Women's group launches major education initiative - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Women's group launches major education initiative

Members of the UAH design team show off the new, configurable STEM learning stations. Members of the UAH design team show off the new, configurable STEM learning stations.

Huntsville area technology-oriented women are fighting a campaign to fix America's, and Alabama's, problems with math and science.

The Tennessee Valley Chapter of Women in Defense has just installed the latest, largest, and most expensive project in its initiative to encourage STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.

"What we do is we work with the teachers in the school and find out what they need, what they'd like to have, that fits within the curriculum for their grade level, that will help them teach what they're required to teach," explained Debbie Fraley of Women in Defense.

Monday night, the group unveiled new STEM learning stations at Mount Carmel Elementary School. UAH engineering students helped devise the brightly colored cubicles, which can be reconfigured into multiple layouts, offering opportunities for kids to learn together, and also to see the real world applications of science and engineering.  

"The goal is to encourage interest in these topics at a young age," said mechanical engineering student Jacob Muir. "A lot of them view math and science topics as, quite frankly, being uninteresting."

Standardized tests show American students, and Alabama students in particular, are lagging behind their contemporaries around the world. Meanwhile, the workforce at many high-tech American companies is getting older. Companies could run into serious staffing shortages if a new generation of technically-educated successors isn't prepared to step in as older workers leave the workforce.

"We're going to become Third World, technologically," said Fraley. 

Members say the Tennessee Valley Women in Defense chapter stands out for its involvement in encouraging math and science in area schools. The chapter is currently working on a wind tunnel project at Discovery Middle School, among other area projects.

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