Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lack of minorities seen in STEM classes

Sunday, February 17, 2013 10:15:27 AM

Lack of minorities seen in STEM classes

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Written by KYOTO WALKER (Special to South Florida Times)   
Thursday, 07 February 2013
steve_wozniak.jpgWEST PALM BEACH   – Motivation and passion are the key to success, according to Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak. The Silicon Valley icon was the guest of honor at Palm Beach State College’s STEAM Initiative launch Jan. 31 at the Kravis Center in downtown West Palm Beach.

During the event titled “A Conversation With Steve Wozniak,” Wozniak fielded pre-selected questions from the
capacity audience of more than 650 ranging from the future of technology and advice for young people to his thoughts on the death of his best friend and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Palm Beach State College President Dennis Gallon said Wozniak was the perfect person to help kick off the five-year STEAM Initiative which focuses on STEM fields or studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, adding arts to the core, because technology is growing at such a rate that the need to fill jobs in those areas will exceed the available trained professionals.

College spokeswoman Grace Truman said the arts were added because they accentuate the other areas of study.

“STEM is certainly a very critical area but the arts contribute so much to technology, to engineering,” she said. “The arts kind of infuse all of the other disciplines. So we really felt it was important to include the arts in this initiative.”

Wozniak seemed to support that theory, crediting Jobs with packaging and marketing strategies that helped make Apple a leading competitor in computer technology worldwide.

Wozniak also acknowledged a cultural evolution has taken place in technological studies.

“When I went to college, the people from the Far East were brought up with strong mathematical training,” he said. “The students in the computer engineering classes were three-fourths from the Asian countries and they were 50/50 female-male (ratio).” Almost all the American students were white males, he added.

College Dean Leonard Bruton said certain programs are geared for minority students who study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“There are initiatives and scholarships that are available to minorities in these STEM areas,” he said.

Wozniak said diversity – people getting along and understanding each other – is a wonderful thing in life.

“Everywhere I go I see people of many ethnic backgrounds, males and females, making the same good use of our technology as others,” the technology pioneer said. “The only place where I see a divergence is maybe in who runs companies or engineers (who) are more likely to be males.”

Provost Bernadette Russell, from the college’s Boca Raton campus, said she is working to recruit minorities and women for STEM studies so they can be connected with businesses for internships to help further their careers.

“Some businesses look for students who are good in mathematics, strong in the sciences, more at a level where they can develop their skills professionally, therefore knowing what they will major in by having the (hands-on) experience,” she said.

Wozniak said diversity is a viable component of high-tech businesses today.

“I’ve seen some of the people at the very top of Silicon Valley companies totally open to African-American women and any (diverse group),” he said. “It’s almost an advantage sometimes to find someone who you didn’t think would be a ‘geek’ is and understands this stuff.”

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