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Business and education leaders discuss STEM

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RALEIGH – The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce invited business and education leaders to discuss STEM and its role in the future Wednesday.

Sam Houston, the president and CEO of the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center hopes to broaden the definition of STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Houston said many people interpret STEM has having more math and science classes, or teaching a set of skills in the career and technical education arena.

"It's more than that," he said. "It's about learning how to think. And that's why I like to talk about STEM as strategies that engage the mind."

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce held an education forum about the need to promote STEM programs. A panel of experts said children need to learn how to be creative thinkers and problems solvers, and their exposure to STEM-related fields should include real-world applications.

"Whether it's kindergarten through high school, or through graduate school, the message is the same and that is that STEM, specifically engineering in our case, is what we need to solve the world's problems," said Laura Bottomley, an engineering professor at N.C. State and the director for The Engineering Place and Women in Engineering at the school.

Several of the forum's speakers pointed out how the business community can provide the link to show kids how the skills they learn in school work outside the classroom. Businesses also need workers who have basic proficiencies in math and science and can navigate the technologies of today and tomorrow.

"All of our jobs at Time Warner Cable are hi-tech now," said Chris Whitaker, the area vice president of operations. "We have no low-tech jobs left."

Houston hoped to see more businesses and other community leaders become involved in STEM-related educational opportunities.

"I don't want to use the cliché that it takes a village, but we no longer are capable in our public schools of educating the population that we need for the 21st century alone," he added.

Time Warner Cable was a sponsor of Wednesday's STEM education forum. It is also the parent company of News 14 Carolina.

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