The 2012 California STEM Summit and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


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Like in the rest of the country, science education in California is unfortunately lacking. However, the state of affairs is especially bad in California with 1.4 open jobs for every qualified applicant in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics positions. Despite historic levels of statewide unemployment, business leaders say they are having trouble filling these positions.

The 2012 California STEM Summit that took place on October 15th and 16th in San Diego marked the 3rd year of the gathering where business, education, government and policy leaders got together to discuss science, engineering and technology education in their state. The goal was to collaborate and launch new policies and initiatives that encourage STEM education so that the next generation of students have more opportunities. The entire U.S. lags behind many other countries in this field and California lags behind the rest of the U.S., making improvements to the system vital to the state's future.

The Summit advocates change in both the education and work sectors that provide additional opportunities for interested teachers and students. Initiatives to encourage out-of-school STEM-related offerings as well as additional training in the field for educators were discussed and implemented. State learning standards, some of which are very new, were discussed and techniques for implementing them effectively were on the agenda to be considered.

Notable speakers came to the Summit to talk about the problems in the field and their personal contributions. Some of these speakers for the 2012 year included the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson and the LA Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Women in science were recognized as well by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla and education scientist Dr. Sugata Mitra. NASA scientist David Seidel talked about the Mars rover "Curiosity" for his audience. He works in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and his talk also included information on the STEM education resources that NASA provides for educators.

A student showcase featured some of the work that science, technology, engineering and mathematics students have done. These award-winning projects were recognized for their innovative natures and displayed to feature what well-educated, interested students are capable of. Many of the showcase projects were hands-on, allowing participants to actually interact with them.

Some of the speakers at the summit have gotten more involved in promoting California science and technology education as well. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a famous NBA basketball player with the LA Lakers who spoke at the summit in favor of all education but especially science-related fields. He spends his spare time telling children that they should get a math and science education rather than following in his footsteps.

Named a California STEM Ambassador in 2012, Abdul-Jabbar travels the state and talks to people about the need for after-school STEM opportunities. He tells students that there are only 450 jobs in the NBA but there are thousands in the science and engineering sectors. Abdul-Jabbar emphasizes that the next great scientists and inventors will come from the generation of students he talks to in the classroom and that young people should aspire for greatness by planning to become a scientist or engineer.

Abdul-Jabbar has also written a series of best-selling books that encourage education as a way to get ahead. What Color is My World is his eighth and latest book and it showcases the inventions of African-American inventors who have been marginalized by history. Previous to this book, he wrote about UCLA basketball, the Harlem Renaissance and the White Mountain Apache Indians. He has also written his own autobiography.

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