2016 K-12 STEM Symposium Panel Highlights: The Ability Solve Problems, Courage to Ask Questions, Collaborate is Most Important

2016 STEM Symposium panelists Tina Harrington and Eric Schierling, with moderator Ed Swallow, discuss STEM-related workforce needs and solutions

2016 STEM Symposium panelists Tina Harrington and Eric Schierling, with moderator Ed Swallow, discuss STEM-related workforce needs and solutions. Photo credit Julianne Yurek

The 2016 K-12 STEM Symposium kicked off the March 12 with panelists Eric Schierling and Tina Harrington, and moderator Ed Swallow. The trio discussed STEM-related Workforce Needs and Solutions.

“One of the things we’ve seen in the workforce is a real shift in how the government is approaching problems,” Schierling said. “Solutions come in very different and small ways. In order to identify what those solutions are, those challenges are being pushed down to the lowest level [in order]to promote and empower the most talented and innovative individuals out there to come up with ideas to be pushed back up to the highest levels.”

Additionally, he said companies look for those who cannot only answer difficult problems, but can ask the difficult questions. “Having the courage to be able to ask those questions and the ability to work with others and collaborate to create the best solutions” are among the most important skills.

“It really is about that questioning experience,” Harrington added. “It’s the folks coming in that are new and right out of school, questioning what we’re doing, who have confidence in their knowledge base to do things differently.”

“You’ve got to be able to talk and work with others outside your field that will allow you to be more well-rounded and be more than just a very narrow-focused person.”

A former Top Gun pilot and current Director of Vencore’s Space Group, Schierling oversees the company’s support to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), System Engineering Directorate (SED) and the warfighter community.

Harrington serves as the Director of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) Systems Acquisition Directorate for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Swallow serves as  Vice President of Vaeros, a division of The Aerospace Corporation and recently spoke with WashingtonExec about industry needs for STEM.

“I believe that space is a tool that can continue to be used to market STEM to every member of our society,” Swallow said in the interview. “In order to market STEM, it must be inspiring and it must feel relevant to everyone — space can, and does, make that happen.”

“We are living through a period of incredible technological development, yet America is falling further and further behind the rest of the world in STEM education and STEM professional development,” Swallow said, who also serves as chairman of the WashingtonExec STEM Council. “In 2012, there were 29 industrialized nations whose high school students performed better than U.S. students in math,” says Swallow, citing a figure from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The 2016 K-12 STEM Symposium is for elementary, middle school and high school students interested in learning more about computer coding, space, 3D printing, drones, healthcare or chemistry through hands-on applications and programs.

The free, all-day event equally engages children, parents and teachers, coupled with corporate, government, academia and non-profit executives alike from the STEM fields. Activities for the day will include hands-on experiments for children, student science fair projects, panel discussions with STEM stakeholders, government and industry exhibitors, and information about government and industry STEM-related high school and college internships. The next K-12 STEM Symposium will be held on March 18 2017.

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Tina Harrington (SIGINT) and Eric Schierling (Vencore)

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Tina Harrington and Eric Schierling addressing questions from the crowd

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Audience member asking questions for Tina Harrington and Eric Schierling


Related: 2016 K-12 STEM Symposium Speaker Spotlight: Former Top Gun Pilot Eric Schierling



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