another program supporting STEM efforts is Microsoft’s DigiGirlz program. This program targets middle school and high school aged girls and aims to expose them to the variety of career opportunities available in the high-tech industry. In September of 2017 we had the honor of sponsoring a St. Louis DigiGirlz Day to help girls better understand what a career in technology is all about and experience the latest in mixed reality technology with demos of our immersive HoloLens applications. These one day events are held at multiple Microsoft stores and locations worldwide and allow students in 6 to 12th grade to interact with Microsoft employees and local businesses for career planning assistance, information about technology and business roles and thought-provoking exercises. 


We are excited to once again partner with Microsoft and local business leaders for the 2018 DigiGirlz Day in Kansas City. Our team will participate in the panel of local female professionals who will each present their STEM careers and sponsor a networking event where the girls can get career guidance. Valorem will also show the latest in Mixed Reality technologies through demonstrations of our Immersive Experience applications on the Microsoft HoloLens device. Through the use of the HoloLens self-contained, holographic computer, students will be able to interact with holograms and gain some insight in to the future of holographic technology.


Girl ScoutsThe Girl Scouts organization has also taken notice of the need for more women in STEM, leading many chapters to create their own STEM education programs. The NE Kansas and NW Missouri chapters offer several innovative STEM programs to give girls the opportunities to see a multitude of career options available with a STEM education. Valorem participated in their March 2017 Spark Event where local girls were brought together with local, female, industry pioneers for an introduction to a professional field and an opportunity to ask questions and engage with industry innovators about what they do on a regular basis.

By partnering with organizations such as Operation Breakthrough, DigiGirlz and Spark Events, Valorem hopes our innovative work with cloud technologies can be used to give back to our community and give our future leaders a glimpse into the vast and growing world of technology. Who knows? Maybe the founder of the next billion dollar tech company or a future Valorem team member is learning about coding before nap time today!